How to close the gap between the CIO and CMO

A strong relationship across departments is good for business— but it's also becoming vital.
15 November 2019

CMOs need to collaborate with CIOs to drive marketing. Source: Shutterstock

CMOs and CIOs have been known to keep a yardstick between them. They are responsible for separate pillars of the business— on the one side, there is marketing, on the other, there is everything involved in IT and tech. 

However, a shift in B2C communication and the continued move of IT from the back office to the frontline of operations has redefined the role of marketing and reimagined its relationship with IT.

In the trenches of the digital transformation conquest, therefore, the collaboration between CMOs and CIOs is imperative to ensure the company achieves its vision towards digital progress. 

This technological shift is not only seeing the two C-levels working more closely, but their roles are also actually beginning to overlap. Amazingly, as 29 percent of the marketing budget is now allocated to technology according to Gartner, CMOs now spend more time and budget on technology than CIOs. 

“As more of the business elements that touch revenue move outside the network – marketing, sales, CRM, customer care – it becomes ever more important that IT and marketing regularly share information and work together,” Otavio Freire, president and CTO of SafeGuard Cyber, said.  

For both teams to work together, a shared mindset and system which promotes collaboration is needed, yet the initiative needs to be driven from the C-suite.

Developing a forward-thinking partnership

The changing role of CMOs from leading in generating high revenue from digital investments means not only do marketers have to be finance experts, but they have to be technologists and understand the ways in which they can connect with consumers,” Proctor & Gamble’s former CMO, Kimberly Whitler stated. 

Now more than ever, it is crucial that marketing executives and IT leaders are teaming up to achieve optimal results in driving organizational growth. 

# 1 | Constant communication drives common goals

Both CMOs and CIOs share accountability for driving business growth and consolidating success. In order to do so, creating a communication channel between the two divisions must be the first step to promote communication. 

The purpose of communication could be to establish common objectives, turning ideas into actionable steps. That can include striking up a quick discussion every day, if not more, to align on KPIs and ensure both departments are powering towards the same goal. 

In this sense, both leaders and teams are building a positive and proactive relationship, where progress is constantly shared, objectives aligned and progress benchmarked. 

# 2 | Leave jargon aside and collaboration in

Miscommunication is inevitable with the two departments adept at speaking their own languages. 

IT heads may be tempted to speak at the highly-technical level their teams are used to, but clear communication is a vital ingredient of collaboration and buy-in across the organization. For company-wide buy-in and influence, CIOs must be a business leader first, and a technology leader second.

The key is to build a bridge between the teams by first establishing a space and time for communication to take place; CIOs must be able to articulate their work and progress in a way that business stakeholders understand.

The same, of course, goes for CMOs, but CIOs are perhaps more likely to speak from the technical manual.

# 3 | Breaking down siloed data

Besides establishing frequent communication between the departments, an integrated system and infrastructure are needed for the constant flow of information. 

Data fragmentation is the biggest obstacle for cross-department collaboration. Often at times, the IT and marketing departments are working in separate domains and are oblivious to each other’s needs. 

About half (57 percent) of C-suite leaders stated that siloed data leads to a lack of visibility in business processes across departments and cultivates a “poor decision-making culture”. Some organizations break down the barrier by having members from both teams work in close proximity, which promotes natural conversation and in turn, collaboration.

On the other hand, some organizations adopt a team-based approach by empowering both groups of marketing experts and technology leaders with self-direction and encourage cross-functional execution. 

Ultimately, a strong bond between CIOs and CMOs can fuel better decision-making and drive organizational growth as businesses continue to evolve digitally. Taking scarce time— whether minutes or longer— to strike a rapport and understanding of each other’s roles will carry immense value. 

The collaboration of both departments pays across departments and at the heart of the organization, and if you’re not speaking to your peers across the business, rest assured your competitors are and are reaping the benefits.