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Retail CIOs become heroes with the help of CMOs

Sharon Goldman | Aug. 25, 2015
In the highly charged atmosphere of retail, CMOs are always looking for the next shiny new thing. But aligning more closely with the CIO may be the key to meeting the demands of today’s demanding consumers.

Retail’s ‘secret sauce’ is in CIO-owned legacy systems

One area where the CIO’s expertise is becoming more highly valued is in the power of retail legacy systems. While CMOs may long for the latest “shiny” and trendy technologies, retailers are beginning to realize that the CIO has the most access to what is being recognized as the “secret sauce” of any brand – its data and unique processes, housed in older legacy systems.

“It’s great to have the new applications and technologies that the CMO wants, but if it is to be really useful it has to somehow dovetail with your legacy systems, which the CIO is responsible for,” Lawrie says.

Vendors for the new, shiny technologies – of which there are thousands knocking on retailer doors these days – may come and demonstrate in a stand-alone way that makes sense to the CMO, he adds. But none of today’s technology, in marketing or other lines of business, can really stand alone: “The CMO might not consider what happens after a technology gets rolled out – how it will be maintained, how it will integrate with other systems,” he explains. “IT people are great at thinking about this – it makes a great yin to the CMO’s yang.”

Building trust to work towards shared goals

There is still more work to do in developing the best relationships between marketing and IT – the Accenture study found that only 23 percent of marketers believe that collaboration between CMOs and IT is at or approaching the “right level” and 45 percent of CMOs believe ‘more collaboration is needed’ with the CIO.

But a recent Deloitte Digital report, "CMO Quarterly Study: The CMO-CIO Relationship,” found that 71 percent of CMO-CIO conversations focused on bridging gaps and their evolving roles towards broader internal partnerships, in order to deliver a better experience to the customer.

According to the NRF’s Litchford, this movement requires a strong sense of trust. “Number one, you have to build that trust that we’re all on the same team, that we’re all going after the same objective,” he says.

At NRF Tech, a summit for retail technology leaders, CMOs and other senior line-of-business executives are well-represented, in order to promote cross-mentoring and cross-training — the new breed of technologists, says Litchford, will have to combine not just technological expertise but business acumen. “The first thing we had to do was make sure it wasn’t just CIOs and IT people attending, but also CMOs,” says Litchford. “This needs to be about driving innovation and building a culture of innovation.”


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