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Are CIOs destined to work for the CMO?

Paul Rubens | Oct. 8, 2013
As marketing departments becoming more reliant on technology, a strong relationship with the CMO will be necessary for the survival of CIOs. In fact, don't be surprised to see CEOs siding marketing when there's a conflict.

CIO-CMO Conflict Inevitable
That means that there will almost inevitably be conflict between the CIO and the CMO. For example, what will happen when the CMO decides that the business needs to use a particular software as a service (SaaS) product, but the CIO tries to veto it for data security or compliance reasons that could have very significant implications for the business if ignored.

"There is bound to be inherent conflict, and that's where the CEO comes in," says Weber. "But I think that, in most cases, he will side with the marketing people."

A policy of overruling the CIO's security or compliance concerns could get an organization in to serious legal difficulties and the customer experience is hardly likely to be enhanced if their personal data is not adequately protected.

For that reason it's unlikely that CMOs will be encouraged to ignore their CIOs altogether, but Kathleen Schaub, a vice president at IDC's CMO Advisory Service, agrees with Weber that in most organizations the CMO will have more of the CEO's ear than the CIO.

"The CEO has to recognize the CIO/CMO relationship, and give the CMO a stronger voice in company strategy," Schaub says.

Battling Over Technology Budget
Another potential area of conflict is the question of IT budgets, specifically which department is expected to pay for the IT-related activities of the marketing department. Some — like marketing-related SaaS products — may naturally fall into the category of marketing expenditure, but what about the storage and processing power needed to carry out Big Data analytics? Is that an IT or a marketing activity, and out of which department's budget should it come?

IDC figures show that about two thirds of technology spending for marketing is already being paid for out of marketing rather than IT budgets, and the amount being spent each year is growing strongly.

"Spending on marketing automation has increased steadily since the 1990s, and it's now reached fever pitch," says Schaub. That would suggest that - regardless of whether budgets for overall IT spending grow - the CMO will have control over more of the pie than the CIO in the future.

Despite all of the above, Schaub says that conflict in the relationship between CMO and CIO can be avoided in a number of ways. "One approach is to try and ensure there is a good strong relationship between the CIO and the CMO. But that's not always possible because it comes down to having the right personalities," she says.

But there is another way - and one which Schaub says has already been tried successfully by corporations like Motorola Solutions. "The answer may simply be to make the CIO and the CMO the same person," she says.


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