With businesses adopting aggressive growth strategies, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has increasingly made decisions related to technology. Patience levels in marketing functions have been eroded over the years as market share is being determined by the speed at which products, campaigns and promotions are launched. The CMO doesn't want to wait for the supporting IT infrastructure that typically takes months for a CIO to provision. With technologies such as Cloud, virtualization and pay-as-you-go models becoming available, it has become possible for CMOs to take their own decisions related to IT. In fact, many CMOs could have larger IT budgets than the CIO! But, has the trend been fruitful? The answer is: depends.
While the CMO's decisions have led to short-term gains, the long-term organizational impact has been less than favorable. Organizations have found it challenging to integrate applications and infrastructure acquired by the CMO in isolation; often, there is duplication in efforts and assets that could have been avoided; and costs have been difficult to manage. As a consequence, organizations have been putting a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) in place. The role of a CDO is to bring IT and Marketing together. IT and Marketing are therefore required to report to the CDO. Looked at another way, a CDO treads the difficult path of marrying the goals of the CIO which are chiefly focused around 'run-the-business' and those of marketing which consistently demand 'change-the-business'! But, freshly minted as the role of a CDO is, it is already changing.
Thanks to the imperatives of digital transformation, which every large and medium sized organization must adopt, the CDO's role to bringing alignment between the CMO and the CIO now appears trivial. The CDO's new charter is to guide and navigate the organization through the storm of digital transformation. It is a larger role - and an important one, but it could also raise several eyebrows and questions.
For a CIO, the case is simple enough: The CIO understands technology, has invested years building the organization's IT backbone, and can deliver what the organization requires. From the CIO's perspective, turf is being lost to the CMO. And of late, the CIO has begun to fight back.
The truth is that thanks to budget cuts and shrinking margins – and with competition from newer asset-light organizations – the CIO has been kept busy with keeping the lights on, and with no time or budget for innovation. The ability of the CIO to change the business has taken a back seat. But the business environment itself has changed dramatically. The digital transformation sweeping organizations today calls for continuous change, it demands agility, it requires access to new tools and infrastructure. The core question therefore is: should the CIO address the changes or should the CDO? Notice, the CMO has been eliminated – at least for the moment – from the equation.
It is a bit confusing, but not really difficult to see what the CDO’s role should be (luckily, that also results in defining the role of the CIO). Typically, a CDO should not be tasked with technological decision-making. That remains the domain of the CIO. The CDO must also take a step back from being the "bridge" between IT and Marketing. Instead, a CDO with vision would look at how the organization can address customer needs better through the use of technology. The CDO would ensure that the vision was backed by sound data and analysis. The CDO’s office would then determine the technology transformation path for the organization.
This is logical. The CDO's new role allows the CMO to continue with the core task of ensuring a healthy presence in markets while that of the CIO remains managing enterprise IT. It doesn't take deep management insight to also see that when the CDO, CMO and CIO work together as a team, the organization will emerge wiser and stronger than before.