C-Suite Relationships: Teaming Up with the CMO

This is the third post in my series on CIO relationships across the business. (Previously: The intro and the CEO.)

Informatica hired a new CMO, Sally Jenkins, within six months of my arrival as CIO. Since we were both new, it gave us a chance to build a CIO-CMO relationship from scratch by getting up to speed together and sharing fresh perspectives on the challenges before us.

Not long after Sally arrived, Marketing wanted to make a new IT purchase. It was the perfect opportunity for me to explain how I wanted to work with my fellow executives. I told Sally, “You can just buy it and have me deploy it, but we’ll be much more effective if you tell me what you’re trying to accomplish.”

I made it clear that what I wanted was not just for IT to support marketing, but for Marketing and IT to support each other and work together to define the business outcomes we both wanted. It was clear that she’d never interacted with IT that way—and she was delighted.

The whole is greater than its parts

CMOInformatica used to have Marketing and Sales leaders trying to optimize each function separately. Each leader had different ideas of how, for instance, the lead management process should work, and because the two teams didn’t collaborate or even discuss those ideas, their requests to IT often overlapped or conflicted.

Sound familiar?

There’s no point to brilliantly executing marketing campaigns that don’t translate to pipeline, let alone revenue. Nor is there any point in buying marketing technology that doesn’t make marketing more effective. To create a modern, dynamic customer experience engine with data at the core, the relationship between marketing and IT needs to change, starting with the CIO and CMO.

That’s why I don’t ask Sally what tech she needs. Instead, I sit down with her and ask her to walk me through the ideal buyer’s journey by showing me what happens when someone clicks on a page on our website, how that turns into a marketing qualified lead, and how that lead gets routed to sales. I work to understand her world—and that helps me make sure that IT is solving real business problems, not just checking projects off a list.

As a result, we now have a more holistic approach to sales and marketing. Instead of siloed thinking and systems, we have a single system that gives both teams the same view of a new lead so they can work together to generate qualified pipeline and convert it into revenue.

What made the difference? As CIO, I have the most complete and detailed end-to-end view of how processes work across the enterprise, and I’m not bound by a functional responsibility to optimize just my function. It gives me the freedom, but also the responsibility, to look at outcomes at the enterprise level. And therefore, I must work across functions to bring that broad perspective.

Bridging the communication gap

Marketing delivers great content and understands the customer journey. IT understands the technology that delivers that content and turns the journey into a great customer experience. It’s when we work closely together that we find the best opportunities to bring content and tech platforms together to deliver the most compelling experience—and the best business results.

Let’s say a customer requests a demo from your website, which triggers an R&D deployment cycle to create the demo environment, generate login credentials, and give the customer full-feature access. If IT could provide Marketing with data indicating where the customer is in the demo journey, Marketing would have a better idea of when and how to nurture and manage the customer relationship and convert it to a lead.

 Focusing on business outcomes

Building a strong relationship with the CMO means understanding and optimizing for the digital buyer’s journey, but that’s just a function-specific version of your broader responsibility as a CIO—which is to understand your peers’ obstacles and objectives as opposed to simply engaging in transactions with them.

This is part of the important shift many of us are seeing take place among CIOs, who increasingly come with business backgrounds and see themselves not as technologists but as enablers of business outcomes. Building executive relationships around shared goals and leveraging what each party contributes to the organization is what transforms a business.

How are you thinking about—or experiencing—the CIO-CMO relationship? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts and experiences in the comments (and on Twitter). And check back soon for our final entry: The CIO-CISO relationship.