How CIOs Can Get Into the Marketing Game

“Data Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Yuchun Lee, VP and general manager of IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management. He was previously founder and CEO at Unica.

I’ve talked a lot about the odd couple pairing of the CMO and CIO. More often than not, we look at this partnership through the lens of the CMO, but I think it’s equally important to consider the CIO’s perspective. Just as the CMO needs to change to adapt to the needs of Generation C, the CIO must also evolve to be an equal partner in this CMO/CIO equation.

Marketing often views the IT department as a proverbial stick in the mud – a roadblock to marketing’s fast paced needs. And let’s be honest, in many ways that’s true. The CIO has been trapped in a long, painful process of working through IT needs and has inevitably become marketing’s biggest obstacle to accomplishing short term tasks. Instead of working with the CIO and his or her team, the CMO simply went around IT and began working with outside vendors, creating their own complicated system, which led to inefficiencies and uncoordinated marketing strategies.

Now I’m not saying CIOs should simply lower standards and discard key IT processes, but they do need to consider whether or not standard processes can be changed to accelerate business needs for CMOs.  I don’t believe many CIOs even consider how their processes might be affecting their front office counterparts. CIOs need to look at the front lines and focus on their agility and ability to quickly respond to marketing needs, which are critical in today’s fast paced multichannel climate. CIOs need to move away from being seen as a hindrance to marketing success and instead become a trusted partner to the CMO, one that will provide added value, versus stalling marketing projects.

So how do CIOs become that valued partner? Start by creating an experimental space for the CMO to quickly move projects along on a three to six month basis, as opposed to three to six years. How do they do this?

First, stop applying one-size-fits-all processes to every marketing situation, and consider that many of the needs marketers face must be completed on a shorter time frame while the infrastructure needs may be transient (think of a movie set versus building a house). Give marketing some breathing room, some space to play and execute quick marketing solutions. That’s not to say marketing won’t run into longer lead technology solutions, but if you give marketing some space to complete the most critical and short-term projects, this partnership has a greater ability to thrive.

For those who resist, marketers still need to get their job done and will go around IT and seek out their own vendors, which can ultimately hurt a business in the long run. Instead, CIOs should take the reins, give marketers the space they need to experiment and if outside vendors are needed, let the CIO be the one managing those relationships. CIOs can also consider leveraging cloud infrastructure and SaaS solutions, which tend to shorten implementation time. Where possible CIOs should seek out pre-integrated solutions and minimize custom-built applications wherever possible.

And while agility is important, it doesn’t mean anything if the CIO isn’t focusing their attention on the customer. For years, IT has been comfortable in a back office setting and marketing has always avoided the “IT cave,” but this type of mindset completely ignores the customer.

Traditionally, IT has left customer issues up to the marketing team, but in today’s world, where the customer is truly in control, IT has to be at the very heart of a customer-centric approach.

Based on what I hear from customers, CMOs are just starting to get it. They’re not only on top of their front office needs, but they’re beginning to recognize they must be part of back office technology decisions and build a relationship with the CIO.  And as we all know Gartner predicts the CMO is expected to influence more of the IT budget by 2015. So with the CMO influencing more tech dollars, the CIO needs to step in and ensure that marketers impact the right purchases.

As the CMO has begun to move beyond their traditional job expectations, the CIO needs to follow come out from the back office bunker and into spotlight so they can gain an understanding of marketing’s front office needs. By moving forward and understanding the on demand needs of customers and marketers alike, the CIO has the ability to addresses issues quickly and inevitably make a major impact on their company’s revenue growth.

When it comes to being an effective CIO, the answer is simple. If you’re not in the game of providing fast paced answers for your CMO counterpart, then you’re not in the game. To make matters worse you are at risk of being bypassed altogether, which can put the entire organization in jeopardy. We know the answer to this predicament – establish an efficient and productive business that partners the CMO and the CIO. Through increased agility and a new way of front-office thinking, the CIO can solidify themselves as the CMO’s go-to, trusted partner and a real contributor to their businesses revenue growth.

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