Can CEO’s manage the changing relationships between CIO’s and CMO’s?

Can CEO’s manage the changing relationships between CIO’s and CMO’s?

The commercial environment is changing rapidly, driven in large by ever more customer digital activity. Consumers expectations of ‘response, engagement and service are ever rising- again driven by what could become a circular argument- digital technologies and access points. Failure to address these changes, at best means a loss of business, at worse, a poor review or negative social media comment.

Who owns this ‘change, experience and engagement?’  The CEO and the board in general all have responsibility from a strategic perspective – But in my experience over the last couple of years a quiet turf war has been going on between the CIO and the CMO, which has led to disconnects in the strategic implementation of digital activities.

Both areas have had to address skills gaps and have rapidly hired in talent to cover; Coding, new technology infrastructure, IT/Tech support, business analysis/processes, and of course, Social media, SEO/PPC, Mobile and Web pages, Response model, funnel and nurturing of leads/sales enquiries, Metrics/Analytics, Omni channel activity and the customer journey, their experiences and the ultimate – revenue/service outputs.  The elements involved here has seen a rapid blurring of the boundaries of who owns what and when. But these resources and new skills need to be managed effectively and collectively to ensure a successful competitive digital offering and ROI. A reliance upon new skills/resources alone will not drive the required success.

The CEO must address this and undertake the challenge to managing and defining responsibilities between the CIO and the CMO in order to execute the digital strategy and meet the consumer need, expectation and positive experience many have come to expect. The CIO and CMO need to manage their new skills/resources and investments collectively and in a coordinated manner to ensure the successful execution of the digital strategy.  The CEO should expect to see combined reporting from the CIO and the CMO on specific digital change activities and ROI measures.

The CIO  has over the last 3-5 years undertaken a more ‘business services’ role – therefore looking to deliver real value from the activities to the business and stakeholders. The activities of consumers clearly utilise the infrastructure of a business, managed and implemented by the IT function. Ultimately, the effectiveness of these services determine revenue and service deliverables. You can easily see the rationale and increasing reliance upon IT for businesses to function.

However, the CMO similarly over the last few years has seen an increasing and more complexity in the responsibilities of their role. The simplicity of managing Brand, positioning, Communications, visual identity and customer engagement (Leads/sales/repeat business) has morphed into a much more complex set of marketing/brand/reputational responsibilities. A CMO has to consider the total customer experience – the multiple touch points, the omni channel activities of consumers and the engagement via social media as well as traditional channels, including service/response to enquiries. All of this has to be measured and analysed, processes consistently delivered. The explosion in data, takes the segmentation to a new level and increasingly new marketing analytical skills, including insight (the ‘so what’ outputs) is required to manage the increasingly complex relationships consumers have with businesses.

It is easy to see where ‘blurring occurs’ here and it is this blurring that CEO’s need to understand and manage effectively. It is not simply a matter of hiring the smart resources in both camps – undoubtedly these are requirements, but it is the managing of a blurred responsibility and relationship that span the two functional areas that is the new ground that will determine the success or failure of digital change/transformation and commercial success.

Some areas remain in traditional ownership, but increasingly the CIO and CMO will and should be jointly responsible for the success and reporting of ROI on digital investments- Infrastructure will need input and commitment from marketing, Support, response times and processes for customers will need strong input from the IT/development teams. Far too many businesses are relying upon ‘new skilled/resources’ which have not been properly integrated into the business functions and fuel the increasing CIO/CMO turf war approach to digital strategy implementation.

The start of 2015 should be driven by the CEO review of the CIO/CMO functions and the clearly defined success criteria- for each AND on a combined basis. Establishing the new ground rules early will ensure increasingly successful digital strategy implementation and an effective RIO on investments made.

The CEO’s 2015 review should include;
  • A review of the CIO’s role and responsibilities and where the ‘external customer’ (however defined) responsibility starts and ends. Delivery of the technical services and support, advice and support on infrastructure investments/changes to meet the new world.
  • A review of the CMO’s role and responsibilities and where the ‘internal services requirements’ are understood- defined from a customer perspective and agreed from a technical perspective with the CIO. Defining the new sphere of influence of the CMO on all matters ‘customer’ (communication, engagement, information request, order/delivery and finally service)
  • Both the CIO and CMO need to harness the power of their new skilled resources – defining clear boundaries whilst also defining the ‘blurred areas. Then agree on a process to manage the blurred areas that satisfy the customer and the business drivers. These should be jointly reported upon to the board.
  • Digital investments need to be jointly owned and reported against by both the CMO and the CIO.  The board should have clear goals/outputs from each respective area on what is expected from both and jointly to deliver the agreed ROI
  • Overall review of the processes across the business to ensure a successful digital delivery for customers.
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Ian is an experienced executive director, specialising in digital and marketing. Ian has spanned several sectors in his interim and permanent career of over 25 years, such as; Retail Financial Services, Technology & Telecoms, Professional services (incl Legal) and Education sector. This has been on a global, international and UK specific basis. Many of the roles Ian has undertaken have been 'transformational and/or change' related in order for the businesses to harness the power of the internet and increasingly digital. The latter has invariably led to a broader business functional change - across sales, marketing, distribution and service.


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