Forrester’s Three-Step Recipe for CMO, CIO Alignment

Marketing and IT can often seem like oil and vinegar: Their work flows, agendas, and objectives just don’t mix. But collaboration can diminish frustrations and lead to solid business results. Forrester Research, Inc. advises marketing and IT leaders to follow a three-step recipe and align their people, process, and technology in its latest report “The CMO and CIO Must Accelerate on Their Path to Better Collaboration” based on an online survey conducted in partnership with Forbes Insights.

“Marketers can no longer effectively lead marketing organizations that deliver results without having technology intertwined into their business practice,” says VP and Principal Analyst Sheryl Pattek, author of the report.


While marketers are constantly engaging with consumers and have time-to-market needs IT focuses on back-end areas like security and data alignment and have slower implementations, Pattek says. Hence, the two departments often have conflicting viewpoints when it comes to the sense of urgency needed to meet consumers’ expectations. Pattek says these conflicting viewpoints often tempt marketers to try and work around IT and implement cloud-based solutions–a habit that eventually leaves marketers with several solutions that aren’t integrated. As a result, marketers can’t leverage the back-end data that they need, and they end up turning to IT to integrate the systems, she says. 

“The main reason why we see marketers going around IT is that they don’t trust IT’s ability to deliver the results that they need,” Pattek says.

And a lack of communication between departments only makes the mistrust worse. According to the report, 70% of IT leaders agree that they have adapted their internal processes to support faster delivery of time-sensitive marketing projects; however, only 45% of marketers would agree. IT professionals claim to have a better understanding of marketing’s priorities as well. The report cites that 68% of IT leaders agree that they communicate marketing’s strategic priorities; yet, less than half of marketers surveyed (49%) say that they can return the favor.

To help facilitate better communication, marketing and IT need executives who are fluent in both tongues, such as a marketing technologist. And while 49% of IT employees say that their CIOs hire employees with marketing knowledge, just 19% of marketers say their CMOs hire technology experts focused on customer engagement, according to the report.

“If you think about people who speak totally different languages—somebody speaks French and somebody speaks Spanish—the most difficult thing is to reach a common understanding,” Pattek says. “When you hire people with those skills and the ability to have the understanding on the other side of the fence, you really create a translator between the two organizations who can translate each other’s needs, and achieve that commonality behind those needs, and focus on how to move forward together to achieve the business goals.”


Marketing and IT employees don’t disagree on everything. Seventy-eight percent of marketers and 81% of IT staff members deem customer intelligence a strategic priority. The two departments must take this common goal to fuel joint efforts. Both departments are beginning to make some headway on this front. Seventy percent of IT leaders and 51% of marketing leaders agree that they have shared ownership and responsibility for marketing technology projects, according to the report. To help align these processes, 68% of IT heads and 55% of marketing leaders participate in joint committee that approves marketing projects requiring technology. Furthermore, 61% of IT heads and 45% of marketing heads say their CMOs and CIOs meet regularly to evaluate objectives and progress.

“When CMOs and CIOs meet regularly, they build a level of trust with each other and then establish a culture for the entire organization that they can lead by example in that they are openly communicating and supporting each other’s priorities,” Pattek says.


Marketing technology is the heart of marketing today, Pattek says. But defining a marketing technology strategy that supports both marketing and IT is easier said than done. In fact, less than half of marketers surveyed (45%) say their organizations have established a marketing technology strategy, compared to 61% of IT leaders.

This technology is needed to help drive a single view of the customer. But once again, marketers and IT heads have differing views on how well their organizations are achieving this goal. According to the report, 47% of marketers say their organization’s customer touchpoints are designed to deliver and collect information, versus 61% of IT professionals. In addition, only 38% of marketers agree that their company has a single view of customer interactions across touchpoints and over time, compared to half of IT employees.

Where to start

Getting CMOs and CIOs to collaborate takes time and organizational change. Here are four of Pattek’s suggestions on how companies can get their CMOs and CIOs to work together.

  • Meet on a regular basis: Pattek advises CMOs and CIOs to check in with each other frequently and to lay their priorities and strategic objectives on the table so that they can come up with new ways to align their goals.
  • Create a marketing technology blueprint: “If CMOs and CIOs can sit down at the table together and begin to outline the marketing technology strategy, it then allows the two organizations to work towards a common vision,” Pattek says. “Without a map of where you’re going, it’s pretty hard to get there together.”
  • Establish shared goals and an end-of-the-year bonus modifier: Pattek encourages organizations to come up with a modifier to end-of-the-year bonuses that allows marketing and IT to share similar goals and success metrics, such as increase in digital customer experiences or improvement in joint product deliver deadlines. She says this helps get both sides on the same page in terms of how they will be measured.
  • Hire a referee: Having someone who understands both sides of the fence, such as a marketing technologist, can help facilitate communication between the two departments.
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