Blurring lines: Is there a future CIMO?

There is a battle going on in the boardroom; a battle around who controls technology in the business.

With the role of digital technology changing the way people work and offering many benefits for businesses, the CIO is under a lot of pressure to advise on the right tools and services for the business and make the move towards what we call the Digital Workplace. Or as my colleague Dave Carmichael puts it: “IT effectively needs to think more about how it steers the boat that is enterprise IT rather than just rowing it.”

Social media, cloud computing, mobile and big data are permeating every organisation, but technology is becoming increasingly integrated into specific business processes, all out of the CIO’s control. Avanade’s ‘IT without boundaries’ research found more than a third (37 per cent) of technology spend is now controlled by departments other than IT. This means that CIOs need to change their perception of their organisations from being providers of IT services to being service brokers or enablers, partnering with other departments to source differentiated (often cloud-based) services that grow the business.

On the other hand, sales, marketing and digital teams, controlled by the CMO, are more reliant on technology to prove ROI. So, how can the CIO and CMO work together to meet business objectives?

While many would have you believe that the role of the CIO will become redundant as the role of the CMO becomes more tech-heavy, this couldn’t be further from the truth. To succeed in the new digital landscape, CMOs and CIOs must partner and find a common point of view around the Digital Workplace; something we at Avanade term the Chief Information Marketing Officer (CIMO) Perspective. This serves as a way to address the thinking and perspectives that these two roles consider when preparing their organisation for the digital world.

CIMO perspective: Evolving internal practices

Although CMOs and CIOs have individual expertise and experiences, in order to adopt the CIMO perspective, they must share a unified digital vision. Why? Because this allows their organisation to harness the combined power of marketing and IT to deliver better digitally-enabled experiences for customers and other key audiences.

Nowadays consumers expect more – whether that’s instant confirmation of returns from their retailers or the sales person to have a history of their previous purchases and make recommendations - and the way that businesses respond could be the new competitive differentiator. The CIMO approach would mean communicating and engaging with customers across the various digital touch points, offering a seamless, multi-channel experience from brands.

Agreeing cross-department objectives

To help understand how this CIMO approach works in practice we recently conducted in-depth interviews with IT and marketing decision makers to identify the key issues facing the CMO and CIO. What did we find? Common ground, when it came to technology trends and innovations impacting the day-to-day role of the CMO and CIO, but differences when it came to IT spending priorities:

  • Data has become the competitive advantage for businesses: Both recognised the increasing dominance of data and the value that comes from improving platform integration and tracking capabilities, providing a ‘one view’ of the customer.
  • The customer journey has fragmented and businesses need to adapt: Both acknowledge that the proliferation of digital touch points has made it difficult for businesses to control and track the customer path to purchase.

Despite these similarities, however, when it comes to awareness of the technology trends impacting their business, the research found a disconnect when it came to technology investment. CMOs – who are often measured against ROI – want technology that helps them to achieve their business goals and enables them to create innovative interactions that ‘delight customers’. CIOs on the other hand – who are often measured against tech spend – prioritise the security and cost-effectiveness of the technology they are investing in to build the Digital Workplace. Yet CIOs needs to think more holistically about how technology can solve business problems by positioning themselves as the service broker, bridging all the different Lines of Business.

What’s clear from the research is that although marketing and IT professionals agree on the main technology and digital trends impacting their business, their approach to IT and technology investment differs. What we currently have is a situation where IT and marketing departments are both working in silos to overcome the same technology and innovation barriers, but battling against each other in the boardroom to achieve their own objectives.

In order for organisations to take a CIMO approach inside their business, objectives and deliverables need to be agreed at a macro level rather than micro level, to ensure marketing and IT priorities are aligned from a digital perspective.

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