Three ways for the CIO and CMO to collaborate on technology

CEOs recognise that technology - to power the company internally and to innovate the product offering - is the No. 1 factor affecting the enterprise in the age of the customer: a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. These same CEOs need the CMO and CIO to collaborate and together help drive growth for the enterprise. This need for collaboration is now bigger than before. Why?

Digital has changed the game. CMOs and CIOs understand that technology is essential to delivering the rich experiences that today's empowered customers demand, through dynamic use of data and the delivery of experiences that, online or offline, are digital at their core. To attract and retain these customers, marketing and IT leaders must collaborate to harness customer insights and surround those insights with the right processes and technology systems. CMOs and CIOs should merge their unique competencies to form a new partnership with shared ownership of goals and business outcomes.

Traditional departmental boundaries no longer apply. The CMO and CIO have lived in two siloed worlds, separated by rather formidable corporate boundaries. Only by combining forces can a business-minded CIO and a technology-smart CMO strategically engage customers throughout their life cycle to drive business growth. CIOs and CMOs now have to jointly evaluate and acquire new technology for data analytics, customer experience management, customer engagement, digital advertising, and other critical marketing requirements. Why? Because the business needs of the CMO need to be mated to the vendor selection skills, integration know-how, and security and risk concerns that CIOs are steeped in.

CIOs must lead a strong business technology agenda. Forrester believes that successful management of enterprise technology requires today's CIOs to balance two different agendas: information technology (IT) and business technology (BT). While continuing to manage and improve IT infrastructures - supply chains, financial systems, human resources systems, and production systems keep business operations running smoothly - the BT agenda must tie directly to business priorities. As CIOs shift their attention to BT - building technologies, systems, and processes to win, retain, and serve customers - CMOs can help navigate the variety of customer-facing initiatives that crop up across business units and brands, facilitate the business case with line-of-business leaders, and apply brand perspective to the outcomes these BT investments must deliver.

Journey to collaboration takes work and commitment

The results of this year's Forbes and Forrester joint survey of more than 300 senior marketing and IT professionals showed that CMOs and CIOs still must overcome their alignment struggles. In order for these C-suite peers to power a customer-obsessed enterprise, they must:

Related:

1. Jointly define a customer-obsessed technology strategy. Our 2013 survey results showed that the marketing technology strategy map is not yet understood by the organisation. For collaboration to work, CMOs and CIOs must jointly define the road map to guide their teams in the same direction. CMOs and CIOs need to move beyond territorial ownership to build a joint IT strategy and platform that empower marketers to self-service their needs - from mastering the data flow to identifying customer insights that power decisions and drive sales.

2. Align priorities, goals, and metrics. CIOs and CMOs must provide strong joint leadership to bring their organisations together. To get started, establish priorities for both teams, built to align priorities to business outcomes, whether they're customer support service-level agreements, shopping cart conversion rates, or agile metrics like site deployment schedules. From there, set team and departmental goals and specific measures of success that read the same way so that everyone heads for the same target.

3. Ramp up the pace of implementation. Speed-to-market is a challenge. CIOs and CMOs need to balance marketing's push for competitive advantage through rapid technology implementation with IT's need for disciplined processes. To get there, CIOs and CMOs need to meet at least twice per month, with the intent of those meetings being to manage the pace of change across the two departments and identify communication gaps. The agile teams should be meeting daily or nearly daily to keep the pace up. Put guardrails in place that clarify acceptable project scope, cost, and business impact to keep projects manageable and relevant, limiting projects to those that map to corporate or divisional growth projections or those with a business case that can prove a margin-positive return on investment within a two-year time frame.

Sheryl Pattek is vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research where she serves CMOs to provide the strategic guidance they need to succeed in the new 'age of the customer'.