There have been hundreds of thousands of words spilled over the new mandate to drive CIO and CMO alignment. A Google search with those words in quotes produces more than 19,000 results. There are white papers, articles, blog posts, events, and even entire websites dedicated to the alignment of the technology and marketing agendas.
In many cases, this alignment is defined as each group working in tandem to share skills and clearly communicate each other’s charter. There are scores of recommendations from “gurus” saying that the entire IT mandate should be to conform its strategy to “know the customer” and/or that the entire marketing strategy should be built around a market-leading “technology stack.” And, further, as an IBM Study called CMOs and CIOs Acquaintances or Allies found, both “the CMO and CIO are under considerable pressure to accurately predict the future, develop strategic responses, and execute and deliver value.”
Here’s the thing. In my experience, any business that attempts to align like this will find itself on an unfulfilling and never-ending maze. There can never be any alignment with an inside-looking-out departmental strategy. Each has different functions and getting deep into each other’s world isn’t the answer.
You may have seen this. It typically expresses itself with the CMO hiring a “technical person” or the IT group hiring a “marketing project person” and the business saying “yup, all aligned, let’s move on.” Then, there is shock when the siloes return and the initiative fails -- only this time it’s even more pronounced because now everybody “knows what the acronyms mean.”
And this is the key. Rather than trying to conform one strategy to meet the other’s goals -- or worse, conforming both strategies with some bridged emissary to meet jointly communicated but siloed goals -- the CMO/CIO alignment should come from a shared company-wide goal.
Just like the buddies in a cop movie, Marketing and IT don’t need to love each other. They don’t even have to like each other very much. But they need to be able to use both of their inherent unique talents and strengths together to drive success for the business.
And They’ve Got a Good Reason to Team Up
Let’s put all of this frustration and dismay into some context. Most enterprise marketing and technology groups that I speak with are more frustrated with the process of it all than they are with the people. In our experience, many enterprises believe they have both the desire and the ability to create compelling customer and content experiences in narrow pockets, but they lack confidence in their ability to align with and scale to the level they need to address the entire business.
One of the reasons that there are so many high expectations from marketing and technology (and thus the CMO and CIO) is because of how much each department touches every part of the organization on a daily basis. Today, every part of the business has the potential to touch the customer at some point along his or her buying journey. Whether it’s an erroneous tweet from the accounting department about a legal challenge, a blog post that doesn’t match the situation on the ground, a Facebook post that is ignored, or the direct result of the CEO reacting poorly to a customer complaint -- the empowered customer now has an expectation that service and communication is but a click away. And further, it’s no secret that technology has truly enabled every single part of the business with more powerful and effective ways to manage (and mismanage) content.
But sadly, the consumption of technology and the speed of marketing innovation is outpacing most businesses’ ability to deal with it. Both the CMO and the CIO are struggling just to keep up with expectations of the business, much less exceed the expectations of consumers.
Interestingly, a study conducted two years ago by McKinsey found that 66% of enterprise software projects have cost overruns. A third of them go beyond the estimated schedule, and almost 20% of them fall short of promised benefits. And as the McKinsey study noted:
“As staggering as these findings are, most companies survive the pain of cost and schedule overruns. However, 17% of IT projects go so bad that they can threaten the very existence of the company.”
However, in contrast, The Fournaise Group conducted a study that found that while 90% of CEO’s do trust and value the opinion and work of both CFO’s and CIO’s, a full 80% of them do not trust and are not very impressed by the work done by marketers. A Nielsen Study in 2009 found that the average short-term return on marketing investment was about 1.09. In other words, for every dollar spent on marketing, about $1.09 was returned.
So, there’s a very interesting dichotomy here. While CIOs have the trust of the CEO, their risk is in actually performing. And while the CMOs mostly perform, their risk is that they don’t have the CEO’s trust.
This is why it’s more important than ever that both CMOs and CIOs collaborate together to team up and line up the entirety of the business. In short -- it’s not about the CMO aligning with the CIO strategy or vice versa. It’s both of them collaborating to structure a unified strategy around the customer journey.