The CIO, CMO challenge: What does it mean for your team (and your job)?
Media reports indicate that the IT/marketing relationship is undergoing some strain. Perhaps you've noticed.
The marketing space is full of new possibilities, and wherever new tactics emerge, strategy-makers (and system-builders) have to sit up and pay attention. Big data, "digital business", marketing systems automation, the elevation of user experience--those are important trends. But does that really mean marketing is underserved and CIOs are on the hot seat as a result?
In search of a new perspective, I asked Martha Heller. Heller is founder of IT recruiting firm Heller Associates and author of the recent book, "The CIO Paradox". She helps companies find CIOs, and then she often helps those CIOs build out the next level of IT staff in their new companies.
What your CMO wants
What are CIOs doing differently now to work together with the marketing department? Heller says a position much in demand in that of "Director of IT, Marketing".
"I think [collaboration with] marketing has always been a priority, but not necessarily higher than supply chain or operations or other functions," Heller agrees. "But because now there's been so much innovation around CRM and predictive analytics and so on," marketing is rising toward the top of the list, she says.
So far, no surprise. A further point about the root of current conflict, however: Heller points out that CMOs have an average tenure possibly even shorter than CIOs. "CFOs stick around--they aren't going anywhere," she notes dryly, but CMOs have a small window to start showing concrete results.
Heller points out that CMOs have an average tenure possibly even shorter than CIOs.
That means marketing doesn't just WANT to move fast. It MUST move fast.
IT often struggles to do that.
So hiring a liaison alone isn't going to resolve this tension--empower that person with the ability to make fast decisions and look for ways to accelerate project delivery.
The Chief Digital Officer and paying your technical debt
What about the ballyhooed position of "Chief Digital Officer", put forward as an alternative should CIOs' rate of change prove unsatisfactory?
"I think maybe three companies actually did this, and then before you know it every journalist in the space started writing about it," Heller says.
It sounds tempting: If IT isn't moving as quickly as the big brass wants, maybe a new person is needed to jumpstart the move towards digital business. An idea person. A mover and shaker.
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Here's the problem, according to Heller. Lots of CIOs have ideas. Lots of CIOs "get" digital business. But if a company has underinvested in IT for decades, a few fresh ideas aren't going to fundamentally change the business. There is existing technical infrastructure that has to be brought up to speed.
That costs money. Heller says one CIO recently described it in terms of "paying your technical debt", versus mortgaging your technical future.
Can companies hire a Chief Digital Officer to build some new systems in isolation? Absolutely. But they should recognize that at some point, those isolated systems will need to be integrated with the rest of the infrastructure. (Guess who's going to get that job? The CIO.)
That old familiar communication issue
So truly serving marketing needs and emerging as a digital business, in the vast majority of cases, is going to require spending money.
And getting approval to spend money requires skills that aren't new at all: communication and persuasion.
Heller does note a second position--in addition to the IT Director, Marketing spot--that is opening up in some smart companies. This one is something like "Director of IT Finance".
"CIOs are hiring financial people--strategic ones--who can use financial terms that resonate with the other executives, in order to tell the story of why so much money is required and what that 80 percent of the technical infrastructure does," Heller says. - Derek
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