Business Management

Peter Smith (Global) - CIO vs. CMO

In a new series of articles on the changing role of the CIO, IDG Connect offers expert insight into how the development of new technology is affecting IT departments.

Last week I met my first CIO. Not, as you might expect, Chief Information Officer, but Chief Innovation Officer.

It's the kind of title you expect to find in a new age ‘digital specialist', otherwise known as an advertising agency that has seen the writing on Facebook's wall, but not in a mainstream brand. So I was interested to know more about this person's role.

"It's quite easy to understand," he points out. "In the last few years companies have had to change their view of the IT function. Ten years ago IT was all about improving efficiency to increase profits. Today it's all about finding ways to use technology to improve competitive advantage.

"If you want a seat on the board you can't just focus on tech specs, and debating whether or not to use cloud," he continues, "You have to be integrating apps and departmental needs to unite and drive the business forward."

When speaking ‘off-the record' it's easy to find CIOs who still view the arrival of department-led IT initiatives as a threat to their ability to control the IT environment. Others have realised that operations managers in different departments often know more about how new technologies can help deliver competitive advantage.

One of the biggest drivers changing business today is big data. Much of this is driven by line-of-business systems that permeate every aspect of an organisation from just-in-time logistics, through manufacturing processes, to managing customer feedback.

As people have become much more used to the idea of ‘there's an app for that' there is a widespread misunderstanding of the fact that corporate IT systems don't get re-engineered overnight, and CIOs still have to evaluate the impact of any changes on the business as a whole before implementing new technologies.

Adrian O'Gara, European Marketing Director of Bazaarvoice, believes that this presents marketers and technologists with the opportunity to create a more collegiate model. "Outsourcing dedicated business functions to SaaS vendors is a very attractive option - it gives the marketers the agility and information they need very rapidly and avoids adding an overhead to the IT estate.

"But it's critical that CIOs and CMOs work together to ensure that whatever data comes into the organisation can be used right across it." He continues. "Both roles are pivotal to driving businesses forward and it makes sense for them to work together to seek out and implement innovative solutions."

Simon Yates, vice-president in the CIO Group at Forrester Research, also believes that mutual understanding is a better base for sustainable innovation. "(CMOs') easy access to technologies that don't require IT support perpetuates poor communication and the stereotype of the dysfunctional IT/marketing relationship," he says.

He also believes that CIOs need to recognise that while they may have been brought up thinking in terms of their ‘customers' as internal employees, in reality they have to widen their focus to the whole community with which their company does business.

So what's the solution? Interestingly, when I asked my new CIO friend how he had got into the role and whether his background was mainframe or distributed, he looked at me quizzically. "Oh I'm not a geek," he explained, "or a marketer."

"No," he continued, "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 the people who've 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.

Peter Smith leads the Customer Engagement Practice at



« Sean Farrington (Europe) - CIOs Have to Say Yes to CEOs


Antonio Piraino (Global) - The Developing Role of the CIO, and Why It's Changing the Way We Do Business »


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