The CIO-CMO Relationship: 4 Steps For Effective Collaboration

Bernard Chung

Make no mistake about it…if you are a C-level executive, you are in your position because you are smart, business savvy, and excel at what you do.

You may not, however, be great at communicating with the other C’s in the company – even when you desperately need each other for your own individual and departmental success.

Take CIOs and CMOs, for instance.

The crux: opposing – and sometimes – conflicting goals

CIOs are constantly looking high and low for ways to save companies money through operational and business process efficiencies. On the other hand, the CMO’s job is to spend, spend, spend – and to do so quickly based on data-driven decisions that outmaneuver the competition. So it’s understandable that you, as a CMO, might have a desire for the latest technology for such things as real-time social media tracking, Big Data analytics, or customer experience nurturing programs. On the other hand, if you’re a CIO, isn’t it common for your response to be: “Sorry, it’s not in the budget!”?

Screech. Time stands still as both of you face off and defend your individual C-level positions – and as one of you tries to keep the business running while the other tries to grow the business. Meanwhile, the market is shifting and the competition is winning deals left and right.

Collaboration made easy

So what’s the answer? The reality is that both the CIO and CMO faction – and your individual departments – must make a concerted effort to work more collaboratively for the greater good of all. Here are four easy ways that you, as sometimes opposing forces, can begin to communicate better and form a relationship that works for each of you as well as for the company.

1. Find common, understandable language

Every core function within an enterprise has its own language that is as commonplace as sliced bread – within that department, that is. However, a marketing guru may not know that an API is an application programming interface, while a techie may not know that organic search has nothing to do with healthy foods. So your first task, all you CIO and CMO folks, is to be kind to each other, and speak in language that you can both understand.

2. Keep each other’s goals in mind

Each C executive has both individual and department goals, which at first glance, may not be in sync. But once again, let’s be real. You can help each other succeed – and make each other look like superstars – once you take time to understand each other’s individual goals. Working together is always more rewarding than being stuck in no-man’s land due to lack of compromise. Want even greater success? If so, then you may even want to include common IT and marketing goals and metrics into your individual and department incentive plans.

3. Meet frequently

This may depend on your industry or business, but most enterprises are changing rapidly as they attempt to keep up with the pace of innovation. Why not team together through regular meetings? They don’t have to be long, drawn-out affairs, but they can be concise and informative, so that each department is continually on the same wavelength and working cohesively together. This is also a great time to collectively brainstorm on common corporate goals as well.

4. Have expertise exchanges

If a technical person doesn’t fully understand why he or she has to jump through hoops to set up the backend for a special marketing program, frustration may reign. However, if marketing takes the time to explain that this campaign could generate thousands of dollars in revenue for the company within a short window of time, the techie may approach the task differently. It works the other way too. Marketing people sometimes dream up outlandish ideas for complicated systems that could break IT’s budget for the year. However, once the objectives are clear, marketing and IT can work together to come up with a solution that is far more effective and less costly. For instance, on tasks such as mapping a customer’s digital journey from beginning to end, two problem-solving minds will certainly be more effective than individual and sometimes conflicting efforts.

Will these suggestions work? Maybe, maybe not. But hopefully, they will stimulate a greater respect and understanding between the CIO and CMO and create a collaborative relationship that makes everyone a success.

Discover: Help your LoB colleagues turn every customer interaction into valuable engagement to drive business results with The Customer Journey: A Handbook for Meaningful (and Profitable) Engagement.


Bernard Chung

About Bernard Chung

Bernard Chung is Head of Audience Marketing for Marketing Line of Business at SAP Hybris.