How the Digitization of Everything is forcing CMOs and CIOs to evolve

We’ve talked in the first two posts about how the digitization of everything is disrupting marketing and changing the face of commerce. Organizations are having to change the way they operate, and that’s causing roles in the C-suite to evolve.  

The digitization of everything is doing three primary things:

  • Increasing the speed and access for everyone to find and interact with relevant people, information, and products/services.
  • Creating a fast-paced, never-ending game of “survival of the fittest” among corporations.
  • Moving more of the customer journey into digital channels.

touch screen ,touch- tablet in hands

These three factors are forcing organizations to focus on being found among an ever growing sea of competitors – and also on responding in context to their audience with something that resonates.

This requires an increasing depth of customer understanding. Companies need to understand what customers want to accomplish, the motivations behind their actions – and be able to provide meaningful responses, at scale, across a growing spectrum of channels.

Each time a vendor does this well, it raises the collective bar of customer expectations, until someone does it better. This constantly repeating, ever shortening cycle puts an enormous amount of pressure on every company to relentlessly innovate. Those that don’t, struggle or die.

The increasing reliance of the CMO on technology to help them know and respond to customer needs, coupled with the availability of cloud infrastructure and applications, is forcing both the CMO and CIO to re-evaluate their roles.

The power shift

Marketers used to present the CIO with budget requests full of vague system requirements that were often relegated to the bottom of the priority list. Now, CMOs are both required and empowered to drive innovation to reach and convert more customers. They need technology to perform their job –and much of it is accessible without the blessing of the CIO. This power shift is just part of the evolving CMO and CIO roles.

The requirements for CMOs have been shifting from “chief creative megaphone holder” to customer experience champion, building meaningful engagement, and driving increased loyalty and advocacy. These new priorities require intimate understanding of the customer, and the operational excellence to respond with relevant communications, content, and co-created products and services. To do this at scale requires information technology infrastructures that can capture and align traditional structured data with exponentially increasing sets of unstructured data. Extracting insights from the data sets and converting them into operational strategies and execution plans still need to be done.

Several recent surveys have placed concern over disruptive technology at the top of the list for CEOs. The CIOs are best positioned to understand the technology, but, more importantly, their organizations need them to be able to articulate how these new technologies can impact their marketplace. While CIOs of yesteryear often concerned themselves with knowing all the details of the underlying infrastructure that nobody in the business really cared about, they often now need to be “business first” so that they can truly partner with the rest of the C-suite to meet constantly evolving customer demands.

Recent research from Accenture highlights that the gap between CMO and CIO is still significant, but both sides acknowledge the need to work more closely together.

From the report:

“On the surface, CMOs and CIOs seem to agree (on the need to collaborate). Dig deeper, though, and CIOs feel a greater need for alignment. Nearly eight out of 10 agree that alignment is needed, compared to just over half of CMOs. Worse, only one in 10 marketing and IT executives say collaboration is at the right level. Despite their growing understanding that they must be more closely aligned, CMOs and CIOs have a trust issue”

The trust issue stems largely from the fact that they have misaligned priorities, different C-Suite relational priorities, and the legacy of bad experiences in the past. Some of the misalignment is highlighted below.

“Marketing strategy is increasingly focused on how to leverage Big Data. Turning this data into relevant customer experiences at scale is a far cry from past capabilities focused on creative and brand strategies. These new services require a new kind of rigor and a deep technology backbone to enable them.”

Not surprisingly, then, marketing’s #1 driver (out of 15) for aligning and interacting with IT is access to customer insight and intelligence, but that driver ranks #10 for CIOs. A typical IT concern—for privacy and security around customer data and brand protection—ranks #4 for CIOs but #11 for CMOs.

Essentially, CMOs view the CIO organization as an execution and delivery arm, not as a driver of marketing strategy and excellence, and a partner to be considered on equal footing. CMOs expect much quicker turnaround and higher quality from IT, with a greater degree of flexibility in responding to market requirements.

Nearly five in 10 CIOs say that marketing makes promises without agreement from IT, while only four in 10 marketers agree with that assertion. Some 36% of CMOs say that IT deliverables fall short of their expectations, while 46% of CIOs respond that marketing does not provide an adequate level of business requirements.

Increased customer demands and the digitization of everything is forcing CMOs to be more quantitative, accountable, and tech savvy, while CIOs are being forced to really understand business and market drivers — and the impact that data and technology can have in enabling marketers to perform better.

Mandates for increased collaboration and shared accountability and incentives from the office of the CEO can help with this necessary transition.

Editor’s Note: Brian’s post was sponsored by SAS Institute, Inc and originally posted on the SAS Knowledge Exchange. The opinions expressed in this post are entirely his own and don’t necessarily represent, nor have they been influenced by SAS’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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