Collaborative Leadership: Create an Effective CIO and CMO Partnership

By: Becky Lawlor | - Leave a comment


According to Gartner, 2017 is the year CMOs will finally spend more on IT than CIOs. With marketers embracing data analytics, email automation and a host of other technologies to make their world hum, the shift in IT purse strings isn’t a huge surprise. However, the newfound buying power of CMOs doesn’t mean they can go it alone when it comes to technology purchases. Scoping, bidding and deploying new technology is a complicated process, and a collaborative leadership effort between CMOs and CIOs will serve the organization best.

Leaders in each of these roles should bring their strengths to the table. The marketer’s job has always been to know the customer and to deliver or exceed their expectations, while IT focuses on the back-end systems that allow marketers and others in the organization to access applications that allow them to do their work. But as the use of data analytics has escalated within marketing departments, these teams are requiring more technical IT know-how to develop new systems to collect, analyze and apply data-driven insights. Even as CMOs continue to fill their ranks with more data analysts to help with these efforts, IT (and CIOs specifically) can still play a critical role in helping marketing manage both the front and back end of technology purchases.

Collaborative Leadership Drives Success

Organizations where the CMO and the CIO are working in strategic alignment will have the best opportunity to maximize strengths and deliver the best experience to the customer. This includes working jointly to determine organizational goals and decide what technology purchases can help the business meet those goals.

Taking a collaborative leadership approach on the back end is also important. Consider the technology procurement process: In an example cited by McKinsey & Company, a lack of collaboration between the CMO and the CIO on a big-data plan resulted in vendor bids that were 400 percent over budget. Had the CIO’s expertise in the development of IT architectures and the execution of large programs been tapped for the procurement process, the scope of the project could have been better defined from the outset and over-budget bids avoided.

CMOs are equipped to determine where they want to go with their marketing efforts, but CIOs can contribute their deep understanding of the software purchasing process and back-end infrastructure requirements. CMOs are wise enough to tap that expertise.

Shift Mindsets for Better Results

Traditionally, the roles and responsibilities of the CMO and the CIO have been well-delineated and haven’t overlapped. However, as marketing shifts to relying heavily on technology to deliver the required business results and IT is under mounting pressure to take a more front-end, customer-centric approach to how they support the business, the lines between CIO and CMO responsibilities begin to blur.

CMOs and CIOs need to re-envision how they work together, focusing on outcomes and jointly developing strategies to achieve them rather than focusing on each department’s specific function. CIOs can learn from CMOs how to become more customer-centric and outcome-focused, while the CMO can learn more about Agile and DevOps tactics for technology procurement and deployment.

A collaborative leadership approach between CMOs and CIOs goes beyond creating a better working relationship. With the entire organization relying on data analytics to drive strategy and outcomes, CMOs and CIOs must work together to deliver valuable insights that will lead to positive outcomes to drive higher customer engagement and deliver on business goals.

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About The Author

Becky Lawlor

Freelance Writer

Becky Lawlor is a freelance technology writer. She develops and writes content on topics such as mobility, cloud services, unified communications, managed services and more.