Marketing, Technology and Big Data: Bridging the Gap Between the CMO and the CIO

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January 29, 2014 by Updated May 9th, 2024


The rise of Big Data and digital marketing is dramatically changing the roles, responsibilities, and relationships of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs). In fact, marketing and technology are now so inextricably linked that Gartner predicts that by 2017, CMOs will actually outspend CIOs on technology purchases. As CMOs strive to meet consumer expectations for relevant experiences and CIOs use analytics and other tools to deliver relevance at scale and provide individualized experiences to consumers, the need for CMOs and CIOs to more closely collaborate is essential for business success in a Big Data environment.

A recent whitepaper entitled Big Data’s Biggest Role, Aligning the CIO and CMO, published by SAS in conjunction with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, addresses how Big Data is helping to bridge the gap between these two important C-level executives. In the paper, based on a survey of 237 marketing execs and 210 IT execs from major corporations, 85 percent of CIOs and 85 percent of CMOs who participated in the study agreed that closer working relationships are “critical to the execution of customer-centric programs”, which is what successful digital marketing is all about.

Both groups of C-level execs were also found to be fundamentally in agreement about “key direction, strategy and even roles in the advancement of technology and the criticality of data across the organization.” That being said, each group expressed “the mandate that customer centricity is the core value, goal, and direction of the organization—eliminating any of the barriers to partnership and aligning both CMO and CIO around the data that powers the customer-centric enterprise” is what has been lacking at the corporate level. In other words, when top-down leadership and corporate culture make implementing customer-centric business strategies a top priority, the joint goals and shared initiatives of IT and marketing to deliver a customer-centric experience will unite CIOs and CMOs like never before.

According to the survey, the strongest tie that can bind the roles of CMO and CIO together is Big Data. For nearly 60 percent of respondents in both groups, Big Data represents “equal parts opportunity and obstacle.”

How then can CMOs and CIOs more effectively unite? The summary of the paper addresses the following key attributes that both C-level execs felt were imperative for a company to have in order to fully realize a “total partnership” between IT and Marketing:

Fostering a Culture of Data-driven Decision Making

  • The company must be able—in the eyes of IT and Marketing—to effectively engage its customers through critical customer-centric touch points.
  • The core attributes that define customer centricity must start at the top and be fully deployed across the organization.
  • Companies must address the real barriers to customer centricity, which IT and marketers feel is insufficient training and place less emphasis on perceived barriers, such as functional silos.
  • Companies must have CMOs and CIOs who feel supported and prepared to address and fully exploit the ample opportunities that customer-centric programs produce.
  • Companies must cultivate an atmosphere wherein each group—marketing and IT—recognizes working with the other group as an important priority.
  • IT and marketing must trust that the top priority for each is customer-centricity. In turn, marketers must feel that they have all the data they need to form a complete picture of the customer.

One of the main conclusions drawn from the study with respect to the roles of CIOs and CMOs in a big data environment is that “as the complexity that Big Data brings continues to proliferate, the strong voice of the customer that is collected by IT and interpreted and translated by marketing must be heard across the organization.” Big Data and all the insights it can bring must be shared by CIOs and CMOs in a partnership that makes data sharable and actionable across the enterprise. And that partnership can only happen with full support from CEOs and other C-level executives. 

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