CIO/CMO: Industry’s New Power Couple?

Amin Al Zarouni

Having been on both sides of the table, as a customer and as a vendor, I have had the unique opportunity to closely observe some of biggest changes technology has brought to organizations. But from my vantage point, one disruptive trend today deservedly vies for the top spot: the digital explosion.

Why do I think so? Because digital technologies promise an unprecedented union between data and market intelligence and offer the industry a real chance to deliver new engagement modes that will drive exceptional customer experiences.

No room for ownership battles

The truth is that the biggest barriers to drive integrated strategies have less to do with technology and more to do with aligning people across departments around a single shared vision. Boardroom battles often center on ownership issues between IT and the departments with which it needs to integrate.

However, the fast-paced digital landscape has necessitated making turf wars a thing of the past and transformed traditional working relationships. The CIO and CMO have now come face-to-face and the debate is no longer about whether they should align. It is about how.

Why this marriage works

Today, undoubtedly, CIO engagement with the CMO is as important as aligning IT with finance or management. If you think about it, the alignment between the CIO/CFO was instrumental in pushing for a performance-led culture across the industry today. While technology enabled transformation, finance facilitated better overall performance. The result was better -run companies and more efficient processes.

Similarly, today the CIO/CMO alignment can give the industry a new power couple that can bring technology and market intelligence together to drive competitive advantage like never before.

Delivering the digital expectation

So who needs to do what first? Let’s take a look at their core roles today to answer this question. The CMO by nature of the business itself is well positioned to take a leadership role in the digital space. The marketers are out there building the public face of the organization with their ears on the ground. However, what they need is speed to market and timely delivery of strategies to bring the customers closer.

CIOs, by virtue of their long-standing contribution towards enablement, are in fact better placed that anyone to make this a reality by introducing technologies that will help action customer interaction. But what IT needs is a better understanding marketing strategies to help the company stay on top of trends.

By bringing together marketing and enablement in the digital space, the CMO and CIO will be able to jointly mobilize teams to deliver on customers’ digital expectation. And this can deliver four key benefits:

  • IT can help marketing bring its digital vision to life with the right tools
  • IT and marketing alignment will help unify customer experiences and seamlessly integrate multiple transaction channels
  • By unifying teams, data and intelligence can become a shared resource. IT can help visualize scenarios while marketing can gamify these for better learning
  • New marketing opportunities can be identified as a result of implementing advanced listening tools

Keeping our ears on the ground and our hands on the tools

Capitalizing on this alignment to deliver a real result is the name of the game, and this brings me to another success story that I would like to share. At Bee’ah, we had invested extensively in social listening tools to understand what our customers were thinking about recycling. However, without IT integration this was a halfhearted exercise with little action.

So we put our technology and marketing heads together and mobilized IT to start using this market information and social media to create digital maps. We tapped into social media channels to understand who our key influencers were, and then went on to link customer comments to create awareness maps for the services being offered. The results were astounding.

We discovered that awareness levels were significantly higher in the central part of the Emirate of Sharjah, where most of our efforts were focused, but the potential to expand was actually on the outskirts.

Armed with this data, IT and marketing were able to draft a new strategy that would specifically drive campaigns and teams to areas that were lacking in awareness. This resulted in focused action, better communication with target customers and drove measurable results.

This story reinstates the point that I’ve been making all along. The value proposition is simple: If we all had access to intuitive data to power our customer engagement tactics, we really can’t go wrong. It’s time for the CIO and CMO to head more often for their friendly water-cooler chat!

For more insight on effective leadership practices, see Why Does The CMO Need A Role On The Board?


Amin Al Zarouni

About Amin Al Zarouni

Amin Al Zarouni is the Chief Business Development Officer of SAP UAE, aiming to expand SAP’s support in driving digital transformation in the UAE’s public sector, especially in key verticals such as national security and defense, healthcare, and education. In particular, Amin aims to align SAP’s strategy in the UAE with national initiatives such as UAE Vision 2021, Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, Dubai Plan 2021 and Dubai Smart City, and World Expo 2020 in Dubai. Amin brings extensive experience in business information technology, previously working at Bee’ah, Sharjah’s leading environmental management company, where he held the position of Chief Information Officer for more than three years. During his tenure at Bee’ah, the organization implemented a variety of SAP solutions in support of enhancing Sharjah’s environmental sustainability. As a result, Bee’ah won Gold in the SAP Quality Awards under the Business Transformation Category, and received the Etisalat Intelligent Fleet Management award for the largest number of connected vehicles. Prior to his time at Bee’ah, Amin held the position of IT Manager with Sharjah Media Corporation, and served as Business Intelligence Team Lead with Dubai Aluminum (DUBAL). During his entire career, Amin has been named a Top 100 CIO in 2015, a Top 50 CIO in 2013, and graduated with distinction from the Sharjah Leadership Program. Amin holds a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management from the University of Wollongong in Dubai, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering from the American University of Sharjah.