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Mars vs. Venus? Aligning the CMO and CIO Planets

Research firm Gartner, Inc., sent shockwaves across the technology landscape when it forecast CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs by 2017[i]. The rationale? “We frequently hear our technology and service provider clients tell us they are dealing with business buyers more, and need to “speak the language.” Gartner itself has fueled this inferno with assertions such as, “By 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO” (see “Webinar: By 2017 the CMO Will Spend More on IT Than the CIO”).”[ii] In the two years since Gartner first made that prediction, analysts and pundits have talked about a CIO/CMO battle for data supremacy — describing the two roles as “foes” inhabiting “separate worlds[iii]” that don’t even speak the same language.

But when CIOs are from Mars and CMOs are from Venus, their companies can end up with disjointed technologies that don’t play well together. The result? Security flaws, no single version of “truth,” and regulatory violations that can damage the business.  The trick, then, is aligning the CIO and CMO planets.

Informatica’s CMO Marge Breya and CIO Eric Johnson show how they do it.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk lately about how CMOs are now the biggest users of data. That represents a shift in how CMOs and CIOs traditionally have worked together. How do you think the roles of the CMO and CIO need to mesh?

CIO Eric JohnsonEric: As I look across the lines of business, and evaluate the level of complexity, the volume of data and the systems we’re supporting, marketing is now by far the most complex part of the business we support. The systems that they have, the data that they have, has grown exponentially over the last four or five years. Now more than ever, [CMOs and CIOs are] very much attached at the hip. We have to be working in conjunction with one another.

Informatica CMO Marge BreyaMarge: Just to add to that I’d say over the last five years, we’ve been attached to things like CRM systems, or partner relationship systems. From a marketing standpoint, it has really been about management: How do you have visibility into what’s happening with the business. But over the last couple of years it’s become increasingly more important to focus on the “R” word — the relationship: How do you look at a customer name and understand how it relates to their past buying behavior. As a result, you need to understand how information lives from system to system, all across a time series, in order to make really great decisions. The “relate’ word is probably most important, at least in my team right now, and it’s not possible for me to relate data across the organization without having a great relationship with IT.

Q: So how often do you find yourselves talking together?

Eric: We talk to each other probably weekly, and I think our teams work together daily. There’s a constant collaboration and making sure that we’re in sync. You hear about the CIO/CMO relationship. I think it should be an easy relationship because there’s so much going on technology-wise and data-wise that the CMOs are becoming much more technically knowledgeable, and CIOs are starting to understand more and more what’s going on in their business that the line between them should be all about how you work together.

Marge: Of all the business partners in the company, Eric … helps us in marketing reimagine how marketing can be done. If the two of us can go back and forth, understand what’s working and what’s not working, and reimagine how we can be far more effective, or productive or know new things — to me that’s the judge of a healthy relationship between a CIO and a CMO. And luckily, we have that.

Q: It seems as if 2013 was the year of “big data.” But a Gartner survey[iv]  said The adoption is still at the early stages with fewer than 8% of all respondents indicating their organization has deployed big data solutions. What do you think are the issues that are making it so difficult for companies?

Eric: The concept of big data is something companies want to get involved in. They want to understand how they can leverage this fast-growing volume of data from various sources. But the challenge is being able to understand what you’re looking for, and to know what kind of questions you have.

Marge: There’s a big focus on big data, almost for the sake of it in some cases. People get confused about whether it’s about the haystack, or the needle. Having a haystack for the heck of it isn’t usually what’s done. It’s for a purpose. It’s important to understand what part of that haystack is important for what part of your business. How up-to-date is it? How much can you trust the data. How much can you make real decisions from it. And frankly, who should have access to it. So much of the data we have today is sensitive, affected by privacy laws and other kinds of regulations. I think big data is appropriately a great term right now, but more importantly, it’s not just about big data, it’s about great data. How are you going to use it? And how it’s going to affect your business process.

Eric: You could go down into a rat hole if you’re chasing something and you’re not really sure what you’re going to do with it.

Marge: On the other hand, you can explore years of behavior and maybe come up with a great predictive model for what a new buying signal scoring engine could look like.

Q: One promise of big data is the ability to pull in data from so many sources. That would suggest a real need for you two to work together to ensure the quality and the integrity of the data. How do you collaborate on those issues?

Eric: There’s definitely a lot of work that has to be done working with the CMO and the marketing organization: To sit down and understand where’s this data coming from, what’s it going to be used for, and making sure you have the people and processing components. Especially with the level of complexity we have, with all the data coming in from so many sources, making sure that we really map that out, understand the data and what it looks like and what some of the challenges could be. So it’s partnering very closely with marketing to understand those processes, understand what they want to do with the data, and then putting the people, the processes and the technology in place so you can trust the data and have a single source of truth.

Marge: You hit the nail on the head with “people, process and technology.” Often, folks think of database quality or accuracy as being an IT problem. It’s a business problem. Most people know their business, they know what their data should look like. They know what revenue shapes should look like. What’s norm for the business. If the business people aren’t there from a governance standpoint, from a stewardship standpoint — literally saying “does this data make sense?” — without that partnership, forget it.

Gartner does a nice job of describing the digital landscape that marketers are facing today in its infographic below. In order to use technology as a differentiator, organizations need to get the most value from their data.  The relationships between these technology is going to make the difference between organizations that gain a competitive advantage from their operations and the laggards.

Gartner_DigitalMktgMap_650


[i] Gartner Research, December 20, 2013, “Market Trends: The Rising Importance of the Business Buyer – Fact of Fiction?” Derry N. Finkeldey

[ii] Gartner Research, December 20, 2013, “Market Trends: The Rising Importance of the Business Buyer – Fact of Fiction?” Derry N. Finkeldey

[iii] Gartner blog, January 25, 2013, “CMOs: Are You Cheating on Your CIO?”, Jennifer Beck, Vice President & Gartner Fellow

[iv] Gartner Research, September 12, 2013, “Survey Analysis: Big Data Adoption in 2013 Shows Substance Behind the Hype,” Lisa Kart, Nick Heudecker, Frank Buytendijk

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