29/04/2015

By Phil Jones, MD of Brother UK

One of the hot issues which seemed to be on every conference agenda that I attended in 2014 was the poor relationships between the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in an organisation.

Would a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) be the only outcome to resolve the ‘tech’tonic gap between two parties with differing agendas and communication styles?

On one hand the CIO is saying the CMO is ‘out of control’ with the amount of things going on outside of the firewall in terms of shadow IT, doing things too quickly and not understanding the implications for network security and infrastructure.

On the other, the CMO is saying the CIO was ‘out of touch’ with the need to adopt the latest demand generation tools, doing things too slowly and not understanding the implications for the sales numbers.

Then you’ve got the CEO saying: “Guys, get in a room and figure it out.”

Each time I heard about the issue, all I thought was that it was a clash between the types of personality that commonly fill a role.

Speaking the same language

IT roles can favour thinkers who evaluate, analyse, finish, deliver and specify.

Marketing roles favour people who like to initiate new ideas and big pictures, often with highly extrovert tendencies. They are persuasive, lively and imaginative.

Both are valuable and an organisation (and its leadership) needs those two elements working together.

The challenge is often one of communication. When left brain people talk to right brain people (and vice versa), it can seem like a different language.

Success lies in the common appreciation of each other’s roles and thinking styles, as well as understanding the big things on each other’s desks, the top priorities, the unmet pain points, the pressures and the KPI’s of what success looks like.

What’s on the agenda?

Reading the Harvey Nash 2014 CIO survey, it’s not that the average CIO doesn’t want to spend more of their time on innovation, but the competing pressures around security, commoditisation and cost control were still high.

The number one priority for CIOs for five consecutive years since the recession was cost saving, driven by business need. Only last year did it move to operational efficiency.

But the 2014 Price Waterhouse Coopers global CEO survey concluded that growth was high on their list of their priorities.

CEOs are keen to push the agenda of new products and services, markets and customer offerings.

Of the CEOs surveyed, 47% said they ‘were concerned at the speed of technological change as a threat to their organisation’s prospects’.

Bridge the gap

Speed is clearly a priority, which may contribute to marketers winning more of the digital dollar as the pressure to grow sales and stay relevant with a moving customer base increases with each day.

The CDO isn’t necessarily the answer for all, but improved internal communication will go a long way to bridging the gap.

It’s not about new role creation, it’s about communication. It’s about two functions coming together regularly to evaluate crossovers and priorities, accepting that there are organisational security requirements but also the need for speed. There is a common appetite for innovation, yet the answer might not be to bolt on yet another provider.

One thing I do know is that CEOs can be impatient, particularly if external pressure for financial performance exists. Many rely on anecdotal feedback or number-based management information, so key details can slip between the cracks under pressures of time and competing priorities. In this day and age, working the internal network is key to managing this gap. Up, down and across the work culture.

Successful CIOs I have met and questioned seemed to spend time more with marketeers and salespeople, out on the road, joining update meetings and understanding the link between the demands being made on them and the systems they then design.

They are aligned, connected and relevant, speaking the language of the business, not just the IT sector. They are highly commercial, culturally savvy and able to work through communication gaps by listening, identifying a need then calibrating expectation whilst remaining open to new ways of doing things, optimising the technology systems to get there.

Room to move

The answer isn’t exclusively about human communication. Gartner recently floated the concept of ‘bimodal IT’, or ,in other words, having the ability to develop applications quickly and outside of your major systems, learning and failing quickly before adopting anything structural into your system of records.

This may well meet the need of today’s established businesses who aren’t ready to take the leap to a CDO.

A CEO may see this two ways in terms of the CIO function: they either need a CDO or an enlightened CIO who works bimodally across the business to increase speed and relevancy with all, including marketing?

Movement is required on all sides, with no finger pointing, blame or stone throwing.

Marketing need to shift their position too and understand the back end better.

If everyone shifts, things will go up a gear.

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