Why Aren’t CMOs and CIOs On the Same Page?

Aug 23, 2013

There is a disconnect between senior marketing and information technology executives despite an acknowledgement by both parties that technology is critical to gaining needed marketing insights, according to a new survey by Accenture.

According to the study’s findings, 77 percent of CIOs and 57 percent of CMOs believe that alignment between the two functions is important, although they have different priorities for collaborating. CMOs rank customer insights as the biggest reason for working with IT while CIOs rank it third. Improving the customer experience is tops on the CIO list.

"With today’s multichannel consumer seeking highly relevant experiences and with digital and analytics platforms emerging to help companies respond, marketing and IT executives must work more closely together," said Brian Whipple, global managing director of Accenture Interactive, in a statement. "C-suite decision makers face a variety of challenges when collaborating, ranging from a lack of trust to differing business goals. These issues must be resolved to turn a company’s digital marketing capabilities into a platform for market differentiation, business growth, and profitability."

Perhaps not surprisingly, CMOs and CIOs are not always happy with the results of working together. Accenture reports that 36 percent of marketing execs claim that IT fails to deliver the desired end result when the disciplines engage. Forty-six percent of IT execs say marketing fails to provide the necessary level of detail to succeed.

"The good news is that CMOs and CIOs agree technology is important," said Mr. Whipple. "Now they must work together to agree on how technology can be most appropriately applied to drive their company’s specific marketing needs, and how it can ultimately result in increased brand affinity, loyalty and sales growth."

Why do you think top IT and marketing executives are on different pages? What’s the remedy to the situation? Are there any positives to this tension?

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16 Comments on "Why Aren’t CMOs and CIOs On the Same Page?"

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Dr. Stephen Needel

They are on different pages because, usually but not always, their missions are different. IT usually has cost containment and efficiency on their to-do list, while marketing is trying to sell more stuff. It’s the CEO’s job to bring these two together, focusing them on the joint task at hand, and making sure the criteria for success reflect that joint mission.

Ryan Mathews

The primary reason is because their very titles are emblematic of Industrial Age thinking, a time when “technology” and “marketing” were clearly disparate, wholly separate activities.

Today, effective marketing is fueled by the data flowing through a variety of technologies and technology ought to serve to get companies closer to the customer in real time.

It’s clearly past time to rethink the old build-your-silo, increase command-and-control organizational charts, and create a new organizational model more reflective of both how work is actually done and how it should be done going forward.

There’s a parallel here with CEOs, COOS, and CFOs. Not so long ago the CFO was seen as a support functionary, not a person who should be allowed to actually set or execute policy and process. Today, it’s not surprising to see CFOs take over their organizations as CEOs or—at the very least—by first among equals in the executive suite.

Again, that’s because capital—like information—works differently than it used to.

As to positives—once you set all the macho management rhetoric aside—there’s very little value in consciously building tension into an organizational structure.

Ken Lonyai

In general, IT and marketing are siloed from one another. Each has some interaction with customers and depends on the other for their input, but they still have different goals and tools to work from. As reported in this study, they know the importance of the other, but they don’t seem to understand the other’s motivation or even way of thinking/being.

From my experience, there is no good that comes from this situation. For years it was common to work with a client’s marketing or store design department to deploy interactive kiosks, only to be thwarted by IT, who took the “not invented here” attitude and put the brakes on initiatives.

Mark Heckman
A good CIO knows that marketing is only one of his or her internal customers. A CMO is often more narrowly focused on technology that enables their specific marketing objectives. But a good CIO should also know that if the CMO has a credible strategy, complete with ROI calculus, that their priorities should float to the top of the list of corporate priorities and should be designed to drive sales and profits through additional customer engagement. It is also often true that CMOs are looking for immediate solutions to keep pace with the competition, while CIOs who are balancing the needs of many, are often put in position to disappoint marketing with long project timelines, given those many priorities and limited budget and human resources. One solution to much of the disconnect could be resolved with a joint planning session, with IT and Marketing meeting and discussing the realities of budget and other limitations and the marketing team promoting their wish list and projected impacts on the business. But for that to work, there needs to be leadership from the top, in that the CEO should intervene and lead the process of establishing priorities and objectives before the CMO and… Read more »
Gene Detroyer

To paraphrase a discussion between a renowned media executive and the Google boys, the media executive complained that the the marketing technology that Google was introducing would take the veil off of advertising. When I heard the statement, I thought it was absurd. But, that quickly summarizes the problem.

We could go to our discussion about Millennials from a few days ago. The tools of marketing/advertising that convinced the generations before them was all about everything but the honest truth. It was “how do we get someone to buy the product?” Let’s face it, for those of us who did it, it was fun, creative and and most of all it felt powerful. But now there is data and there is truth in data. And each bit of data takes a bit of power (call that opinion) away from the marketer.

gordon arnold
Information technology executives have a habit of not only discussing how to run a corporation’s marketing and sales plan, but their self credited expertise spreads into accounting, point of sale systems, and operations as well in many of today’s stagnant and/or failing companies. Just as frustrating is observing a CFO, COO or a CMO demonstrating how to run a business aspect from a software application they found on a smartphone or laptop. Differentiation is recognized as a critical component in a 21st century retail company’s quest for optimal market penetration, growth, and stability. Companies that have demonstrated the ability to separate themselves from the competition in the market(s) they serve are amongst the strongest in this economy. A closer look at the executive framework of companies that successfully bring differentiation to the customer will disclose the practice of this type of behavioral order in the business plan and execution in every day work ethic and tasking. Differentiation must be a part of what each executive officer places in their own departmental efforts and the company’s other business aspects as well as the company’s employees, vendors and service suppliers. In short, differentiation is completely imbedded and highly a recognizable business motion… Read more »
Shep Hyken

IT used to be primarily an internal function. With online channels it is becoming an external function as well. The new CIO will have to serve both functions, which includes marketing, if he or she plans to be successful. Marketing will have to continue to look for new digital and online methods of reaching customers, working hand-in-hand with the CIO and IT.

Ben Ball

We keep asking the same questions over and over again—and the answers do not change.

First, CMOs and CIOs are cut from fundamentally different cloth. Give 100 of each any legitimate “styles” or “strengths” test and you will get 90% in diametrically opposing quadrants. They just don’t think alike.

Second, turf wars. Like the war on terror and the battle for the soul of man, they haven’t gone away.

One last rant. I’ll bet the vast majority of those answering the survey could not give a meaningful distinguishing definition between “customer insights” and “improving the customer experience.” One is part and parcel of the other. And speaking of parsing—this survey seems to have tried too hard.

Zel Bianco

It is great that CMOs and CIOs agree technology is important. The way to bring the two groups together is to force collaboration, IT should join marketing meetings to understand initiatives, and marketing should visit IT discussions to understand their challenges. The problem is that the two groups are operating in silos when they are perhaps one of the largest collaboration needs in an organization. When the two groups don’t respect each other and talk at one another instead of listening to help, it’s wasted time and energy for all.

Marketing can’t throw projects over the fence and expect IT to figure it out, but IT can’t talk at and around marketing without giving guidelines to what it can and cannot do. Most times the clarity of desires and the willingness to listen is all that’s missing. These groups historically have been skeptical of one another, and that shows in how they relate. CMOs need to live in CIOs shoes, and vice versa, because change will occur from the top down.

Joanna Beerman
Joanna Beerman
4 years 2 months ago

Here’s what I find interesting: CMOs are interested in the tactic (working with IT to gain customer insights) and CIOs are interested in the larger objective (working with marketing to improve the customer experience).

Ed Rosenbaum

We are talking about a long time with two groups not accepting the role of the other in the corporate chain. I am not sure one understands the other when they are communicating for the common good.

Lee Kent
When I answered the survey question, I said that Marketing is more in touch with company objectives and here’s why. IT serves every aspect of retail. Problems and solutions are served up to IT and typically go through rigors to be approved. All have ROI, etc. included in the proposal. Teams are allocated from a pool. Get it? This is not to say that IT people do not know the functional areas that they serve. They do, however, they often do not get the opportunity to see beyond that. Marketing is just one of many using IT services and they are new to the group at that. That means getting the IT people who will be serving that functional area up to speed. That will happen, but it takes time and it will grow as the technology needs of marketing grow. Marketing must also understand that they too are only one piece of IT’s business. Just because they have ROI, so does every one else. So who should be deciding priorities? This to me is the real issue. I would suggest, if they are not doing it already, that company objectives should be integrated into the project approval process and… Read more »
Herb Sorensen
So 40+ years ago, in the context of a CIO/CMO contretemps in the company where I worked at the time, the CIO told the story about all the body parts arguing over who was in charge. The CMO was the eyes—seeing far, where the company was going; with other roles for other body parts throughout the company. The CIO told us he was the a-hole! Because if he didn’t allow, NOTHING moved. (You can fill in the blanks.) But the story is usefully illustrative even today, because INFORMATION MOVES THE WORLD. I have pointed out before the premier global players of major “societal” body parts: for example, Amazon, premier salesman; Walmart, premier logistician; Google, premier information – global CIO. Step back and notice that we are in the early phases of a global information WAR. In this case, Scott McNealy’s long ago observation, “You have no privacy, get over it!” is front and center in this battle. The whole NSA/IRS/CIA stir is really about the role of the global CIO. Of course Google is not alone in this: Facebook, Apple, all the telecoms, etc., etc. are in it too. I have no special insight at how all this will work… Read more »
Martin Mehalchin
There are many reasons for them to be on different pages, two of the big drivers in my mind are: Marketing struggles to define requirements: Marketers (and salespeople) are accustomed to being very dynamic in responding to customers and the market. The downside of this is that means what marketing wants is often a moving target. In my experience, marketing is one of the business functions that struggles the most to define clear requirements for IT and then stick to those requirements while IT does its work. IT organizations that have embraced agile development are best positioned to respond to this challenge. The technology that marketing wants tends to dis-intermediate IT: Many of the best technology solutions available for marketing automation and data visualization and analysis (to name just a couple of types) are built for ease of use by non-technical staff. Implementing these packages requires IT involvement, but once they are deployed, they require less IT involvement than typical software. Some CIOs and their staffs are threatened by this dynamic. While I know it’s self-serving, bridging the disconnect between marketing and IT is a core role for outside service providers (Why do you think Accenture conducted the study!?!). Translating… Read more »
Jerry Gelsomino

Both parties need to put the customer first with service, promotion, and products that are in demand, and stop being limited by petty arguments over idea ownership.

Shilpa Rao

The CIO is more focused on the how part and the CMO on the what part of the process. A CIO is more concerned with enabling how the content /experience is to be delivered while a CMO is concerned on what needs to be delivered which is enabled through customer insights. The CIO has pressures to reduce the cost of IT and bring efficiency, while the CMO is concerned with how to bring efficency in marketing efforts. Both their roles are crucial. The priorities of the organization need to be set by the CEO and KPIs to measure the same.


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