5 ways CMOs and CIOs can bridge the gap

CMOs and CIOs are now collaborating on projects and pooling resources. They’re increasingly drawing on each other’s expertise and discovering that their missions and marching orders overlap.

So, how can these corporate leaders ensure a more effective and productive collaboration in the era of all things digital, big data, and advanced analytics? Here are five suggestions.

Mind the gaps

For most CMOs and CIOs, there’s a gap between their traditional responsibilities and their new priorities in today’s data-driven world—gaps that they can help each other address. Today’s successful CMOs need to be experts in every facet of the marketing mix, and they’ve also had to embrace the science of analytics to identify and exploit revenue opportunities. Likewise, over the past few years, CIOs have found themselves being tasked with revenue growth goals and contributing innovational business ideas.

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As companies rely more on the insights from big data to set their direction and define strategy, CMOs and CIOs are both accountable for using technical infrastructure, such as the cloud, to drive revenue growth and business innovation.

Each can help the other create a compelling business case that connects the dots between the potential of technology and the real-world improvements, insights, and efficiencies it delivers.

Speaking of gaps, it’s no secret that marketing departments and IT tend to see the world in different ways. To make their collaboration successful, CMOs and CIOs need to identify the gaps in knowledge that make it hard for IT and marketing to agree on priorities and goals. Some even go so far as to suggest creating roles that function as translators.

The CMO needs to hire someone who understands customers and business. The CIO needs to hire technical people with a strong grounding in marketing campaigns and the business.

Set expectations

One of the essential components in any good relationship is seeing the world from the other’s perspective.

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Today’s marketing teams want to do things fast, and they want to make changes to campaigns and tactics on the fly as new data comes in—something IT may not always be willing or able to do. In fact, this is where many misunderstandings between the two departments originate. And with marketing technology spend on track to exceed overall IT spend this year, if CIOs don’t work closely with CMOs to help guide those technology purchases, this friction is likely to stick around. In fact, 43 percent of CMOs say that the technology development process is too slow.

To be effective, both sides may need to relinquish some control and set clear expectations for what’s needed and what’s possible in the quest for common ground.

Learn the language and share space

Marketing and IT lack a shared vocabulary, and this fundamental difference can complicate an effective collaboration. Addressing the translation issue starts at the top of the org chart. CMOs and CIOs should meet regularly to review actual initiatives, not just high-level ideas.

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One way to spark these conversations is to put the CMO and CIO closer together—literally—by moving offices next door to each other, if possible. If marketing and IT leaders never or rarely see each other, it’s harder for them to stay in sync and speak with a unified voice to their teams.

Start small before thinking big

Success breeds success. A successful approach starts with a marketing/IT collaboration with smaller pilot programs to work out the kinks (or not) and identify any needed changes in processes and assumptions.  Teams shouldn’t be afraid to fail, but keep the projects and teams small enough at first to both fail and learn quickly.

Play nice

Discarding long-held, stereotypical preconceptions about each other, avoiding turf battles, and being open to each other’s ideas, expertise, and limitations isn’t easy, so a little respect and courtesy go a long way.

IT has a reputation for being risk-averse and always saying “no” to marketing. Marketers are known for not involving IT in their plans and “going rogue” when they don’t get the support they need.

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These attitudes can make teams defensive and suspicious. Leaders and their teams need to give their colleagues the benefit of the doubt for the collaboration to work.

The reality is that CMOs, CIOs, and their teams all have the same ultimate goal: the success of their business. More than ever, reaching that goal demands closer collaboration among specific interest groups that haven’t always had much reason to work together.

A stronger working relationship between the CMO and CIO can set the right tone for a productive—and more profitable—partnership.


Chip Coyle, Chief Marketing Officer, Infor

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