The CMO and CIO relationship

Digital Marketing

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

Digital Marketing

Posted on 07-08-2015

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