Business Management

IT Invisibles: Will quiet IT miss out to noisy marketing?

You only have to nip onto LinkedIn, pop “CMO” then “CIO” into the search bar and take look at the snaps to see that these roles tend to attract different types of personality. It is a gross generalisation, of course, but marketers tend to be louder and more outgoing than people in IT functions. After all, their job is messaging and promotion, not taking care of technical details behind the scenes.

So, what does this mean in an age where the role of CMO and CIO are apparently meant to be colliding? We’re two years’ away from Gartner’s much quoted prediction that the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. And when we ran a piece on the rise of the ‘technical CMO’ on this site, within minutes of publication, a CTO had commented: “A technical CMO? Over my dead body!”

More pertinent still, if these two functions are pitted against each other, can it ever be a fair fight? After all, the CIOs might have the technical know-how but the CMOs have the ability to explain in simple English and self-promote their function to the hills… a skill which seems critically important these days.

As Digital Anthropologist, Nik Pollinger, puts it, we live in an age where the “imperative to self-promote seems like the most natural thing in the world” and that “a disinclination to do so might therefore be [seen as] a sign of deviancy”.

Could this impact the CIO function? David Zweig author of Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion does not believe self-promotion is as important as people think it is.

“When I lecture at conferences and corporations,” he explained on Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution website recently, “I ask my audiences to imagine a business whose marketing department receives the lion’s share of the company’s budget while R&D is drastically understaffed and underfunded. Perhaps some businesses would survive under this model, but if they did, it would likely be only for a brief time.”

Zweig goes on to highlight studies which show that people who are motivated by the work tend to outperform people motivated by external factors. And research which shows that people who behave altruistically in the workplace tend to achieve success.

John B. Perry a Supervisor, Senior Server Engineer and IT Architect at City of Mesa, in Arizona, agrees. “Not only is self-promotion not important for success,” he says “it is counter-productive. Success is based on what is important to you and not on what you can gain.”

Paul Aydelott of the Industrial Development Board, Hickman County, Tennessee is less sure this is the case. “Personally, I was always turned off by serial, self-promotors; but somehow they always seemed to get ahead. I think it boiled down to their supervisors seeking out those who they like more than those who can be truly accountable for their work,” he suggests.

So how is this likely to impact the future of tomorrow’s CMOs and CIOs? “IT and marketing departments play different roles but they shouldn't be autonomous,” says Perry. “IT departments are quietly promoting themselves without self-promotion by providing valuable solutions using technology. Marketing departments are relying on IT more than ever.”

Aydelott takes the opposing view, however, based on his previous experience. “What I saw in failed IT leadership was the lack of connection to core organisational values; the CMO will always win over the CIO in such circumstances. I also experienced CIOs with a lack of technical skills who were vulnerable to self-promoting technocrats.”

What do you think? Is self-promotion based on “deception” and an “alarm clock set to go off” as Perry believes? Or will those braggers and brandishers win out every single time? And if they do, what will it mean for an IT department that tends to be quieter, more introverted and less prone to self-promotion than its counterparts in marketing?


Related reading:

Introverts vs. Extroverts: Is There an IT Personality?


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