CMOs and CIOs: Working Together To Create a Thriving Company

Matt Voda - OptiMineIt’s no surprise that as the marketing technology industry matures, the roles and responsibilities of marketing and IT executives begin to blur.

As marketing executives, we know that our roles are constantly changing. As the job descriptions evolve, we find ourselves with more in common with CIOs than ever before. CMOs and CIOs are both interested in customer data and both positions require determining how to best use data to benefit the business, whether it’s for targeted marketing or securing customer financial information. What they don’t always agree on are timelines for investments, which technologies to invest in, what data to collect, and how to interpret and act on the data once it’s collected.

This can create confusion and misunderstandings. For example, in many cases it’s not clear whose job it is to research, evaluate and purchase a CRM solution. Who is responsible when a marketing technology leaks sensitive customer data? What department is tasked with making sure the company stays on the cutting edge of marketing technology developments?

CMOs historically speak of customer engagement while CIOs speak of technology, yet these two departments need to collaborate more closely than ever before. It’s an aspect of modern business that no company can afford to ignore.

That’s why, according to Gartner, the collaboration of CMOs and CIOs is critical to the success of an organization’s digital business initiatives.

How To Get Started

Though the relationship between a CMO and CIO, like any relationship, can take time to develop, here are a few things that can get the process started and keep it running smoothly:

  • Be Clear on Budget – Establish a clear policy on what is covered by the marketing budget and what falls under IT. As leaders, both CMOs and CIOs have big jobs to do; neither of us wants to waste time debating who has to pay for the new ad measurement platform. Some companies may even consider a separate marketing technology budget to avoid this conflict.
  • Establish Clarity on Blurred Time Horizons – In many cases, the CMO and CIO may be evaluating a technology decision using different time horizons. The CMO may be driving innovation “around the edges,” moving quickly due to competitive pressures while the CIO is thinking longer-term to drive reliability, quality and scale. The two horizons are NOT mutually incompatible, as long as it is clear between the CMO and the CIO what horizons they are working towards. The best case here is that the CMO is driving rapid, agile tests and pilots, while the CIO is partnering to scale the winning approaches for lasting, long-term success. In the worst cases, the CMO sees the CIO as a road block and the CIO sees the CMO as a destabilizing force. In these cases, the CMO and CIO need to align on the timing and scope of their respective charters.
  • Understand Motivations and Priorities – Most people are rational. Really. And many times, when the CMO and CIO are not aligned, it is due to conflicting MBOs. When this happens, it is critical to understand these misalignments and then work with the CEO to adjust, re-align and restructure, or work together to map areas within these misaligned objectives where productive collaboration can help each other attain the other’s goals.
  • Build Trust – Trust in any relationship fosters success, and this relationship is no different. Start with small steps – e.g., set up monthly meetings and stick to them. Find smaller projects where the two teams have collaborated with successful outcomes and celebrate them together in public ways. Build interest and empathy for your peer by attending courses in IT management and getting to know their language. This build of trust provides a well, or reserve, that is invaluable when the times inevitably get more difficult.

When CMOs and CIOs work together, companies thrive. The forming of a symbiotic relationship leads to more efficient and effective decision-making, less time wasted on conflict management and a smarter marketing technology program for the company. All of the above lead to better results and a stronger bottom line.

Matt Voda is the Chief Marketing Officer at OptiMine Software, Inc., where he is responsible for marketing, product management, and inside sales initiatives. He has more than 20 years experience that spans both Fortune® 100 companies, such as UnitedHealth Group and Digital River, as well as successful emerging enterprises. He is an expert in ROI measurement, direct and database marketing, consumer engagement strategies, SaaS, and product management. Voda graduated from University of Minnesota with a BS in Business and Marketing. 

  • david gandrud

    Matt – Great article. I can attest to the importance of CIO/Marketing relationship when investing in enterprise technology. It is critical for the CIO & Marketing to approach the business under a unified voice (from the beginning) especially when there are other stakeholders (purchasing, suppliers, finance, operations, etc….) involved in the outcome. Get the MBO’s addressed early on and everything else will fall into place.