Ideas and insights to take your marketing to the highest level

July 22, 2015
Andrea Fishman

Can the CIO-CMO Marriage Be Saved?

Everyone loves to talk about CIO/CMO alignment, about how these two executives are joined at the hip and working closely to create a digital strategy that delivers great customer experiences. But the reality is that this alignment is still very much a work in progress.

Only about half of business leaders who responded to PwC’s annual Digital IQ Survey rated the CIO/CMO relationship as “strong”—a troubling finding, considering that the CIO’s relationship with the CMO was rated among the lowest in the entire C-suite.

The challenge goes deep into the foundational elements of marketing and IT. Misalignment, and conflict, can occur in four key areas:

1. Technology: IT wants to standardize and often sees benefits in adding or extending marketing functionality onto existing enterprise software, which reduces both cost and complexity. Marketing often wants best-of-breed software—whatever tools best serve their needs—even if it means introducing new vendors.

2. Skills: IT leaders have been driving standardization around a core set of skills—Java, .Net, etc.—and introducing new skills can become expensive to train and maintain. Marketers, again, want best-in-class developers to support whatever tools they’re using or provisioning on their own through the cloud.

3. Metrics: Perhaps the biggest disconnect comes from performance metrics. Marketers might want customers who call the contact center to stay on the phone longer, so reps can up-sell or cross-sell. IT, on the other hand, is routinely measured on metrics that may be in contrast, such as reducing call center times or moving more customers to online chat. More misalignment.

4. Governance: Who gets the final say in marketing technology decisions? When decision-making is shared, how do you prioritize? If there are two champions, you may diminish the level of quality because you end up at the lowest common denominator of what’s acceptable to everyone, or you may extend decision-making because you have to check off twice as many boxes. Does anyone really win in that situation?

Can the CIO/CMO marriage be saved? Yes, if both sides are willing to make a few fundamental changes. First, both parties must become customer-first, and align goals, budgets and metrics around the customer. A common (neutral) focus will force each side to define success around shared outcomes.

Second, your organization should embed marketing staff in IT and IT staff in marketing. If you’re not ready to take that step, at least do some cross-training to develop a mutual understanding of how each side operates. Shared resources create empathy and accountability.

Third, tag-team on one aspect of your organization’s digital strategy that needs fixing or a fresh start, such as mobile optimization. Explicitly define who owns each part of the project, the role that each function will take on, and how mutual success will be measured. A few smaller pilot projects can demonstrate shared success and provide a road map for deeper collaboration.

The CIO and CMO need a shared mission to succeed, and they need shared budgets and metrics to deliver on that mission. It’s time to stop paying lip service to CIO/CMO alignment and to start making the fundamental changes that drive real collaboration.


Andrea Fishman is a principal in the Chicago office of New York-based professional services consultancy PwC. A nationally recognized expert on interactive marketing, Fishman won the 2012 Stevie Award Winner for Best Executive in Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations. Find her on Twitter at @andreafishman.

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