33 CIO stock

Marketing fluffy; IT scientific. Until a few years ago, that would have sounded a perfectly reasonable summing up of the two disciplines. But the advent of the web has turned much of marketing into a highly scientific and measurable discipline. Analytics and metrics, once frightening words to many, are turning out to be marketing's saviour.

A common mantra now is, "Information drives marketing". And, according to some IBM research in 2012, 79% of CIOs see their top priority as the strategic use of data to derive insight and intelligence for the organisation. Marketing and IT seem to be running along parallel paths. Many people believe this is reason enough for them to work closely together.

Working together

The truth is that most of the information in marketing has little to do with the 'I' part of IT. It comes from web interactions, telephone and face-to-face contact. So it's no good IT getting in a lather because marketing wants to subscribe to a cloud-based marketing automation (MA) system. After all, it would be well beyond the average IT department's abilities to implement such a system from scratch.

Equally, it's no good marketing ignoring IT because, by doing so, the MA system is likely to fall well short of its ultimate potential. Better for the CMO and CIO to work together to figure out and deliver what's in the organisation's best interests. Earlier this year Forrester made the point that this will work best if the CIO is business-minded and the CMO is 'technology smart'. Otherwise, you might imagine a lot of time would be wasted trying to understand each other.

A major disjoint between the marketing world and the IT world is the speed of change. Digital marketers need to respond instantly to significant changes in the outside world. They like self-service SaaS systems because they can tweak what they do and the way they do it at the drop of a hat. They don't have to seek IT's permission or book its services. On the other hand, some IT involvement early in the procurement process could prevent some costly mistakes as the MA's reach widens. As it will, if successful. And, as reach widens and marketing and IT find themselves collaborating at ever deeper levels, agile working methods will ensure harmony and an acceptable, and secure, pace of development.

If the CMO and CIO get their heads together and agree on what's important from both points of view, and harmonious with the company's goals and priorities, then they can go into an MA purchase confident that both short-term and long-term objectives can be achieved. Short-term might be using MA standalone or with CRM. Long-term might involve information exchange with the help desk or accounts department, for example.

IT helps marketing avoid missteps

Traditional marketing people are unlikely to know much about or share IT's concerns about technical issues and costs. Data and system security is probably the number one concern. MA systems will gather all manner of sensitive information and will probably keep it in the cloud. Some MA vendors will try to sideline the IT department, afraid that it will complicate, slow, or stall the purchase. Some marketing people might be only too happy to acquiesce. But they would do this at their peril.

An IT person at the CMO's elbow could ask the MA vendor the necessary hard questions about security and access, and dig deeper in the event of unsatisfactory answers. They will need to be confident that information in all systems (internal and cloud) will be kept secure, remain intact and comply with data governance requirements.

CIOs will also want to know what IT resources will be needed by the implementation of MA – database provision in the first instance, perhaps, or integration of information flows later. And they'll certainly want to know if any of the IT team will be needed on a continuing basis. The answers to such questions will give the CIO a decent base for planning and a case for more funding, perhaps by diverting some from the (probably more healthy) marketing budget.

The annual subscription to a SaaS-based MA project may look relatively cheap – less than the salary of a decent marketing person, say – but extra costs can stack up in terms of user training, people feeding the voracious content engine, monitoring the metrics and providing support from IT. The intention, of course, is that these costs will be swallowed by the growth and increased profitability generated by the MA system. The important thing for the CMO and the CIO is to expect and budget for the extras; they will dwarf the SaaS element.

What's in it for the CIO?

Without a trusted relationship between marketing and IT at all levels where they're obliged to work together, the risks for the CIO are high. However, with trust, the payoffs can be substantial. IT will be seen as a key driver of the company's renewed growth and profitability. The CIO will move, with the CMO, to a prominent place in the executive suite – more a suite of equals than the previous traditional shallow hierarchy.

Information will, indeed, be powering the business and, conveniently, the CIO's title perfectly reflects this. Sure, the underpinning technology is important, but that's just the stuff that enables the software and information to power the future.

CIO UK, the magazine, targets the top 30% or so of CIOs who are strong in technology and business. That leaves 70%, the majority of whom are still 'technology first' individuals. For their own sakes, they need to raise their sights, if their organisations will let them. If they don't or aren't allowed to, then their organisation will be the loser. Only by pursuing business goals and priorities, expressed in business terms and measured by business results, will the true value of the CIO be realised.

One day, they may thank the shift to centre stage of the CMO and MA as the catalyst for a new appreciation of their own importance in driving business results.