CIOs Let Marketing Call the Shots

Graphic: grasundsterne GmbH

There’s a new job title to be had: CMT. Spelled out, the three letters mean “Chief Marketing Technologist”. The acronym stands for a phenomenon that is transforming the role of CIOs (Chief Information Officer): The marketing department is turning into a technology purchasing department. As a result, analysts at American research firm Gartner are strongly urging IT decision-makers and marketing managers to form partnerships, with a Chief Marketing Technologist (CMO) proposed as intermediary.


Graphic: grasundsterne GmbH


Marketing and IT Estranged

Don Scheibenreif, vice president of Gartner’s Industries Research Group, presented this hypothesis to a specialist conference in Munich in mid-October. His observation was that both departments, IT and marketing, are alien to one another. The numbers clearly illustrate the ever-increasing decision-making power of marketing departments, and just how blind IT is to it.

Gartner asked more than 500 decision-makers from IT and marketing departments just how much say the latter has in marketing-related IT decisions. Seventy-one percent of the CIOs and 86% of all CMOs questioned said their marketing department decides. Around one-third (67%) of IT managers lets the marketing department determine their company’s IT strategy. And 79% of all marketing departments take advantage of this opportunity.

A further survey question was directed exclusively at CMOs. They were asked to indicate the degree to which they were responsible for choosing and managing marketing-related technologies. Sixty-two percent said they had full responsibility, while 35% said they were partially responsible. A very small portion (3%) said they bore no responsibility at all. The survey found that marketing managers were primarily responsible for social media, mobile applications, and customer relationship management (CRM), as well as customer analytics and tablet applications.

CMOs with Big Egos

Most of the CMOs exuded self-confidence. Gartner asked them to rate their role in the company: Was it more tactical or strategic? Only 26% felt their role was more strategic than tactical at the time of the survey – but 67% expected that role to gain in strategic importance in two years’ time. So it’s not surprising that analysts these days advise vendors to turn to the marketing department instead of the IT department. The participants largely agreed with the study’s findings. They did, however, criticize the lack of a clear definition of “marketing” and a distinction between the marketing and sales departments.

Scheibenreif therefore recommends that IT managers “Get a seat at the table!” Unfortunately, this will prove difficult. The IT department, you see, does not enjoy a good reputation with its marketing counterpart. In the Gartner survey, marketers described their IT colleagues as slow, unwilling to change, and fixed on costs. Marketers who made IT decisions found themselves, on the other hand, to be sales-driven, quick, and inspired by challenges.

On the next page: Three essential to-dos for CIOs

Scheibenreif is unwilling to interpret these results as a disempowerment of CIOs. The alert analyst would much rather talk about the opportunities this opens up for IT managers.

“IT decision-makers have to take on the role of consultant now more than ever before.”, Photo: Don Scheibenreif, private

Specifically, he names the following three tasks for IT decision-makers:

  1. The CIO should seek a dialog with the CMO. Together, both teams can identify the areas in which they should partner up and in which tangible results can be expected.
  2. Both teams must provide the necessary potential. This includes the joint use of data and information. They should eliminate data silos, and check data quality.
  3. Collaboration has to mature and be strengthened often. This means that roles and tasks have to be redefined, if and whenever necessary. A first step in this direction could be the naming of a Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT), if the company does not have one yet.

Scheibenreif does not want to define any specific duty to provide or obtain information for the individual partners. As he sees it, it is up to company management to ensure that the IT and marketing teams grow together and collaborate successfully. This is where change managers could help, he notes.

The analyst is completely relaxed when looking ahead to the future. “Future generations will bring an affinity for technology with them anyway – in every department,” he told us, so collaboration with IT will be practically inevitable. Scheibenreif does not think that the role of CIO will fall by the wayside, or that every department in the future will have its own CMT. One thing is clear, though: “IT decision-makers have to take on the role of consultant now more than ever before.”