Not so very long ago, marketing saw information technology as a back office operation inhabited by geeky types who would never be able to understand the mind of the marketer, while IT regarded marketing as obsessed with creativity but cavalier about budgets. Each thought of the other as clever, committed and necessary but otherwise somewhat unfathomable.
That all started to change when the advent of big data and social media gave customers the ability to be digitally engaged and decide how they would buy, rather than wait to be sold to. And with technology increasingly useful and available, today’s customers are empowered as never before.
This emphasises the need for the CMO and CIO (Chief Information Officer) to work closely together and recognise the imperative of jointly developing business strategies that are much more business-centric.
This is going to be a big cultural step for many organisations. A study by the CMO Council and SAS found that fewer than 20% of the CIOs and CMOs surveyed said they had total partnership with the other officer.
Without the ability to manage, understand and gain insights from the masses of customer, market, competitive and other valuable information now available to them – the big data – CMOs will be left floundering. With CIOs providing that ability, however, their marketing campaigns will be much more targeted, consumer friendly and cost effective – and very importantly, more timely and faster to launch.
Big data isn’t a scale thing – big data is ubiquitous and relative for every organisation, big or small. Big data adds a whole new complexity to the science of marketing and this is why it is so important for the CMO and CIO to work closely together now. And they must do so early in the planning process to give the CIO time to consider what IT infrastructure will be necessary to support customer engagement strategies. Technology support must be thought about at the outset and formulation of the marketing strategy, not right before implementation.
Big data is a great asset for marketers but that’s only true when CIOs address it for them with the power of big analytics. The CMO’s masses of data represent a goldmine of opportunity and the CIO knows how to explore it for insights. The two must understand each other‘s objectives and limitations and work closely together to realise a common goal.
While the CMO is charged with understanding the organisation’s customers and connecting with them to ensure enduring valuable relationships – and while the CIO can contribute enormously to those objectives with the power of technology – let’s not forget to involve the CEO.
The CMO Council / SAS study found that the most effective CMO–CIO partnerships are those in which the CEO is perceived as being most responsible for the customer. Having the CEO involved in discussion around big data helps CMOs and CIOs realise that their primary responsibility is to drive the customer experience, not advance their own agendas.
CMOs need to take a more analytical approach to marketing in order to maximise customer value and gain best return from their investments in marketing programs, while CIOs need to adopt front office thinking and deliver value – to demonstrate real bottom line contribution and no longer be seen as just a business cost. By collaborating on building a common platform on which business decisions are centered around the customer across the marketing and IT functions – the CMO and CIO can work together to build a data-driven competitive edge.
David Bowie is CEO of SAS Australia and New Zealand.