Another strain on the tenuous CMO-CIO relationship

Marketing, sales, and customer service departments are viewed as innovation engines in corporate executive suites, according to a survey released today by The Economist‘s Intelligence Unit. Information technology departments are not—and therein lies a problem for direct marketers, says Reggie Bradford, SVP of product development at Oracle, which sponsored the study.

“The science of marketing has never been more important, and the CIO is a big influencer of that,” Bradford says. “Companies need to drive ROI for the relationship-building potential of social, and the way to get it is to marry data sets from offline sources with traditional ones. That means merging some of the central activities of the CMO and CIO.”

But most of the global business leaders who took part in the study on corporate innovation–more than a third of them C-level executives—didn’t see it this way. Only 17% of them mentioned IT when asked which business units helped bring innovative ideas to market. Marketing, however, was named by 47%. Additionally, more than 40% said that Big Data was the most crucial component to improving customer experience and developing new marketing channels.

Clinging to biases about the roles of marketing and IT could well be preventing senior managers from achieving their goals for more innovation. Survey respondents said their most significant barrier to developing processes for analyzing Big Data needed to drive innovation was a shortage of technical and analytical skill, yet they’re clearly not looking to IT to provide this mental capital. Asked what they viewed as IT’s main contribution to the innovation process, more than half said “supplying technologies.” Only 11% responded “identifying pockets of innovation in the enterprise.”

“One of the things this study highlights is the lack of collaboration,” Bradford says. “Where innovation happens successfully, it happens across the organization. Yet the CIO is still seen as the implementer of technology rather than a thought leader in how it can be used to move the business.”

The rush to embrace Big Data for building customer relationships, meanwhile, has increased the scope of the marketer’s role. “CIOs have been our traditional partners at companies,” Bradford says of Oracle’s sales interactions. “But when it comes to social media analytics, the CMO is almost 100% our buyer.”

 While the majority of top executives polled recognized startups as the drivers of innovation, many agreed that big companies were more likely than medium-size organizations to implement innovative methods. Respondents at companies with annual revenues of $500 million or less relied primarily on direct interviews with customers in planning new products and services, while those at firms with more than $1 billion in sales were more likely to tap into social networking data to unearth customer-focused innovations.

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