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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.

While both sides recognize the need for alignment and a joint strategic plan, there remains a disconnect in how each party views its contribution, according to a November 2014 Forrester report on CMO-CIO collaboration. For example, the research, spearheaded by Pattek, found that while about 70 percent of the executives in both groups believe their strategic planning process emphasizes enhancing customer acquisition, retention and loyalty, only 61 percent of marketers think the CIO is actively engaged in that process. In contrast, 76 percent of the IT leaders said the CIO plays an active role.

In addition, 70 percent of marketers and 66 percent of tech management executives said they agree that marketing technology plans will gain more support and funding if they're developed jointly by the CMO and CIO. However, only 51 percent of the respondents said that the two parties are in fact working together to select and deploy marketing technologies at their organizations.

More often, CMOs, like Akamai's Rinklin, work with outside tech partners or use hosted marketing applications, only to find that, far from making things easier, such shadow IT efforts backfire, Pattek says. "All of a sudden, they wake up and have all these point pieces that don't integrate and don't provide a consistent experience," she says. "They need help and turn to the CIO."

Co-pilots in action

At Akamai, Rinklin welcomed Kalia's arrival; he was eager to have a strategic partner to help map out the company's digital business transformation. By applying cross-functional governance principles and jointly sponsoring key initiatives, the two were able to successfully co-pilot sweeping changes to Akamai's culture that brought their two groups closer together. They talk every day and have assigned an IT leader to marketing. That liaison is held accountable for the goals established for each marketing initiative and Kalia says the position's compensation is tied to core business objectives. Akamai's IT group is about 400 strong globally, with a dozen people dedicated to serving Rinklin's 150 marketers.

Now in place for a couple of years, the IT-marketing alignment has been a huge success, allowing Akamai to pull off a major technology coup in a relatively short time period -- something that would have been impossible in years past, Rinklin says. "Considering we're a $2 billion company, Kumud's team helped marketing launch a brand-new website with a brand-new [content management system] and a brand-new marketing automation system while overhauling all of our marketing lead processes and doing an integration into our Salesforce automation engine," Rinklin says, adding that all those projects were done in one calendar year and there was no downtime.

"Overnight, we went from our old system to our new system and it all worked fantastically," he says. "We couldn't have done that as a marketing team alone or just asking for some IT help. We had to do this as a partnership."


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