Adobe Digital Dialogue

The CMO and CIO relationship

The CMO and CIO relationship – in Stars Wars terms, is it like Han Solo versus the Enterprise Mothership – or have we moved on?

The CIO and CMO rela­tion­ship can be com­pared to a real­i­ty TV show. Every­one is sit­ting on the side­lines eat­ing pop­corn hop­ing to see a bit of biff between the two sides. But are we all get­ting a bit tired of watch­ing this tus­sle? How many times have you heard the CIO and CMO rela­tion­ship been described in the Mars ver­sus Venus con­text? Or in a Star Wars set­ting, as the CMO is Han Solo, the mav­er­ick who is quick and nim­ble, and the CIO who is like the enter­prise moth­er­ship, big and slow and wor­ried about secu­ri­ty, sta­bil­i­ty and reli­a­bil­i­ty?

For years com­men­ta­tors have talked up the ten­sion between CIOs and CMOs. CIOs do not per­ceive mar­ket­ing sys­tems on the same lev­el of strate­gic impor­tance as data­bas­es and CRM sys­tems. CMOs on the oth­er hand feel their job requires them to be agile; to be able to plan and exe­cute cam­paigns in days. CMOs con­sid­er IT is just too slow, they don’t think about things in the con­text of days or even weeks.

The growth of digital marketing has, however, changed the playing field. CIOs are now increasingly seeing marketing as mission critical.

CMOs are grow­ing in influ­ence with­in the busi­ness. With dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies, mar­keters are increas­ing­ly able to mea­sure what they do, and demon­strate with real data to the CEO the val­ue of what they do. This pow­er has giv­en many mar­ket­ing depart­ments the free­dom to out­source their IT needs, dilut­ing the CIO’s pow­er base. As IT comes to terms with the mis­sion crit­i­cal nature of what mar­ket­ing is doing, the ani­mos­i­ty between CIOs and CMOs is begin­ning to recede.

With­in the largest and most vision­ary organ­i­sa­tions, IT and mar­ket­ing are now work­ing togeth­er. IT builds the infra­struc­ture, makes sure it is secure and works in a way that deliv­ers to mar­ket­ing the agili­ty they require. Sys­tems are now being deployed in a way that gives mar­ket­ing a self-serve capa­bil­i­ty to make use of the tools them­selves and make changes adhoc and quick­ly.

Key to fur­ther improve­ments in the CIO and CMO rela­tion­ship is a respect of each other’s KPIs. They both also need to under­stand the state of tech­nol­o­gy today and what is pos­si­ble. Last­ly, a rea­son­able pow­er shar­ing arrange­ment needs to be put in place – where each par­ty has a role to play.

Join me at Adobe Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Sym­po­sium 2015 in Sin­ga­pore as I take on the age old debate, who’s in charge any­way? CMO or CIO? New tech­nolo­gies give mar­keters pow­er­ful new tools. Mean­while, mar­ket­ing is now dri­ving the busi­ness agen­da. So what comes first: tech­nol­o­gy or mar­ket­ing?


Cov­er image pro­vided cour­tesy of Sergey Sukhovey at and is dis­played under the terms of the Cre­ative Com­mons license

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