sitecore logoMarketers today are faced with an increasingly complex world. In this series — Marketing with Experience: How experience marketing is shaping the future — we explore the many ways experience marketing has become essential to the success — and how to succeed at it. Brought to you to by Sitecore — see the whole series here.

If the CMO and CIO would put a Facebook status on their relationship, it would be “it’s complicated.”

The CIO is often generalized as the big bad boss of the department of “No,” while the CMO is often seen as a whimsical ball of inconsistency who can’t make up his mind about what target to reach or what software to buy to do so. Yet with modern businesses increasingly relying on technological and digital solutions across all its departments, and with marketing at the foundation of the customer experience, the CIO and the CMO can’t help but work alongside each other.

Indeed, with companies increasingly relying on technological digital solutions and customer experience front and center, the CMO-CIO relationship needs to work.

Luckily, the CMO-CIO relationship just needs a bit of counselling.

Where to start the change

It’s important to understand the situation that makes the CMO and CIO clash. The CIO typically has relationships with all departments across an organization — after all, she deals with infrastructure, intelligence, integration, and innovation. What makes the CMO unique is the gamut of usually SaaS-based point solutions he brings into the company to get the job done. He doesn’t need to involve the IT department anymore; these things come ready to deploy.

This is where the point of contention arises: the CIO needs to minimize risk; the CMO needs to take calculated risk to keep abreast of an ever-changing marketing landscape and customer market.

What truly brings them together is the customer experience — from the point of view of the customer, it’s one brand, not an uncoordinated tangle of disparate departments. This is definitely not what brands want to show their consumers. The CMO is in a perpetual race to stay current with customers, so the data-driven decisions made in the marketing department often clash with the policy-centric safety measures put in place by the IT team and the CIO.

But there’s no way out of this union. The customer experience is drastically affected by how effective the relationship is between CMO and CIO.

Fixing the relationship

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the CMO and CIO should align their goals and understand how each office conducts its operations to achieve them. The customer experience cuts across the entire company, and its digital foundations – consumer data, analytics, historical patterns, personalization, the whole shebang – shouldn’t be where battle lines are drawn.

One approach is to create a shared, transparent risk model that both parties can agree on: a sandbox of sorts where the CMO can be as agile and risky as he sees fit, but within a safety net ensured by the CIO. In the face of the customer experience challenge, there can’t be “Us” and “Them,” there can only be “We.” The offices can invest in a shared infrastructure or platform where they can agree to a risk profile the CIO can accept and a flexible margin where the CMO can explore realistic options.

The CMO keeps an eye on sales, branding, loyalty, and engagement, and the CIO can ensure security, data governance, scalability, uptime, and quality across the board, based on shared and aligned objectives.

Without mutual understanding of what and why each office wants to achieve, and the shared vision to make it happen, no amount of councils or meetings can help a company go in the right direction.

Another approach is to shift the organizational and procedural models within the company itself. Zappos, for instance, recently adopted holacracy to engender broader transparency across its organizational chart. Some companies are creating entirely new positions to bridge the gap between CIO and CMO like chief digital officer, whose function depends on the company’s needs. Others still are experimenting with doing away with disparate marketing teams spanning different channels and unifying the customer experience under a chief experience officer.

Or it can be as simple as ensuring that the marketing team have technologically sophisticated people who can help the company understand how to maximize technology in a governable way. Marketing technologists, for instance, whose function is to consult and advise departments, help make the decision-making process pain-free and on-time for both CMO and CIO.

The perks of a harmonious CMO – CIO relationship

A brand wants a holistic customer experience for their users, for example. With help from Sitecore, the company could develop a suite of customer-facing digital services that enhance, not only deliver, their promise of VIP treatment.

This would be possible through the harmonious partnership between marketing and IT: the offices of the CIO and CMO can define the brand’s customer journey and develop relevant experiences around it. The brand wouldn’t succeed in branding without the technology, and the technology wouldn’t be effective in branding without the marketing.

This illustrates the process in which the CIO and CMO need to work together. They need to:

  • Define the customer experience in the way that they are both involved. Usually, the CIO is responsible for the core technologies of the experience: uptime, data security for sensitive information like PIIs, and quality. The CMO is usually responsible for building the brand, driving demand, and tapping into customer engagement to enhance their journey.
  • Agree on what technology is required to deliver value on the defined customer experience.
  • Agree on a set risk profile and how much the CIO would be willing to compromise from a “No” to a qualified “Yes” to achieve shared goals.
  • Be realistic on everything discussed and agreed upon.
  • Co-own the customer experience, and set checkpoints and milestones to monitor progress.

Working together, the CMO and CIO can make ground-breaking, customer-centric experiences. The CIO-CMO relationship doesn’t need to be contentious; in this era of customer experience marketing, it needs to be harmonious.

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