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Why CMO-CIO Collaboration Is Key to Post-Pandemic Success


In the age of customer experience, marketing needs to have an effective working relationship with IT to drive innovation and deliver greater value. And there’s no doubt that the pandemic created far-reaching changes in the oft-discussed CIO-CMO relationship. However, a recent study indicates that there’s still a long way to go, as only 23% of companies have ‘very effective’ CMO-CIO working relationships,.

The new report published by Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council in collaboration with KPMG shows that marketing needs to have a very effective working relationship with IT that spans strategy, selection and management. In fact, much of a company’s future rests on revenue growth fueled by digital marketing and delivered by a technically savvy workforce.

The urgency to unearth actionable data insights and improve the customer experience through martech has never been greater, says the research. Martech is fundamental to meeting both CMO and CIO objectives.

The report found that ‘very effective’ CMO-CIO relationships produce a comprehensive and highly effective MarTech capability and includes, strategic planning, integrating strategic considerations into tactical decision-making, solidifying strategic considerations through holistic participation in selection and management stages, and measuring performance broadly and regularly.

“CMOs in very effective relationships with IT, who get the most out of MarTech, also have the largest MarTech stacks and spend the highest percentage of their marketing budget on MarTech,” says Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council.

“These CMOs are more likely to be responsible for digital transformation, customer experience and revenue generation — the ‘big three’ — and play a larger role in the future of the company,” adds Neale-May.

The best CMO-CIO relationships lead the charge in innovation, data-driven metrics, governance, and alignment and integration. However, Jason Galloway, marketing consulting practice lead at KPMG LLP, notes that the majority of companies polled do not currently have an effective marketing and IT working relationship.”

According to Galloway, “Presently, there is an urgent need for CMOs and CIOs to closely work together to maximize the return from MarTech, leading to necessary changes in innovation, data-driven metrics, governance and alignment and integration.”

“When CMO and CIO collectively ensure the success of these tools, companies can yield greater returns on investment and provide a more satisfactory experience for employees and customers,” he says.

Similar views were echoed in another recent study by Indian IT major Infosys that sheds light on how the pandemic has influenced CMO and CIO roles to converge and digitally transform multiple dimensions within an enterprise.

The survey reveals that a CMO’s people-centered skill set and CIO’s insights into enterprise IT systems are vital to the success of this new collaborative ecosystem.

The study shows, almost half of top-tier companies believe a strong CMO-CIO collaboration can play a pivotal role in mapping and aligning business needs with stakeholder demand and could boost profitability by at least 5-7%. It helps companies deliver on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. In other words, the role would evolve beyond customer experience, to delivering ‘human experience’ goals.

In an article published on Harvard Business Review, author Kimberly A Whitler, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, says “When CMOs and CIOs collaborate, the relationship puts the business at a competitive advantage.”

“Technology provides the muscle to make sense of the explosion of data now at our fingertips, as well as the tools that can interpret those results to better discover what customers want. When the CMO and CIO share a focus on the customer, the power to drive business growth is potent,” said Whitler.

While historically, the CIO and CMO rarely interacted, that was already changing in the pre-pandemic world as a 2019 study by Adobe suggests that acquiring and interpreting customer data inherently must involve both the marketing and IT departments. However, marketing and IT teams are largely involved in their own department’s performance, which affects innovation and also curbs better customer experiences. Hence despite various automation tools available in the market CMOs are struggling to convert data into consumer insight. However, given that CMO is often the main connection between the consumer and the company, a strong relationship with the CIO will allow CMO to leverage technology to better understand those customers.

The current situation is in fact even more critical. As Sumit Virmani, CMO at Infosys, noted the importance of the Covid-19 pandemic in accelerating digital transformation and further requiring this trend to develop. “Now is the time, more than ever, for CMOs and CIOs to collaborate to deliver tangible business outcomes,” he said. “When the dust settles, companies that will emerge stronger will be the ones where the marketing and technology functions took joint ownership to drive digital transformation and engage customers in a meaningful way,” added Virmani.

These studies prove that the Covid-19 pandemic was a wake-up call, and accelerated the need for marketing and IT teams to interconnect and radically transform the business. The trend is here to stay. Hence, a stronger CMO-CIO bonding will serve as a force multiplier to drive revenue and digital maturity in this digital age.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at [email protected]