It may come as a surprise to many CIOs given the recent hype around the rise in CMO spending on IT but CMOs don’t want the CIO role. In fact CMOs would rather not have to get involved in technology at all. But they feel they have to because they are being let down by their IT function. What they really want is an IT function that will work with them to define their needs and provide the technology solutions they need to achieve their objectives quickly and reliably.

A few months ago I attended a conference on the Digital Evolution of Marketing. There were no comments about taking over IT or celebrations of rising IT budgets within marketing and nor were there any discussions about how to bypass IT or build a shadow IT function. When IT was mentioned it was about how best to engage with the IT function with comments about how marketing cannot be successful at digital marketing without the help of IT. In fact the only negative remark I heard was from a marketer whose company was about to embark on a major digital programme who commented that he had no idea how he was going to engage with his CIO on this major initiative as the CIO was “just not interested”. This was greeted by knowing nods of agreement from many of the other workshop participants indicating that it was not an isolated situation.

In a recent article on the Guardian Media Network site, three CMOs were asked for their views on how big data is changing traditional marketing roles. When asked about the relationship between marketing and IT they too used words like ‘collaboration’, ‘dialogue’ and ‘relationship’. For example, according to Surjit Chana, chief marketing officer at IBM Europe, “while each company will need to find its own way of working, CMOs should look in-house and use the expertise of CIOs to get a better handle on their situation and to define the right technology needs for their business.”

And a recent Accenture report, The CMO-CIO disconnect: Bridging the gap to seize the digital opportunity, based on a global survey of CMOs and CIOs, found that 64% of respondents agreed with the need for alignment of marketing and IT. So it seems that CMOs want and need to work with their CIO counterparts to ensure they can exploit digital channels.

However, in what seems like a contradiction the Accenture survey also found that CMOs are seeing the potential to deal directly with vendors to buy technology-based services as an alternative to working with the CIO. So what happened to collaboration and alignment? Well, 45% of CMOs say they want to enable their employees to access and use data and content without IT intervention while 49% of CIOs say that marketing use technologies without consideration for IT standards. In other words marketing want freedom and flexibility but the IT function demands planning and compliance with standards.

And over a third of CMOs say that IT deliverables fall short of expectations while almost 40% stated that IT’s development process is slow and not aligned to the speed of digital marketing and that IT prefers to build solutions itself instead of integrating best-in-class technologies. CIOs countered this with 46% saying that marketing does not provide adequate level of business requirements while 40% said that marketing requirements and priorities change too often.

So CMOs do want and see the need for a closer working relationship and better collaboration with CIOs, but not if IT continues to work in its traditional structured and formal way. Marketing wants IT to be a facilitator that provides quick and easy access to the tools it needs and the ability to then use these tools independently of the IT function. Marketing needs IT to play a different role; one that combines being a consultant, broker and integrator but also one that is less hands-on and less controlling than it has traditionally been. And if CMOs do not get the service they need from IT they now have the ability to bypass the CIO and go directly to vendors.

But it appears IT still wants to work in the same way as it has done in the past; complaints about poorly defined and changing business requirements have been made by IT functions for decades yet things haven’t changed. So perhaps it’s IT that needs to change the way it works. We need a new model for IT that meets the needs of the digital age. The current model, ways of working, structures, etc, are out-of-date, remnants of the mainframe, PC and client-server ages. Technology has changed massively since those days; its role and use within the organisation has changed, knowledge and awareness of non-IT staff is so much better and the offerings of vendors far more mature and comprehensive. The desire for collaboration between marketing and IT is still there but the window is closing; CMOs can only wait so long for IT change and if they do not get the support they need from the CIO they will have no option but to take matters into their own hands.