Six reasons CMOs need to be engaged in the future of work

The future of work is definitely changing — but how? And just what will that change be?

Canadian CIO‘s recent CIO Innovation Summit, sponsored by Rogers, explored the many ways business leaders need to not only foster collaboration but boost the engagement of employees in order to make their organizations more successful. While the discussion was focused around the role of the CIO, the lessons are universal and the CMO needs to be actively engaged with their c-suite colleagues driving this workplace transformation if it’s to be successful.

What do we mean by ‘work’? — It may seem obvious, but as one of our CIO guests pointed out, it may be a mistake to paint “the future of work” with a broad brush, given the nuances of various industries and organizations. Even within health-care, “work” is very different if you’re involved in treating patients vs. developing medicines and so on. We agreed this kind of self-assessment is a good starting point for further strategy creation.

What it means for the CMO: New digital tools and new marketing channels are creating new roles within the marketing organization, and requiring new technical skill sets. Two people in a marketing role could spend their day very differently — one shooting and editing video, another designing a print campaign. Be aware of these differences, but also what binds them together.

From right-time data to right-time work — For years now, experts have been advising that we need to think beyond merely offering “real-time data” of what’s going on in an organization (although that’s still a lofty goal for some businesses). Instead, “right-time data” is all about making sure an organization has the information needed to act at a specific time — say, when customer demand hits a peak during the holidays. Similarly, a CIO in our audience suggested we may need to evolve our thinking beyond allowing work to happen anywhere, anytime, but ensure the right tools and technology is ready for employees based on their context. For example, there should be a more seamless experience someone using a mobile enterprise app gets back to their desk.

What it means for the CMO: With more and more data coming into marketing automation platforms from the web and social channels, we have more insight into the sales and marketing funnel than ever before. We can track the customer journey in excruciating detail, and automatically deploy the right offer at the right time. Balance is important though, as is automation. Too much information can burn out any marketing professional and distract them from the big picture.

Shadow IT — or agents of innovation? — Naturally, we had to talk about the fact that lines of business and users tend to do their own thing without asking the CIO or their staff. One of our guests, however, put a more positive spin on this, suggesting that shadow IT users should not be slapped on the wrist but approached for more information about their choices. They could then be re-positioned as an “agent of innovation” and help CIOs champion new work initiatives.

What it means for the CMO: Many marketing organizations have felt the need to bypass an IT department to slow to respond to its needs. There can be an advantage to working with them though; not as a service provider, but as a partner that can offer valuable advice on how best to configure a solution to meet your needs. Just as long as they can keep up with you. After all, you are taking some of their budget — may as well ask for their help in spending it.

Start with personas — User experience designers have known about this for years, but our audience was reminded that the future of work means recognizing the differences across demographics, departments and roles. Some thoughtful work on this area up front could save CIOs a lot of hassles later on.

What it means for the CMO: While CIOs need to know their users, CMOs need to know their target audience. That’s not news to any marketing professional, but it is important to keep on top of just how their target audiences are fragmenting and changing. And their own teams are changing as well. Millennials entering the workplace will have different expectations, and different ways of working that organizations will need to adapt to.

ROI vs. right thing to do — CIOs are always thinking about the right metrics, but one of our guests wondered if the traditional methods might not apply in future-of-work scenarios. Many organizations have been moving to greater energy efficiency, he noted, but not always because the benefits to the company are quantifiable. Maybe some future of work initiatives will simply align with the company’s values.

What it means for the CMO: If you can’t measure it, it’s not real. While the effectiveness of a marketing campaign used to be somewhat intangible — did that campaign really lead to the increase in sales? — today, thanks to digital marketing, there are more success metrics available than ever before. It’s possible to see with a click when campaigns are generating results, and which aren’t. Today’s CMO needs to be on top of their metrics.

CIOs talking about culture? — One of our speakers said she was shocked to hear IT leaders focused on anything other than running data centres. Of course, those who come to our events and others know that culture comes up all the time, but maybe CIOs need to be more articulate when they go back to work to make sure their colleagues realize this is something top of mind.

What it means for the CMO: CIOs don’t just run data centres, and CMOs don’t just design ad campaigns. Both have a role in building and maintaining a corporate culture and, in the case of the CMO, communicating that culture to the world. It’s important to ensure the team understands and lives the culture, and is able to communicate it both inside and outside the organization.

— With files from Shane Schick, CanadianCIO

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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