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StrategySep 15, 2015

Why do CMOs and CIOs have so much trouble working together? How will the CDO fit in?

Justin Bell

At a time when many executives say that improving digital reach will be a significant differentiator for their companies, research shows that two of the most important digital leaders in most organizations — the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and the Chief Information Officer (CIO) — do not trust each other, understand each other, or collaborate with each other. Thus, even though both marketing and IT professionals say they want to be more collaborative, meaningful collaboration is unlikely to occur.

Differing incentives is one of the biggest barriers to an effective relationship between marketing and IT. Gene Morphis, former CFO of CVS and David’s Bridal suggests: “There is an interesting intersection between risk management and innovation that emerges in the CMO/CIO interface.” It’s the ultimate intersection between those who are often tasked with driving change, innovation, and revenue growth (marketing) and those who need to ensure that there aren’t any issues or risk with technology, information, and systems (information technology). It’s up to the CEO to ensure that marketing and IT are on the same page when considering innovation goals and risk management.

Especially in the “digital” space, getting this right will be the key to success for companies moving forward.  That’s part of the reason why many companies are introducing a new role to their executive suite, the Chief Digital Officer.  About 20% of companies currently have this role, but it is expected that by 2016 approximately 50% of fortune 500 companies will have a Chief Digital Officer.  For this “three legged stool” to be effective, it is essential that the company put the proper structure in place, including:

  • Align on vision and goals (e.g., define ultimate goals / priorities, determine desired speed / risk tolerance, etc.)

  • Build the right teams

  • Clarify decision making and governance (e.g., have a decision making framework, have clearly defined roles, expect compromise, etc.)

  • Provide transparency (e.g., meet regularly, develop a dashboard to track progress, etc.)

Does your company have a Chief Digital Officer?  How do they divide the responsibilities with the CMO and CIO?