Who's Your Buddy? CIOs and CMOs Forming Effective Alliances

Who's Your Buddy? CIOs and CMOs Forming Effective Alliances

CIOs who build a partnership with the CMO find that it can pay off both in and out of the boardroom. IT and marketing departments really have something worthwhile to share with each other

Felix and Oscar. Dharma and Greg. The CIO and the CMO. Talk about your famous odd couples.

IT and marketing departments have traditionally had a relationship that is best described — speaking diplomatically — as strained. Both sides have long-standing stereotypes and personal beefs: CMOs are creative and rely on gut instinct; CIOs are geeky and love process. Marketers are forever changing project requirements and leaving IT out of the loop; IT is a project slowpoke and doesn't recognize marketing as a priority. At least nobody is calling the other a slob.

CIOs and CMOs with a significant impact on the business have first built a relationship between themselves and their departments

But those old notions are fading. IT and marketing leaders realize they share the goal of meeting customer needs and winning market share for the business, according to a recent report by Forrester Research, "Partnering for Success: The CIO-CMO Relationship". In fact, CIOs are starting to realize that they may have no better partner in the executive suite than the CMO.

"CIOs and CMOs need each other to fulfil the strategic priorities of the CEO," says Liz Brady, senior analyst for Forrester Research's Leadership Boards, and co-author of the report with Cindy Commander, analyst for Forrester's Leadership Boards. "To do that, they need to understand each other."

Commander notes that CIOs and CMOs also face many of the same challenges. "Both feel the need to be more strategic, to get respect, and to show value and results to the organization," she says.

For the CIO, the first step to understanding marketing is to engage with the CMO. CIOs and CMOs with a significant impact on the business have first built a relationship between themselves and their departments, according to Forrester.

"Going it alone in the boardroom can be a bit scary," says Commander. "But when you can go in together, you have an ally."

Brady and Commander point out that there are several strategic reasons for the CIO to cosy up to marketing beyond CRM and revenue generation: Think office politics (partner with the CMO and you have a buddy in the boardroom), governance (work with marketing and you can keep an eye on new customer-facing technologies that might fly under IT's radar) and career trajectory (master marketing and you'll have a core competency you'll need to become COO or CEO).

Come Together

One company the Forrester researchers studied was Symantec, maker of antivirus and security software. IT and marketing were not always aligned in early 2006, when Symantec CIO David Thompson arrived. It was clear there was room for improvement in the relationship.

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