How to Boost Business with a Strong CIO-CMO Partnership

8 minute read
How to Boost Business with a Strong CIO-CMO Partnership

Today, 70 percent of an organization’s brand experience is delivered through IT resources, giving the chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief information officer (CIO) a big reason to collaborate on critical business goals.

Traditionally, marketing focuses on growing the business while IT keeps things running. However, as technology continues to drive customer interaction with a brand the relationship between IT and marketing must evolve—and quickly. When used well, technology gives companies a competitive advantage and improves the overall consumer experience. With IT’s knowledge of the tools and marketing’s pulse on the customer, the two organizations can collaborate to steer the business and the brand in the right direction.

Ten years ago, chief marketing officers (CMOs) rarely purchased applications or had a strong need to collaborate with IT. Now, marketing relies heavily on technology and digital channels to build the brand and connect with customers. With the rise of new technologies, marketing channels, and social media, CMOs may even have their own IT budget.

In turn, this provides IT organizations with the opportunity to move from behind the scenes of traditional business operations to the forefront of customer experience, as they now play a bigger and even more crucial role in driving business value. IT can use metrics provided by marketing to streamline the technologies being used and to prioritize upcoming initiatives.

CMOs are projected to spend more money on information technology and analytics than CIOs. With a strong collaboration, marketing can depend on IT to help them with many of their top challenges and opportunities, and IT can gain valuable insight on customer behavior and engagement.

When IT and marketing work well together, the brand and business revenue are strengthened through a high-quality and holistic customer experience across many different channels, devices, and locations.

Here are five steps to building a profitable CIO/CMO relationship at your company:

1. Improve Your Customer’s Digital Experience  

Today’s customers are relying more on mobile devices, apps and social networks to learn about products, compare prices and brands, and make buying decisions. This dependence on technology for brand interaction blurs the line between where marketing ends and IT begins.

IT and marketing can deliver major business value by partnering to improve the customer’s digital experience.

A smooth and intuitive digital customer experience not only differentiates your business, but it also helps to attract and retain customers.  This translates into revenue growth, as well as the development of stronger partnerships. In addition, using IT resources to improve the customer’s digital experience helps preserve security while encouraging IT innovation.

By working together to take advantage of technology for deeper customer insights, marketing and IT both benefit from the information gleaned to continue driving business growth.

To facilitate this collaboration, CIOs and CMOs should walk through a typical customer experience together. Marketing can provide insight into the brand and customer perspective, while IT can offer professional advice on which technologies will best help the business achieve its goals.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What do customers want/need from your technology and digital experiences?

  • What is it like to interact with your company from a digital perspective right now?

  • Does the experience that you provide align with what customers want/need?

  • Does this digital experience support the desired image and reputation of your brand?

  • What technologies could improve the experience and is it feasible to implement them?

This thought exercise helps identify gaps in your current digital experience and reveals pathways for improvement.

2. Unify Systems for a Complete View of Your Customers  

Your customer data is your most valuable asset. You can gain a digital advantage by making it part of your organization’s value chain.

Marketing now collects large volumes of data through systems of engagement. These systems include online communities, social networks, customer relationship management tools, and other technologies that engage customers. When marketing utilizes this data, it can attract more customers and drive revenue. However, it’s often challenging for marketing to sort through all of this disparate data to gain deeper customer insights.

Many IT organizations work on and improve systems of record such as payroll, accounting, and enterprise resource platforms. These technologies help support the business from an operational perspective but don’t necessarily touch the customer.  

Both systems of engagement and systems of record contain valuable data. Unifying your business and IT systems into a single, digital platform can help everyone gain a more complete picture of your customer. Marketing can use these insights to create data-driven strategies that benefit the business, and IT can understand which of these strategies to throw their weight behind and why.

Unifying your systems will also save marketing from buying third-party tools to collect, sort and analyze data. If you already have the right tools in-house, you can reduce technology costs and security risks associated with shadow IT. You can also reduce IT complexity by removing disparate systems in your organization.

3. Speak the Same Language 

Building a strong CIO-CMO relationship starts with a conversation. However, CIOs and CMOs tend to have different communications styles, which can make it hard to deliver your message and understand an opposing perspective.

In fact, the CIO-CMO Omnichannel Crossroads study found that they often speak different languages. For example, when CIOs hear the word “agile,” they think of “a software development methodology that is highly flexible but also requires deliberately ambiguous definitions of timelines and deliverables.” Conversely, to a CMO “agile” means “a desired state of operations, in which the company can change direction and move rapidly as market conditions change.”

When you have a conversation, you may hear things differently based on your own priorities and language set. It’s important to focus on the other’s challenges and goals, and to ask questions to further understand them.

For example, if marketing needs to integrate new social apps, web development software, or marketing automation, they should be able to outline their needs, and then heed advice from IT based on which technologies and services can help both marketing and the business achieve their goals. By first listening to marketing’s challenges and priorities, IT may be able to help marketing negotiate contracts, select the best, most secure tools, and show them how to use technologies to innovate, launch new campaigns, and reach more customers.

IT has an opportunity to help marketing succeed if it acts as a service broker, rather than a service provider. Acting as a service broker takes the focus off the technology and puts it on the business strategy. For example, many IT pros speak in terms of technical features; marketers are usually more concerned with how the technology will help them succeed. As a service broker, IT can show the business value of IT and become a trusted advisor.

4. Protect the Company’s Brand Together

One goal IT and marketing have in common is to protect the company’s brand.

Traditionally, marketing focused on protecting the brand from external influences, while IT focused on protecting the brand from internal influences by ensuring that systems were operating at a level that minimized any impact to the overall customer experience.  But today, even small security breaches can result in catastrophic impact to a company’s brand. Additionally, customers now expect an always-available, from-anywhere experience, so system outages have evolved from having a minor impact to having a critical impact to the overall customer experience.

Therefore, when it comes to brand reputation, marketing and IT can no longer operate in silos. Marketing uses technologies that could impact business security, and IT must drive value for the brand.

In addition, the digital customer experience is now a huge brand differentiator. Customers expect to do business with you 24/7 — from any location and on any device. If your website is slow and your apps don’t function, your customers will go elsewhere.

A strong digital experience depends on marketing and IT working together. Marketing can provide the vision of this experience, while IT can build the technical solution and provide counsel from a technology perspective. For example, if marketing wants to use a tool that won’t work from a security or user experience perspective, IT can explain why it’s not the best choice for the business and suggest alternatives that provide a stronger digital advantage.   

5. Build the Brand of IT Internally

It can be a struggle for CIOs to communicate IT’s message. If IT can’t show its business value, it will be seen as a cost center instead of an innovator.

As experts in communications, marketing can help. Many enterprises are hiring communications professionals to work directly with IT. A marketing or IT communications professional can help CIOs crystalize their message and put it in terms that resonate with the C-suite and with employees. With clear communication about important initiatives, challenges, and goals, IT can show its business value and improve its brand internally.

A Profitable CIO-CMO Relationship is Critical to Success

IT and marketing play indispensable roles on their own, but together, they can create a customer experience that is a true differentiator for the business. By understanding each other’s priorities and challenges, and then working toward a solution that will meet their requirements, IT and marketing can devise strategies that will impact brand reputation, customer experience, security, and revenue growth. The innovation begins with a strong CIO-CMO relationship to lead the way. It’s time to harness the power of this partnership, enhance your brand and improve your company’s bottom-line.

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Why Shared Accountability Erases the CIO-CMO Divide

“As an IT leader, do you share the same business objectives with your marketing teams? It’s easy to see how there can be a divide,” writes John T. Marcante, Vanguard’s CIO and managing director of the IT division. Learn more about his perspective on how CIOs and CMOs can erase the divide on the The Enterprisers Project sponsored by Red Hat.