Does Your Business Need A CMO, A CIO, Or Both?


In most companies, the marketing and technology departments have traditionally functioned in very separate spaces. While marketing executives have concentrated on understanding their customer base and creativity, IT has been focused on data management and software development.

But as the internet becomes more central to how business operates, and with customers expecting a digital experience, marketing needs to delve into technology more and more, while IT must begin to foster a full understanding of the company’s customer base.

So are the two sections gradually merging together? Is there still a need for both a CMO and a CIO, or would a move to a CDO (Chief Digital Officer) make more sense, to oversee both divisions?

A marriage of convenience

In order for both sections to survive, the CMO and CIO have to build a solid relationship, as both depend on the other. In many cases, the marketing department spends more money on technology than the IT department spends on itself. Technology is not only employed internally on systems such as accounting and payroll, but it’s now used to engage customers through websites, apps, and CRM systems – the pillars of any modern business.

It’s common that the heads of both divisions feel their department offers more to the business as a whole, but this is an outdated belief that needs to be put to rest. Achieving a happy middle ground between two already-established c-level employees is likely to be challenging, but fostering an understanding is key to a profitable and productive future.

A shift in roles

Although CMO’s have typically been tasked with the creativity and the art of strategy, a shift is underway. In order to devise successful strategies and campaigns, they need to be on top of analytics and the data involved in revenue opportunities. They need to embrace facts and figures while maintaining the vision on how to capture these figures in the first place. All this needs to be gathered with precision and assembled into useful core insights.

The modern CIO has to shift his thinking from just focussing on IT as a two-dimensional tool to a three-dimensional system that embraces the human element. Data is now key to how businesses run, and the CIO has to be accountable for the technology that drives forward revenue growth. They now have to provide value through the data and insights they gather, rather than acting as a reactive force to counteract technical shortcomings.

Learning the language

In order to work well together the CMO has to provide specific business goals that will drive the company forward. The CIO then has to find feasibility and cost for these goals within the analytics, which usually requires some compromise from both sides. Language can be an issue, as both divisions have their own vocabulary. Expectations need to be managed successfully from both sides to avoid frustrations and breakdowns in communications.

Two heads are better than one

Even though progression in the way businesses operates dictates a need for a partnership between CMO and CIO, the need for both still stands. Each has an understanding of their own specialities, and brings that expertise to the table. This broader view can only be an asset, as it will increase the overall vision and thus give more value and productivity.

A general manager?

The counter-argument of putting a CDO in charge suggests the role becomes more of a general manager, overseeing a mixed team of specialists. The issue arises on whether one person has the skill set to deal with both marketing and technological challenges, regardless of the decreasing chasm between the two divisions. However, as more young people enter the workforce, there is likely to be an increase in the number of individuals who have studied both IT and marketing. At the same time, more universities and training programs will understand the marriage of these two industries – so expect a wave of successful candidates in the near future.

Best of both

A marriage between the two chief officers offers the best of both worlds: an amalgamation of experience and knowledge which, when channelled together for a common end result, should result in increased productivity. However, the success of this strategy does rely strongly on the partnership gelling and the personalities and communication skills of the CMO and CIO involved.

Therefore the decision comes down to each individual business to make the best decision for their company, whether that entails keeping both officers, or looking for a third-party to help bridge the divide.