Technology silos that must be broken down

Technology silos that must be broken down

Much has already been written about the CIO and the CMO having to work closely together. Already in 2016 in a Gartner Research webinar, analyst Laura McLellan made mention that the next department to claim technology ownership, will be marketing – predicting that CMOs will spend more money on IT than their CIO counterparts.

Claims such as these turned the technology management world upside down and set in motion a wave of panic that IT would soon be ring-fenced as a subset of marketing. Pushing CIO’s even further away from their seat at the exco table and relegating them to the back office.

As technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous throughout the organisation; this coming together of roles has a lot of benefits for the organisation, not to mention for the individual roles. The trick is seemingly still in understanding where the blurred edges of the various roles touch or overlap.

Should Technology and Marketing merge

There is an increasingly popular view that the roles of the CIO and CMO should merge completely into a CDO (Chief Digital Officer) or something similar.

The benefits for these roles merging are quite obvious.

  1. Absolute focus on customer needs through technological fulfilment
    • Generally speaking, the CDO would have a greater chance of matching the customers needs, wants and expectations with the technology stack at their disposal; rather than having to barter and bargain with the CMO or CIO to bridge these two worlds.
  2. Easily surfaced on time and accurate data and analytics
    • There is technical data that the CIO has access to and there is marketing data the CMO has access to. Often these two pieces of information never come together. The CDO has the opportunity to merge these datasets for better reporting.
  3. Seamless agile customer-focused innovation
    • Innovation is great. We all love innovation. But innovation that is done simply to make use of “cool tech” doesn’t necessarily answer a customer need or make business sense. Similarly, innovation that makes the customer think you are the business; might not be practical outside of a proof of concept. When the technology and the customer innovation are merged and focused on delivering on the business objectives through the client; then real innovation magic happens!

Maybe there is another way

This list could go on for a while and be considered the job description for the Chief Digital Officer. The problem or inhibiting factors around combining these roles into one are equally relevant.

  1. Marketers are not inherently technical
  2. Technologists are not inherently marketers

These are skill sets that do not sit with your typical CMO or CIO. Nor should they.

When your exco are looking to technology to take them to the next level, they are not looking for a part-time technologists view; they are looking for someone who has devoted their professional life to understanding the idiosyncrasies of how technology stacks come together.

When your exco are looking for a customer experience differentiator to separate you from your competitor and to win share of the market; they look for someone who knows customer behaviour intimately and knows how to segment an audience and provide context rich and relevant information to them when and where they want it.

This is the true dichotomy of the CIO/CMO hybrid role. The two halves are individually too specialised. They need a, Batman villain, TwoFace like split-personality to adequately service these two demanding disciplines.

Further to that though, in my experience, there is another element at play here. The ego. Neither the CIO nor the CMO want to acknowledge the shortcomings in their own silos or share their domains with some foreign usurper.

In all honesty; both of these roles have typically borne the brunt of being viewed as a cost centre rather than a profit centre.  Now that they are being given the opportunity to have a voice on how to ensure ongoing sustainability, greater profit and market share; it is no wonder that this is like oil and water trying to mix. It is a perfect storm for naturally territorial and competitive behaviour.

Perhaps then the ideal solve is not to merge the roles into one; but perhaps it is more in understanding how to work together. Understanding there is a bigger common goal; and work out how each executive can benefit the other.

Understand respective roles

As I have said, these two roles are highly specialised; but a little shared understanding goes a long way.

As a CMO there is a renewed focus on the consumer which has shifted the role from one largely centred on branding and creativity, to one now focused on advancing growth strategies and driving ROI. There is a large expectation from exco that the CMO is responsible for driving growth as their primary mandate. Moving away from being functional experts to being strategically focused on business goals.

Similarly, the role of the CIO is changing from one that has historically been viewed as inward-facing with an eye on increasing productivity and reducing costs; to a role that facilitates innovation and provides business value. Technology professionals are now expected to have: achieving group revenue goals, upgrading IT and Security as their primary focus.

This shift for the CIO places more emphasis on consumer focused initiatives – including building the infrastructure needed to fuel their revenue growth mandate to an increasingly digitally savvy audience.

With a better understanding of the changing roles in technology and marketing, expectations, and challenges, these executives can begin to define shared interests and goals to help strengthen the relationship and share in mutually beneficial outcomes.

Hire the enemy

I have seen this work quite successfully in a number of large South African companies where CIOs have hired marketers into their technology teams so that they are giving a marketers view on how the technology needs to be built and deployed.

Similarly I’ve seen CMOs hire technologists who then consult on the “art of the possible” when marketing begins to ask for technology to be delivered for their clients.

When the opposing skills are baked into the department; it makes reaching a common ground and speaking a common language that much easier.

Form a partnership

When the CIO and CMO come together as a united front; having each others backs; it gives the organisation a lot of comfort that their technology and business goals are not being approached in a siloed fashion. The historically inward and outward faces of these two disciplines translate to greatly diminished blind spots for the organisation.

The successful CIO and CMO are the ones who are able to share their territories, put aside their egos and commit to open and honest lines of communication and commit to a shared vision. When the leadership are able to do this the culture of their teams changes and the teams are able to work far more collaboratively and cohesively.

The trick to getting started is just that: getting started. It takes nothing more than a conversation to begin understanding the common areas of concern. Opening the communication channels is the first step; learn to speak the same language to describe the shared challenges. After that trust and understanding between the two centres can begin to develop and the organisation will grow exponentially as a result.