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Mars vs. Venus? How CMOs and CIOs can align and thrive.

CMOs and CIOsRecently, we posted an initial discussion between Informatica’s CMO Marge Breya and CIO Eric Johnson, explaining how CIOs and CMOs can align and thrive. In the dialog below, Breya and Johnson provide additional detail on how their departments partner effectively.

Q: Pretty much everyone agrees that marketing has changed from an art to a science. How does that shift translate into how you work together day to day? 

CIO Eric JohnsonEric: The different ways that marketers now have to get to the prospects and customers to grow their marketshare has exploded. It used to be a single marketing solution that was an after-thought, and bolted on to the CRM solution. Now, there are just so many ways that marketers have to consider how they market to people. It’s driven by things going on in the market, like how people interact with companies and the lifestyle changes people have made around mobile devices.

Informatica CMO Marge BreyaMarge: Just look at the sheer number of systems and sources of data we care about. If you want to understand upsell and cross-sell for customers you have to look at what’s happening in the ERP system, what’s happened from a bookings standpoint, whether the customer is a parent or child of another customer, how you think about data by region, by industry by job title. And there’s how you think about successful conversion of leads. Is it the way you’d predicted? What’s your most valuable content? Who’s your most valuable outlet or event? What’s your ROI? You can’t get that from any one single system. More and more, it’s all about conversion rates, about forecasting and theories about how the business is working from a model standpoint. And I haven’t even talked about social.

Q: With so many emerging technologies to look at, how do CMOs reconcile the need to quickly add new products, while CIOs reconcile the need for everything to work securely and well together?

Eric: There’s this yin and yang that’s starting to build between the CIO and the CMO as we both understand each other and the world we each live in, and therefore collaborate and partner more. But at the same time, there’s a tension between a CMO’s need to bring in solutions very quickly, and the CIO’s need to do some basic vetting of that technology. It’s a tension between speed vs. scale and liability to the company. It’s on a case-by-case basis, but as a CIO you don’t say “no.” You give options. You show CMOs the tradeoffs they’re going to make.

There are also risks that are easy to take and worth taking. They won’t cause any problems with the enterprise on a security or integration perspective, so let’s just try it. It may not work — and that’s OK.

Marge: There’s temptation across departments for the shiny new object. You’ll hear about a new technology, and you think this might solve our problems, or move the business faster. The tension even within the marketing department is: do we understand how and if it will impact the business process? And do we understand how that business process will have to change if the shiny new object comes on board?

Q: CMOs are getting data from potentially hundreds of sources, including partners, third parties, LinkedIn and Google. How do the two of you work together to determine a trustworthy data source? Do you talk about it?

Eric: The issue of trusting your data and making sure you’re doing your due diligence on it is incredibly important. Without doing that, you are running the risk of finding yourself in a very tricky situation from a legal perspective, and potentially a liability perspective. To do that, we have a lot of technology that helps us manage a lot data sources coming into a single source of truth.

On top of that, we are working with marketers who are much more savvy about technology and data. And that makes IT’s job easier — and our partnership better — because we are now talking the same language. Sometimes it’s even hard to tell where the line between the two groups actually sits. Some of the marketing people are as technical as the IT people, and some of the IT people are becoming pretty well-versed in marketing.

Q: How do you decide what technologies to buy?

Marge: A couple of weeks ago we went on a shopping trip, and spent the day at a venture capital firm looking at new companies. It was fun. He and I were brainstorming and questioning each other to see if each technology would be useful, and could we imagine how everything would go together. We first explored possibilities, and then we considered whether it was practical.

Eric: Ultimately, Marge owns the budget. But before the budgeting cycle we sit down to discuss what things she wants to work on, and whether she wants to swap technology out. I make sure Marge is getting what she needs from the technologies. There’s a reliance on the IT team to do some due diligence on the technical aspects of this technology: Does it work. Do we want to do business with these people? Is it going to scale? So each party has a role to play in evaluating whether it’s a good solution for the company. As a CIO you don’t say “no” unless there’s something really bad, and you hope you have a relationship with the CMO where you can say here are the tradeoffs you’re making. You say no one has an agenda here, but here are the risks you have to be ok taking. It’s not a “no.” It’s options.

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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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