Shared projects can ease the mistrust

Shared projects can ease the mistrust

The digital era has changed everything in the C-suite. By 2017 Gartner predicts that marketing’s increased reliance on customer insight and digital targeting will mean the CMO commissions more IT and analytics projects than the CIO. However, IBM has found that 70 per cent of CMOs do not feel prepared for this heightened role that data and IT are playing in their work lives.

Given the rapid pace of technology advancement, one would think a spirit of collaboration would be ushered in but, truth be told, there is what Accenture has termed the ‘CMO-CIO disconnect’.

The reason? There is a deep-seated mistrust. CMOs think IT is far too inflexible and takes forever on any project while IT believes marketing doesn’t like to involve it in strategy, thinking of it as simply a platform provider rather than an active, collaborative partner.

So how can organisations bridge the CMO and CIO divide?

Co-funding projects could be that solution, as Adobe’s example shows. To gain a deeper insight into customers, the company set up a project team staffed by both marketing and IT, which was funded equally by each department. Participants were clear from the outset that they were now part of a new team, rather than the original function they came from and they then jointly presented to both the CIO and the CMO. The collaboration had very clear customer insight goals and a timeline to achieve them. When completed, the team members went back to their usual positions within the organisation.

Co-funding therefore can be a great way to get the best out of both worlds without the need for either function to merge into the other or additional hires to fill any skills gaps. But there needs to be some delineation and ‘ownership’ in shared projects as well. It would be unrealistic to expect two very different functions to seamlessly integrate without some dividing up of the roles. The key is for IT to maintain responsibility for data handling and policies while customer databases are run by marketing. 

No one claims it will be easy to break that cycle of mistrust between CMOs and CIOs, but there’s no other way if businesses are to truly benefit from the opportunity that access to customer data presents. From those making the early inroads the lessons seem clear. What you can do is have mutual respect and set up shared projects that are equally funded and in which ownership is clearly set out to avoid future conflict. So the next time your organisation sets out on a project that requires involvement from both the IT and marketing functions, it’s worth trying to treat it as ‘the beginning of a beautiful friendship’. But with clear roles and responsibilities.