The Digital Playing Field: Positioning the CIO & CMO

You don’t have to look too far these days before you come across a story about the demise of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). Some argue that IT consumerisation, cloud and mobile are bringing into question the need for the CIO. With the ability of practically anyone with a credit card to procure IT services some even go as far as to question the need for an internal IT department all together. Those arguments however come under question when one considers more complex challenges such as the management, integration and utilisation of ‘big data’, information management, experience management and, more recently, digital.

There are increasingly more references to digital in the market, but what exactly is ‘digital’?  I recently came across a presentation from Bud Caddell, a well-known speaker and author on the topic, who described digital as “a participatory layer of all media that allows users to self select their own experiences”

Marketing departments around the globe are abuzz with digital as they look to establish their digital strategies targeted at listening and responding to consumers, delivering the desired brand experience, iterating offerings, and establishing and maintaining consumer relationships. Digital strategies however, are dependent on an integrated digital backbone to enable them – that’s where the technology comes in.

The technology must be designed in such a way that it effectively:

  • Supports the need to deliver competitive insight by collecting and processing unprecedented amounts of data
  • Enables consumers to self-select their own experiences
  • Presents engaging content in a way that supports the required conversations to promote, persuade, and nurture targeted markets
  • The reliance on technology within marketing departments has never been greater, and as a result their budgets for IT are increasing.  But does that mean that the CIO is doomed, or translates to the CIO being replaced by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)?  I don’t believe so. Core marketing competencies comprise of, but not limited to, channel management, advertising, market research and analysis, marketing strategy and planning, public relations, and positioning and branding.  And whilst some marketing departments have a level of web expertise, core marketing competencies do not typically include the management of IT.

Instead of looking to replace the CIO, what we need to do is better support the CIO to enable digital strategies by equipping them to answer a few basic questions:

  • What are the ultimate objectives of digital strategy?
  • What are the target experiences?
  • What are the organisational capabilities required to deliver the experiences?
  • How does technology support them?

As we depart somewhat from an era of materialism and begin an era of experience, CIOs must look broader than the user experience of internal systems.  They must consider the broader customer, the end consumer of their organisation’s products and services, and not only understand but respond to requirements related to brand, product and customer experiences. I believe what we need to do is create a bridge between the CIO and the CMO in order to establish a partnership, allowing them to better utilise each other’s strengths and perspectives to deliver the organisation’s digital strategies.

The CMO/CIO relationship must now be as strong as the CFO/CIO partnership of the past decades.  Advances in technology have enabled the automation and streamlining of manually intensive processing, allowing the CIO to effectively support many of the operational efficiency objectives of the CFO.

The CIO must learn from the CFO relationship in order to foster a successful relationship with the CMO.  Creating an effective relationship will rely on the CIO’s ability and appetite to take ownership of the supporting digital backbone and partner with the CMO. This will free up the CMO from the technology concerns to focus on designing the experiences required to deliver the goals of the organisation’s digital strategies.

To do that, the CIO must acknowledge and accept the new mandate.  They must supplement current efficiency objectives with effectiveness objectives by aligning themselves with the CMO’s targeted customer value proposition. They will also need to demonstrate that they have a strong understanding and handle on the digital landscape.

I acknowledge that this won’t happen overnight but by introducing a structure to ensure both the CIO and CMO have a common understanding of the digital landscape we begin to cement a strong and collaborative partnership.