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Meet tech's new odd couple: the CIO and CMO

Beth Stackpole | March 4, 2016
CMOs and CIOs typically come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives, but making their relationship work is critical to the digital business.

When Akamai was laying the foundation for its digital business back in 2010, CMO Brad Rinklin had a relationship with IT, but it wasn't exclusive. Because the content delivery network provider had no CIO, Rinklin might call on IT for help tweaking a website or deploying a sales-enablement tool, but the marketing group often turned to cloud tools or outside service providers for the heavy lifting.

As Akamai's marketing initiatives surged, so did Rinklin's frustration. The IT department, resource constrained and spread way too thin, took forever to get anything done, he says, and it focused on technology, not the business. "They approached things as a true technology project -- like how to make connectivity or APIs work, not really thinking of the business impact and the importance of what we were trying to do," Rinklin recalls.

All of that changed in 2011 when Akamai brought on its first-ever CIO, Kumud Kalia, who got right to work with Rinklin to align marketing and IT and to co-captain Akamai's digital future. "It was like pushing on an open door -- they were ready for help," Kalia says. "They were shifting toward digital marketing for many years, but often in reactive mode to seize a market opportunity because they couldn't wait for IT to deliver. They just needed to execute."

Marketing technology is everyone's business

With customer experience and digital business among today's top business imperatives, lots of companies are ratcheting up technology investments to execute new marketing strategies. In Computerworld's Forecast 2016 survey on IT priorities, 13 percent of the respondents identified marketing technology as a new area of spending. Moreover, 16 percent cited improving customer satisfaction/experience as a primary objective, putting that goal at No. 4 on a list of spending priorities, up from last place a year earlier.

CIO.com's 2016 State of the CIO research revealed a similar emphasis on technology for marketing: Thirty-three percent of the respondents said marketing had a budget to fund technology investments this year, and 32 percent said the same would be true over the next three years.

"Customer experience is becoming a hot button -- not just for the CMO, but across the C-suite," says Sheryl Pattek, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Customers expect a consistent experience and they expect a company to know who they are from device to device and from touch point to touch point. You can only do that with technology."

If customer experience and technology go hand in hand, then IT and marketing will need to work much more closely together in the years to come, as will the CIO and the CMO. To date, the latter relationship has not been characterized as overly chummy, but CIO.com's 2016 State of the CIO research found signs of a warming trend: 49 percent of the respondents said the CMO-CIO relationship has become much or somewhat closer and more collaborative in the past three years, while 43 percent said it has remained the same.

 

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