The CMO is not replacing the CIO and here’s why

Three years ago, Gartner predicted that by 2017, the CMO (chief marketing officer) would spend more on IT than the CIO. This one prediction spurned a number of follow-up predictions pointing toward the end of the CIO. The bottom line that everyone wants to know: Is the CIO role indeed going away? Is another c-level function replacing the CIO? And if so, who will take over the IT function?

Changes affect the entire IT ecosystem

It is not just the CIO and IT organization that are affected by a potential realignment of the IT function. Any change would have significant ramifications from people to vendors to architectures. No aspect of IT would be spared.

If IT were to go away or otherwise move to a different organization (or organizations), it would have a significant impact on how we think, operate and support the IT ecosystem. The focus would move to the immediate problem being solved for. However, the CIO and IT as a whole carry a broader responsibility that spans the entire enterprise.

The $64,000 question: What happens to the CIO & IT?

Before answering those looming questions, it is important to see the trends that drove these predictions. Looking back, there is absolutely a decline in IT demand. Specifically, demand for Traditional IT is in decline.

At the same time, the demand from marketing is stronger than ever. So, it makes sense that some of the waning demand may be transferred to marketing.

 

CIO CMO Short Term

Unfortunately, this only tells part of the story. If the story were to stop here, it would be easy to understand the logic behind the CMO taking over IT. As demand for the traditional CIO wanes, the CMO picks up and carries the function forward. The reality is this is only a very small part of the overall movement underway.

Transformational CIO on the upswing

The transformational CIO, unlike the traditional CIO, is in high-demand. In many cases, organizations do not understand what this means or what a transformational CIO looks like let along what they are capable of. A transformational CIO, unlike traditional CIO, is far more aligned with the business of the company. They are in-tune with how the company makes and spends money. They also look for opportunities around customer engagement and business growth. Transformational CIOs are more about business and data than they are about technology. In many ways, the transformational CIO is a business leader (first) that happens to have responsibility for IT.

Mapping the transformational CIO along with the traditional CIO and CMO brings the true picture into focus.

 

CIO CMO Transforming IT

One of the biggest challenges for transformation to take place requires all three components come together: The CIO, the IT organization and the rest of the company in terms of how they look at, leverage and engage IT. This evolution is referred to as the CIO’s Three-Legged Race.

One unfortunate point to make is that few traditional CIOs will have the mettle to truly transform into transformational CIOs. It can be done, but requires a level of intestinal fortitude well beyond that of many CIOs today.

Reporting structure for the CIO

Much of the change will come from the reporting structure of the CIO. Traditional IT organizations are often seen as a cost center and therefore report into the CFO. Transformational CIOs typically report directly to the CEO signaling the importance of IT (and the CIO) in leading the company. Consequently, a CIO reporting to the CMO may make sense temporarily, but not long term. The CIO’s prevue needs to be both broader and more strategic than any one function.

Every CMO I spoke with is not interested in taking on the IT responsibility. They are today, because they have, not because they want to.

The CIO is just getting started

Taking all of this into account, the role of the CIO is only starting to expand in ways it rarely has before. The same goes for IT. Sure, it may leverage a strong relationship with the CMO today. That is a very good thing! But it will evolve into a more impactful role that truly fills the qualifications for a seat at the CEO’s table.

 

CIO CMO Full Picture

The importance of the long tail and a market of one

One could ask what does marketing have to do with the CIO and the IT organization as a whole? At the IBM Insight conference last week, this very issue came up on my interview on SiliconANGLE’s theCUBE. The short answer is everything. Marketing and the go to market (GTM) strategy are vital to a company’s strategy in delivering solutions.

Align with business

If IT is to play a significant role in a company’s growth, the connection between IT and marketing must get closer. Much closer. Marketing is just one organization that needs the true value of IT to flourish. But marketing is also one organization that is primed today for leveraging technology to further the effectiveness of the marketing efforts.

One challenge facing IT organizations is in their ability to react with speed. Meaning, how agile they are to changing business demands? This isn’t just a problem about technology, but rather one about process and people. There are technology solutions that assist with the move to a more agile organization. However, realize that it is the intersection between technology, people and process that gives many a moment of pause. Today’s problem is with enablement and engagement…and with speed.

Market of one and the long tail

For a long time, the emphasis was in determining the broader market interests. Where were the masses of customers and prospects moving and how could the company get ahead of the needs? Analytics, reports and bright minds were put to task to determine the best direction to take.

Fast forward to just a few short years ago. While mobile phones are not new, the advent of smartphones are relatively new. Couple that with mass adoption and a bevy of apps to do just about whatever is needed. The combination is a potent innovation cocktail that led many a company to righteous fortunes.

What was the secret sauce? And what does this have to do with the modern IT organization? Everything. The reality is that companies are now creating programs that target individuals, not just groups. The world is now about personalization and the market of one.

Technology gets intimate

If that headline doesn’t get your heart racing… The reality is that technology has become very intimate in multiple ways. Personalization and intimacy are hallmarks of today’s wearable device and smartphone. On a smartphone, we choose our own apps, alerts, settings and personalization through custom cases, wallpaper, etc. Wearable devices take it to the next level. Now there are devices that know what activities we do and when. Just think about that for a moment. They are monitoring a suite of sensors to watch our behaviors and provide feedback.

These are just simple examples of how the Internet of Things (IoT) is making its way into our everyday lives. And it is just the start.

Presence and timing

Mobile devices are now able to detect where you are and timing of different activities. For example, stores are able to determine where in the store you’re located and your purchase habits. Should the store offer you a coupon via the app or text message? Would that entice the customer to actually make the purchase they otherwise might have passed over? The concept of presence and timing with regards to mobile and data is becoming even more intertwined.

Putting it together

Bringing things full-circle, addressing the ‘market of one’ is simply not possible using traditional methods. These new ways of customer engagement require new ways of thinking…and new technology methods. Just about every company is moving to a data-centric model. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story.

The challenge is that IT organizations are buckling under the growing complexity. Not only do they need to move to a data-centric model, but fast. As they organize systems, processes and people in such a way, automation and enablement become more of the norm. Think DevOps.

From the IBM Insight conference, it was clear that we are only in the infancy of where our increasingly data-centric world is headed. If we (as CIOs) hope to drive toward a model of extreme customer engagement, change is needed quickly.

Think about it from the other perspective. We (as customers) are looking for personalization to our needs, when we want it. This is a great opportunity for the CIO and IT organization to participate in the process. Remember, it is about the long tail and the market of one.

Do you really want your CMO in charge of IT?

It makes sense for the CMO to help pick which technology marketing uses — but marketing is just one of many departments of a company. In this age of BYOD, all that autonomy will lead to more “rogue” IT. That’s not always a good thing.

Marketing is dead, long live marketing

In the era of cloud computing and big data, chief marketing officers can either sink or swim depending on their ability to recognize the importance of the consumer information available to them and are able to capture and put it to use.