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The CIO and CMO perspective on big data

Stephanie Overby | Aug. 6, 2014
CMOs now command more of the tech budget than any other executive outside of the CIO. With big data being one of the main drivers of technology spending, a strong relationship between IT and marketing is critical to business success.

Share everything, advises Merry of Delaware North — not just what's coming next month but what's coming next year. "I let my CIO know what we are trying to achieve, why, and what the desired outcome and KPIs are," Merry says. "And share the success, make sure that our leaders know that anything we as marketing achieve in this area couldn't have been done without IT." 

"To become a more effective partner to marketing, the CIO should meet regularly with the CMO to understand the analytics issues marketing is dealing with and offer practical ways to address these, not just the technology but also from a process optimization perspective," advises Jonathan Block, Vice President of Technology at B2B advisory firm SiriusDecisions.

Never Say Never

Just as CMOs must learn to open up around big data, CIOs must learn not to shut marketing down. That can be a tall order in this risky, emerging area of technology. "The easiest thing for marketing to do is look at IT as the department of no,' where every request for new technology is met with resistance," says Survis. "It isn't secure enough. It isn't robust enough. It isn't compatible with our infrastructure."

At Tillster, there have been instances where the marketing team has wanted to implement competing tool sets. "In those situations, both departments weigh the risks and rewards, using one guiding light: ensuring the clients' needs come first," says Hope Neiman. "With this beacon, we have yet to have a problem where marketing and IT couldn't reach an amicable solution. 

Delaware North's CMO Merry wants an IT organization that's open to new analytics initiatives and can partner with marketing to manage such cutting edge projects. But marketing and IT don't always agree. "Like any good partnership any differences end in a negotiation -- but an informed negotiation," says CIO Quinlivan. If marketing wants real-time access to their customer data and models Quinlivan doesn't say no. He might explain that going from near real-time to real-time doubles the cost of the infrastructure. The CMO may counter and explain the business cost of the one-minute lag in data. "This dynamic tension is healthy and productive as long as information is shared," Quinlivan says.

Biogen Idec's Meyers has invested in IT professionals who see themselves as part of the marketing team. "We need to be speaking the same language and mutually guided by the same compass," he says. "Too often, the geeks in IT like to talk about Markov chains, feature vectorization and edge-nodes on graphs. Marketing simply wants to know in a straightforward way whether or not competitors are having any impact influencing our customers, or how patients in social media are perceiving a new product. We do our best to apply the computing, mathematics and our contextual understanding of the business to answer these questions in the most straightforward way possible." Still there are times when IT might think marketing is off base. But, says Meyers, "it's almost always because a request is showing up as a solution which isn't the right solution. If you decompose the request, it's usually grounded in a legitimate problem that's worth solving together."


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