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What do you think the chief marketing officers at Sweden-designed furniture store Ikea and IT services firm Unisys have in common? Yes, both likely have great skill in the use of Allen keys, but they are also both of the opinion that organizations around the world should be taking the CIO more seriously.

If it sounds odd to hear from a couple marketing executives an endorsement to give another colleague more power within the business, that’s no surprise. IT World Canada hosted some roundtables on the topic of CIO-CMO collaboration late last year and I heard from both sides of the table about how building up that collaborative competency was a challenge. Businesses who’d achieved some level of collaboration between the two, traditionally siloed departments, talk about establishing a common language before going down the path of accomplishing shared goals. So you can tell there’s some bridge building yet to do before traffic is flowing back and forth across the departmental delta.

Forbes’ Kimberly Whitler has been writing a series on CIO-CMO collaboration, focusing on case studies and interviews involving U.S.-based CMOs and CIOs. In this fifth instalment of her series, she talks with Leontyne Green Sykes, the CMO of Ikea US, and Quincy Allen, the CMO for Unisys. They both agree the CMO-CIO relationship is the fastest evolving in the c-suite and that to make it work, CIOs need to be given a direct line to the CEO.

Pay especially close attention to the advice given here by Green Sykes for CMOs. She lays out four key ideas:

  • be open to working differently
  • be open to giving up control
  • start with aligned objectives
  • work closely to create the right strategies

It seems easy enough, right? But just as when you see that nice piece of furniture set up in the Ikea showroom, then shudder when you unpack the box with its 827 parts to self-assemble with only an Allen wrench, it can be more work than it seems. Read the instructions closely as you move from step to step.

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