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Does the rise of the CMO threaten CIOs?

Jeff Vance | Oct. 24, 2012
Investments in IT have long been the domain of the CIO, but all of that is changing as CMOs increasingly make IT investments in this cloud and data-driven age. Many times these investments are ones IT didn't approve and doesn't even know about.

With the C Comes Marketing Power

Let's step back and remember that the CMO is a fairly new position. (Actually, if you take a long view of business history, the CIO is too.) Being elevated to C-level gives marketing executives more clout within organizations, and organizational power is often considered, rightly or not, a zero-sum game.

"All of our data says that CMOs must urgently move into new spaces, such as social media and mobile," says Carolyn Baird, global director and co-author of IBM's 2011CMO Study. "They know that they must embrace new trends, and the must cope with the increasing complexity that accompanies those trends, but less than half of the CMOs we surveyed felt prepared to deal with that complexity."

The majority of the trends Baird talks about were technology trends, the exact things that CMOs should be turning to CIOs for help with. Yet, often they are not.

IBM based its findings on face-to-face meetings with more than 1,700 CMOs worldwide and found that CMOs face "four universal game-changers: the data explosion, social media, proliferation of channels and devices, and shifting consumer demographics."

IBM found that CMOs are feeling a lot of anxiety about these game-changers, and most feel unprepared to deal with them:

71 percent believe there are unprepared to deal with the explosion of data

68 percent are unprepared to handle social media

65 percent aren't ready to deal with the growth of channel and device choices

63 percent are unprepared to deal with shifting consumer demographics

55 percent don't know how to cope with privacy considerations

Clearly, CIOs and IT will be critical in helping CMOs navigate all of those challenges.

"Will CMOs and CIOs work together?" Baird asked. "Let's look at social media. CMOs don't necessarily need IT, but if you start collecting piles of customer data, issues arise around privacy, security and data management. If the real goal is to not just capture data, but to put it into the systems where you can actually do something useful with it, IT's knowledge is critical."

[Column: Hey CIOs! Show Your CMO the Love]

Randy Shattuck, founder of the marketing firm The Shattuck Group, says he believes that much of the current tension between CMOs and CIOs boils down to one thing: the cloud.

Shattuck gives an example of a CMO who has to get ready for a board report, goes to his director of marketing and tells him to pull information from a cloud-based tool. Then, the director finds that the cloud service is down.

"Marketing will go to IT and say please tell me why this system is unavailable. A junior-level IT person will say, in a smart-ass way, 'We don't support that. We didn't even know you bought it," he said. "They throw the problem back over the fence and have started a turf war."


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