Adidas CIO Jan Brecht explained to CIO UK how the company's successful digital marketing strategy at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was the result of a collaboration between the sports brand's IT and marketing functions, and was brought about by a fundamental shift in the way the company speaks to its customer. [See also: Business and IT alignment - How CIOs align business strategy and technology]
This follows the anecdotal evidence cited by various CIOs to this title that the C-suite is collaborative place with few examples of the analyst and vendor rhetoric that the CMO and CIO are at loggerheads.
Furthermore, these discussions we've had offer various insight and tips on bringing marketing and IT - and indeed the CMO and CIO - closer together to work on data analytics strategy, win at digital marketing, and meet the goals of the digital business.
1. Be a humble CIO and recognise the limitations of the IT department
In September 2013, Ian Cox told CIOs that it is exceedingly unlikely the CMO wants your job - and the same can be said - and appreciated - the other way. Adidas CIO Brecht explained: "We were pretty honest with ourselves; we realised we probably do not have the creativity it takes to run a successful marketing campaign, and the marketing team was equally honest in saying we probably don't have the technical skills to put our creativity into something which is scalable and secure."
2. Focus on the customer
Tibco CTO Matt Quinn and CMO Thomas Been said that focusing on the customer was one of the key starting points for a successful relationship between marketing and IT. Been said that in the modern business engineering roles, marketing roles and IT roles were now all involved in customer-facing roles and it is the quality of service that needs to be the focus for all parties.
"You should always start with the customer which is where we are aligned," Been said. "Each of us is offering services which are eventually combined into a product - and making sure collaboration exists beyond CMO and CTO execs and also between teams significantly affects time to market and what you are delivering to the customer."
3. Embrace 'Shadow IT'
Quinn said that CIOs should embrace LOB decision-making and acknowledge that many key innovations are taking place on the edge. This makes the CIO and CTO role more critical than ever in making sure it happens securely and in mapping out future roadmaps for the company, he said. The Tibco CTO acknowledged that all departments spend money on technology, while CMO Been said that it was important for organisation's to define the limits of where IT's responsibility ends. "The sooner you realise everyone uses technology the sooner you can start innovating," Been said.
4. Fully integrate
Brecht explains that Adidas decided to "fully integrate" to create a digital experience team with a digital creative perspective and a digital technology perspective, with the team led by one person reporting bo both the CMO and the CIO. "And that team cannot distinguish whether they are marketing or IT," Brecht says.
At Nissan, its Europe CIO Stephen Kneebone offers similar sentiments around the digital customer experience. "It's very much a team effort with a cross-functional team; you don't get far if you're not operating as team," he told CIO UK last year.
5. Or consider keeping completely separate
At Channel 4, rather than being a pseudo-joint-venture between marketing and IT, data ownership is kept away from the CMO and CIO altogether. The broadcaster's Head of Data Planning and Analytics, Sanjeevan Bala, said: "We have a separate role that reports to the CEO David Abraham, not the CMO or CIO Kevin Gallagher. It's a centralised capability separate from marketing and technology."
But Bala said that the 50-strong team, headed up by Gill Whitehead, works closely with Gallagher and CMO Dan Brooke.
6. Accountability and ownership
Brecht says it's important to give somebody or a team ownership; a function which is accountable and has end-to-end responsibility in digital marketing for any marketing and technology collaborations to be successful.
7. Buy, don't build - and go with established start-ups
"The pace at which the start-ups in this space move is very difficult to match internally," Brecht explains, the Adidas chief saying this is the case with data analysis in particular. It's usually not the well-established companies or big incumbents of the IT industry who are the best partners, Brecht believes, while the "pure start-ups are usually a little too fragile".
"It's the medium-sized companies - they're nimble enough to adapt, not as slow as the big incumbents in the IT industry, yet they are not as volatile or as fragile as the start-up around the corner," Brecht says.
8. Do women hold the key?
The above sub-head is purposefully provocative, although there is some kind of pigeonhole-based logic behind the suggestion put forward by Rob Enderle - who writes for our sister title in the US - when discussing Dell CMO Karen Quintos in June 2014.
Enderle's hypothesis runs thus: most companies first used data analytics in the marketing department which is where most of the skills for using such tools are developed. Women dominate marketing where the selling skill requires the knowledge of the user need rather than the engineering behind it. While researching the huge impact Quintos has had at Dell, this had Enderle thinking female executives were the untapped resource to being the driving force for both the sales and execution of a Big Data analytics strategy, and the catalyst to better aligning marketing and IT.
Collaborate or die
Ian Cox has explained that marketing wants to collaborate with the CIO, but only if IT changes to meet the needs of the digital business. And while the CMO-CIO relationship gets the most attention, there is more to being a successful digital business than marketing and IT playing nicely, Cox says.
"The current focus around the CIO-CMO relationship is an early warning to CIOs that they need to overcome their addiction to the old ways of working. IT needs to start doing things differently to produce the results required to survive in a digital world," he said in his CIO UK column in August 2014.
But are CIOs up to the challenge? Perhaps. This title has covered swathes of CIOs who have completed the transformation from a role managing IT to one working side-by-side with other business leaders as well as successfully leading the technology function. However, Forrester has warned that while they expect to see 2015 as the year CIOs will complete their transformation and cement their reputation as digital innovation leaders, organisations will replace those not up to the task.