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Bridging the Gap: The New Relationship Between CIOs & CMOs

One of the more popular predictions we’ve seen over the last couple of years is that in the near future, CMOs will outspend CIOs on technology. In fact, in a 2012 webinar, Gartner’s Laura McLellan predicted that this will happen as early as 2017. So what does this mean, exactly? It means that technology is the key to the future of engagement. To take advantage technology, companies need to find a way to bridge the gap between CIOs and the evolving role of CMOs within an enterprise. But before organizations can do this, they need to look at the facts:

  • CMOs and marketers are increasingly being asked to help companies grow while many CIOs are being asked to manage cost and reduce spending.
  • Essential digital marketing technologies move at a completely different pace than IT.
  • Connected consumers and rising volumes of e-commerce sales in both B2B and B2C marketing are making the notion of predictive analytics using Big Data a reality.
  • Digital marketing technologies are exploding, an area that CMOs aren’t traditionally equipped to deal with.

Combine these facts with the simple truth that consumers are more empowered to make buying decisions with the wealth of digital information at their fingertips, and the real challenge for marketers and technologists alike is apparent. They must not only be able to truly understand consumer behavior, but they must do it in real time, at a rapid pace, and in a way that allows them to make smarter business decisions as opposed to simply relying on trial and error.

As an example, in my role at EPiServer, I used to see more that 60% of digital marketing projects being led by the IT department as recently as three years ago. This included having control of purchasing decision, buying software, and building a website. This year, we’ve seen a complete reversal. Now, nearly 70% of projects are being led by the CMO without an IT employee’s counsel. Marketers are now buying technology, which in many cases happens with a different set of processes than was used by IT in the past. Marketers are looking for outsourced or SaaS- based solutions with little internal support. CMOs realize that the IT department may not be equipped to help, and it’s time for companies to address this gap.

So how do enterprises do this?


It’s incumbent on CMOs to help the marketing and IT departments work together; to collaborate and to educate themselves on what their respective goals and objectives are for business growth. If you believe that CMOs and marketers are here to help drive revenue development, then technology departments need to provide support.

In many of the organizations I’ve had a chance to work with, a new role has emerged within the IT department as part of this need: the Digital Marketing Strategist. This person is responsible for technology decisions for marketing and reports to both the IT department and the CMO. This helps the departments understand the technology selection and integration that are in the IT fabric of the enterprise and helps to change the pace at which IT is working to support business needs.

A mutual roadmap

Marketers need to develop plans and processes that provide a forward-looking view as to what they want to achieve in terms of relationships with customers and understanding a user’s persona and journey. From there, they need to know how to translate and efficiently communicate this information into the systems required, delivering great customer experiences across channels. IT support and understanding of the roadmap is critical to the success of digital initiatives.

Metrics & analytics

Marketers need to determine what sort of metrics and analytics are required to ensure that they’re on the right path to building understanding of and behavioral insight into customers. This will help them better collaborate with the CIO so they can measure progress and know that they’re moving in the right direction. The combined marketing and IT focus on measurement and trends can drive better engagement for the customer and, in many cases, can become a competitive advantage.

No one can predict with 100% certainty that CMOs will eventually outspend CIOs, but from what we’re seeing in the industry, it seems more plausible each day. If CMOs and CIOs can learn to optimize their working relationship and align their teams, customers and organizations alike will reap the benefits.

Bob Egner is the VP of product management at EPiServer, a provider of multichannel digital marketing and e-commerce software. Egner regularly interacts with customers who are working to improve the results of their online and mobile presence and customer engagement.

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