Once upon a time, when the internet was in its corporate infancy, a set of decisions were made that have affected the development of online retail ever since.

Here, I explain those decisions, and the rise of the tech-savvy CMO.

The IT landgrab

This new interweb medium, it was decided, was clearly something to do with computers and therefore its ownership must lie with IT.

The IT department, attracted by the technical challenges and ballooning departmental budget, were only too happy to oblige and quickly made a land grab for the business’ online activities.

The effects of this decision are still being felt. CTOs, by their nature and by their training, focus on the areas which a technologist should. They are concerned about security, stability and process and these concerns don’t always chime with the needs of a business in its online presence.

CTOs wanted stable, monolithic systems underpinning their sites, but marketers want nimbleness and the ability to make changes in response to consumer demand – often contradictory requirements.

Moreover, as websites become an ever-more important profit centre for businesses, marketing and commercial departments have had to get more involved in the management of them, creating additional complexities as cross-departmental collaboration slowed decision making and stifled creativity.  

The impact of all of this has been a level of conflict between IT and marketing, with 32% of marketing execs claiming that the IT department hinders business success, according to Forrester research.  

The marketer fights back

This situation is now changing. A series of developments in marketing technology have meant that CMOs have had to become more tech savvy in their approach.  This in turn has meant that they are now taking ever more control of core website processes. 

The first step came in the early 2000s, when meaningful web analytics came on the scene. Prior to this, analytics consisted of traffic measurement to help manage site stability and capacity, but marketing analytics suddenly gave marketers a tool and a new skill set that drew them closer to the website.  

This was followed shortly after by the rise of testing packages. These helped marketers to act upon the trends they saw in their analytics and gave them a real channel to help influence what was happening on the site.

More recently, tag management has started to put real power into the hands of marketers. By removing the need for advanced technical skills in order to implement new marketing technologies, tag management directly puts core IT capabilities in the hands of the marketing department. 

The 21st century marketer

These developments might each on their own seem minor, but taken as a whole they represent the beginning of a real power shift within businesses.  

The rise of new marketing technologies have given the CMO not only the skills that help them understand and manage the website, they have also given them the capability to do so without recourse to the IT department.  

This shift is played out in the numbers, with management consultancy McKinsey claiming that CMOs will be spending more on IT by 2017 than CIOs and CTOs.

The new techy CMO, or CMIO as we might call them, combines the creativity and customer focus of his predecessor, but combined with the technical understanding and capabilities of the CTO.  

Now, rather than developing a strategy and handing it over to IT to implement, the CMIO (Chief Marketing Information Officer) can see a project through from end-to-end, ensuring that nothing gets lost in translation and that projects reach the market far quicker than was ever previously possible.

New tools are in fact taking this even further.  A new set of technologies known as Customer Experience Management (CXM) essentially give marketers control of the display layer on the website, letting them access the insight and understanding gained from analytics and testing and then roll out content and campaigns entirely independently of the IT department.

The new CTO

Of course, the IT department isn’t redundant. CMIOs might be tech-savvy, but they probably don’t want to get involved in security, servers or payment processing systems.  

The CTO has a vital role in overseeing and optimising the core processes that underpin a business’ web presence and that’s as it should be. The only change is that they must now share ownership of the web with a new type of techy marketer.