Chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) traditionally work in silos, but digital disruption is giving rise to an increased need for alignment and collaboration to gain a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace.

This C-suite relationship is improving to meet the needs of today’s digital consumer, but there are still many obstacles yet to overcome to create an effective team that will drive value for the consumer and new revenue for the business.  

The current state of the CMO-CIO Relationship

Recent research on CMO-CIO alignment reveals that CMOs and CIOs appear to agree on a common digital agenda and are working more collaboratively than in the past to take advantage of digital opportunities. 

In fact, 43% of marketers and 50% of IT leaders believe their relationship with the other has improved over the past twelve months.

Yet, despite this increased level of collaboration, many marketing and IT executives feel more can be done to improve the relationship with each other.

Only 23% of CMOs think collaboration between the two teams is at or approaching the ‘right level’ now, and around 45% feel more collaboration is needed with the CIO.

Both parties also still remain at odds on a number of issues involving how to drive integrated digital marketing solutions for their customers. For instance, CMOs think the technology development process is too slow for the speed required for digital marketing and CIOs are increasingly frustrated by shifting goals from their marketing counterparts.

The digital vision (or lack thereof)

While both IT and Marketing functions report that they are more prepared this year to pursue digital marketing opportunities (54% of CMOs and 64% of CIOs), one in four CIOs stated “CMOs lack the vision to anticipate new digital channels.”

What can be done to address this?

To steer through the complex and rapidly evolving digital environment, it is imperative for CMOs to not only have a digital vision, but to also share it with IT in order to achieve an effective partnership. 

If the Marketing team does not put in the time and investment to make its vision known, the relationship with IT will remain transactional as CIOs will be unable to understand the strategies that marketers are looking to implement.

If both teams are aligned strategically, however, digital transformation can become a reality -- which can lead to improved marketing effectiveness, customer experiences and ultimately customer loyalty.

Improving CMO-CIO alignment in four steps

To take advantage of digital opportunities and drive loyalty among consumers, CMOs and CIOs should improve their alignment by following four steps.

Step one: Invest time in establishing a digital vision and collaborate with each other to bring the vision to life

Many CMOs continue to think in the traditional marketing mind set, placing a focus on advertising and creative, and regarding digital as a channel not as an enabler of business transformation.

As digital disruption is turning business models on their heads, CMOs should look to become digital disrupters for their companies, and then by extension, their industries.

This can be accomplished when marketing collaborates with IT to establish a digital vision and business model – then together they can team to manage new demands from customers and launch new products, services and processes that result from their efforts.

Step two: Unify around the customer experience to create a truly digital business

As companies become more customer-centric and make decisions based on the customers’ wants and needs, and context surrounding their wants and needs, consistent and relevant multichannel experiences can be achieved.

Having a shared marketing IT vision will also help businesses to focus on offering a seamless customer experience. Per recent research, CMOs and CIOs are on the right path as both believe the top five marketing IT priorities are customer experience, customer analytics, social media, corporate website and other web development.

However, to be fully customer centric the enterprise needs to go beyond executing multichannel marketing and IT strategies and focus on omni-experience.

Omni-experience can only be achieved when marketing and IT remove the silos and work together as it requires all functions to focus on the customer first and eliminating silos in the process. 

Step three: Rethink the operating model to integrate customer-focused skills throughout the organization

Any employee in any function – marketing, IT, finance, anywhere -- can help its business become a digital business to improve customer experience.

Regardless of business function, one skill people in organizations need to know is how to analyze data and gather insights to help the business make data-driven decisions that will meet the consumer’s needs.

A company can increase their data skills by changing the operating model to include interdisciplinary teams from Marketing, Sales, Customer Service and IT – the team would collaborate together on projects and be evaluated together on the whole customer experience. Increased alignment across teams can also be found by sharing new customer acquisition incentives and KPIs across traditional departmental boundaries.

Step four: Orient the marketing model and budget to align with a new ecosystem of marketing services

Traditional IT- and channel- orientated approaches to digital marketing only serve to reinforce silos between departments. Digital should be an end-to-end journey and to create this journey, businesses should integrate technology, data and marketing services.

The resulting CMO and CIO collaborative effort will enable businesses to respond swiftly to new customer requirements and implement new services as required. With this, CMOs will want to collaborate with IT and direct budgetary funds to take advantage of the evolving digital ecosystem, engaging customers whenever, wherever, and however it best serves them.

In the digital world, functional silos no longer work and CMOs and CIOs are seeing the potential of collaboration. 

The leaders who share techniques and strategies, adapt tools and refine skills to provide relevant, useful and compelling experiences for the customer will shape the digital business of the future and help drive the organization to success.

Glen Hartman

Published 17 September, 2014 by Glen Hartman

Glen Hartman serves as Senior Managing Director for Digital Transformation at Accenture Interactive and is a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him at @hartmanglen or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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