Before marrying, CIOs and CMOs need to go on a first date

The thought of walking down a neon-lit aisle of a Las Vegas chapel and exchanging vows officiated by an Elvis impersonator is likely enough to make any chief marketing officer (CMO) shudder. But add the notion that when they lift the veil on their partner at the altar they’d discover their CIO colleague and this scene graduates into a full-blown nightmare.

A new article on Harvard Business Review does a great job of working out the different personality types that often inhabit the roles of CIO and CMO in an organization. With the roles requiring entirely different capabilities out these leaders, it’s no wonder that when asked to work together on big data initiatives, they often butt heads instead.

Or as the HBR writers artfully put it: “CMOs, tasked with driving growth, are pounding the table demanding that the surfeit of customer data their companies are accumulating be turned into increased revenue. CIOs, tasked with turning technology into revenue, are themselves pounding the table demanding better requirements for Big Data initiatives.”

CEOs are hearing from software vendors about how they can tap the wealth of data in their organization to better identify opportunities and problems at an earlier stage. Plus they’re seeing some of their competitors succeed on these initiatives, the CEO frustrated because their rival is landing a big deal before it was even on their boardroom table. So they’re turning to the CIO and CMO and telling them to figure out this problem to stay competitive.

Trouble is, these two executives are both vying for career advancement and control of budgets. So in addition to their opposing personalities they actually have competitive interests as well. Maybe its CIO jealousy about Gartner’s prediction that the CMO’s IT budget will surpass their own by 2018. Or maybe the CMO is fed up with the CIO’s demands for detail in use case scenarios. Whatever the case, before these two enjoy a holy matrimony to succeed with a big data strategy, they have to learn to like each other first.

Some companies think this means putting the CMO and CIO offices close together. Others take it to another level, setting up dinner between the leaders (and their top managers). The basic concept is to start spending some more time together and work on creating a shared vocabulary.

HBR identifies five imperatives to forging the CIO-CMO relationship. The points focus on team building (could you create a intra-company ‘Centre of Excellence’ hub for both IT workers and marketers to collaborate?), transparency (defining the questions being asked of the data), and consider hiring new talent into a position that will translate between IT and marketing.

Like any first date, CMOs might dread the thought of sitting down to dinner with their CIO. But you never know, it could be the beginning of a beautiful (professional) relationship.

Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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