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The buzz has been that chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) are locked in combat.

Not quite, Deloitte Digital principal Suzanne Kounkel told me recently. She’s head of the digital consulting firm’s Customer Transformation practice, and was referring to the agency’s study, “The CMO-CIO Relationship.”

The study said that 56 percent of mentions in the media about these two roles focused on the potential for conflict. But, in its analysis of more than 50,000 social communications from late 2013 to late 2014 that mention the two roles, the report found that there’s more cooperation than infighting.

(The changing role of the CMO will be a key topic at our GrowthBeat Summit, June 1 and 2.)

Much of the perception that CMOs and CIOs are competitors stems from a Gartner research report in 2012, which famously predicted that CMOs’ technology budgets will be bigger than IT’s by 2017, driven by marketing’s dramatic increase in tools, scope, and uses for customer data.

“A lot of the dialogue is over how the two are at loggerheads,” Kounkel said. While “they were never chummy [and] they were never the ones going for drinks after work,” she said, the study found that the two roles are working together.

Why? Because they have to.

For one thing, in the age when competitive products and services can be found in a click, customer experience has emerged as a key differentiator. In the C-Suite, Kounkel said, the CMO is “the chief steward of the customer.” In effect, the CMO is now the person in charge of the company’s main relationship.

But the customer wants the brand to have a “360-degree view,” Kounkel said. This means that you, the brand, need to know what the customer bought in the past, or what issue the customer was trying to solve on the website and is now taking to customer service.

And that requires the IT department.

Like a married couple whose romance has waned but who remain together for the children, CMOs and CIOs bond around the customer.

“The thing that keeps these two together,” she said, is “the notion that the ecosystem is more important.”

Or, as a post from research firm McKinsey put it, “both the CMO and CIO are on the hook for turning all that data into growth together.”

The CIO controls the data. The CMO wants to understand the data’s context, like what those customer service complaints have to do with the sales patterns. And when data mining tries to find answers for the CMO, the CIO is often involved.

Deloitte’s perspective, Kounkel told me, is the CMO “is becoming an increasingly important player in the C Suite, because of innovations, growth, and customers, but needs other players to complete [the role].”

And, although CMOs may be the steward of the customer relationship, they don’t own all the customer touchpoints. They don’t own customer service or customer orders, for instance, and they usually don’t own packaging.

Essentially, CMOs and CIOs work together because, to paraphrase the movie Jerry Maguire without the sentiment, they complete each other.

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