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marketing

CIO vs. CMO

Peter Smith leads the Customer Engagement Practice at www.marketingdoctors.co.uk

Towards the end of 2012 Gartner well and truly dumped the fox in the hen house when it announced that within four years CMOs would be spending more on IT than CIOs.

Of course this led to howls of outrage from the IT industry, many of whose leading lights complained about the risks and potential loss of control facing large organisations, as the answer to just about any IT question becomes ‘There's an app for that."

CIOs are used to plans that evolve over a 6 - 18 month cycle, during which due diligence is performed, the proposed implementation is tested, checked and run in a safe development environment before being unleashed into the operation.

With on-line, SaaS solutions, some fear that they don't have that safety net, so given that their role is to be risk-averse, it's understandable if they pull back from rushing into what they see as uncharted water.

But roles and responsibilities are changing, marketing is just one of the many lines of business that is seeking to implement dedicated applications. The trend started about five years ago when companies started to devote significant portions of their marketing budgets to digital, which needs sophisticated apps.

This is a different approach for IT, which has traditionally focused on implementing enterprise-wide capital projects. Certainly marketers are perceived as having more of a ‘let's do it now' approach than CIOs, which can be supposed as leading to conflict.

Tink Taylor, MD at the dotDigital Group thinks a lot of the angst about CIO vs. CMO is unfounded. "We are one of a large number of mature and financially sound SaaS vendors providing Marketing Automation Management solutions. So far over 15 of us have become public companies bringing a high level of financial compliance and risk control, and recent acquisitions like Oracle's purchase of Eloqua for over $800m, show that this is becoming a very valuable sector.

"In our experience the IT department's role is evolving to a more consultative approach," he continues. "When you show them that you can test in a sandbox, prove the robustness of the solution, and above all meet their needs for security and data integrity, we find that the IT people are usually very supportive of their marketing colleagues' ambitions."

Victoria Berwick, former Marketing Director at Grant Thornton, also believes that if they want to enlist IT's help, marketers need to do a better sales job on the IT teams and help them to understand their objectives. "I have spent a lot of time in the past building ITs understanding of what marketing does (i.e. not just glossy brochures and a website!!) and have been amazed at how little knowledge there is of each others' universes. I have always found that deepening understanding has made for faster response and more support from IT."

So is the conflict more froth than substance? Well here's another dimension to the argument.

Just before Christmas I met my first CIO. Not, as you might expect, Chief Information Officer, but Chief Innovation Officer, and not in a leading edge digital agency, but a multi-national PLC.

When I asked for his views on the debate, he replied that he had no axe to grind either way. "My background's sales. After all, if you want to use technology to get closer to your customers, who's going to know more about how they think and what's most likely to work, than someone who's been dealing with them for years?"

What is it they say? Don't worry about those you know, your real threat is the total outsider.

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