The Secret to a Truly Successful CMO/CIO Relationship

Nancy CostopulosBy Nancy Costopulos, chief marketing officer, American Marketing Association

I have spent more than 20 years in the marketing field and thankfully, recognized early on that technology would play a huge role in the marketing industry.  And as a result,  I have been the biggest champion of IT and often been  best friends with my technology counterparts over the course of my career. But with that, I’m not sure I even realized how crucially important technology would become in the world of marketing today.

cmo-cioAs the chief marketing officer (CMO) of a small business, I am frequently looking to my chief information officer (CIO) (who sits ten feet away from me!) for collaboration and teamwork to get the job done. Small to medium size businesses like ours, face a slew of challenges when it comes to marketing and IT, including a lack of resources and staff, among other issues – so it’s imperative that CMOs and CIOs reach across the table and work together with a common set of goals. And when it comes to this C-suite collaboration, we all know the basics, right? It’s important for CMOs and CIOs to talk with one another, keep each other informed, work together, etc.  But let’s discuss what’s really key to making this relationship work.

Transparency: As a marketer, when I’m working with the IT Department, I need options. I need answers. I need help understanding the technical complexity of certain projects or if a work around makes sense. Ultimately, I want to understand what IT is really capable of and comfortable delivering, which is why transparency between marketing and technology is essential. Marketers need to better communicate with IT by helping them understand what the real business need is and the rationale to support it.  Marketers also must demonstrate to IT that the business strategy is at the forefront and that the customer is at the center of their decisions.  On the other side, IT needs to better understand that marketers are ultimately responsible for business growth and innovation and join forces for the best road to success. Ultimately, transparency in terms of wants, needs, possibilities and capabilities is crucial between both the marketing and IT departments.

Trust: So, as a CMO, you meet with your CIO on a weekly basis. You talk to each other, update each other, but so what? Does that really lead to trust?  As a marketer, I have to know that the IT Department really can execute what I need. And the IT Department needs to have confidence that I’m not asking for frivolous tasks, but providing them with the necessary requirements which will ultimately benefit the business strategy. Through transparency, CMOs and CIOs can engender this trust, which at the end of the day, will help drive the success of the overall relationship.

Reputation Management: We all know the stereotypes. IT views marketing as the group that races around with a bunch of ideas. We think everything is a priority and we set unrealistic expectations with IT, because we don’t understand technical complexity.  On the other hand, IT seems to get away with missing deadlines, changing priorities, or simply blaming their lack of resources on why projects aren’t completed on time. So how do we combat these unfair stereotypes? Instead of viewing ourselves as roadblocks, both marketing and IT should make themselves enablers to improved business performance.

Instead of making things seem impossible, discuss what is possible, and work together to accomplish common goals. If IT really can’t dedicate the necessarily resources, they should work with marketers to help with a solution.  This makes for more collaboration and joint problem solving, making marketing and IT important allies. And you guessed it, the CMO and CIO need to be the ones to lead this charge and ensure that a real partnership emerges.

As the CMO of the American Marketing Association, I know how critical my relationship with the CIO is. But it’s more than just communication. We need to trust each other and understand we’re partners for the long haul. If CMOs and CIOs can support each other on an ongoing basis, enable one another to accomplish goals, and view one another as allies, then ultimately the relationship between marketing and IT can be truly successful.

On Tuesday, March 26 at 9 p.m. EST I will be participating in a GetRealChat twitter chat, along with IBM’s Elana Anderson, vice president, IBM enterprise marketing management, to discuss the CMO/CIO relationship and more importantly, how the role of the CMO has evolved and emerged as the next powerplayer in technology. Please join the conversation by following the hashtag #GetRealChat – You can also follow me during the chat via @AMA_Marketing and Elana will tweet from @ELANAERA.

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Jessica Paul

I always have a strong belief that success of any of the IT companies or
businesses is solely dependent on the strong relationship between the Chief Information
Officer and Chief Management Officers. I have often observed about the same
from IBMEmail and
emails of other IT Companies.


[…] more insights, please visit this Smarter Commerce blog post written by Nancy Costopulos, CMO, AMA which touches upon the secret to a successful relationship […]

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