How CIOs and CMOs Can Work Together to Drive Innovation

The CIO and CMO are two essential cogs in the wheel of corporate innovation. When they work together, they can create a powerful engine for change. Here’s how these two executives can join forces to drive innovation in their organizations.

Historical tension between IT and marketing

The CIO and CMO relationship can be strained at times because of differences in priorities, objectives, and approaches. The CIO is traditionally focused on infrastructure and technology, while the CMO is typically more focused on marketing and customer experience. CIOs may see marketing initiatives as unnecessary, or even frivolous. Meanwhile, CMOs may see IT as slow and cumbersome to work with. Additionally, CIOs may be resistant to changes or investments in marketing technology, while CMOs often push for newer, more cutting-edge solutions. Because of these different perspectives and priorities, there can be a tension between the CIO and CMO.

CIOs and CMOs working together create a powerful engine for change

CIOs and CMOs are two of the most important leaders in a company. They must work together in order to create a powerful engine for change. However, they often have different priorities and goals. However, when they are able to work together, they can create a very effective team that can help drive a company forward.

Rather than focusing on IT and marketing differences, it’s better to focus on common ground. That common denominator is of course business outcomes. All too often, marketing teams throw MarTech projects “over the fence” to IT for execution with little to no business context. IT wasn’t involved in the solutioning of business outcomes, and therefore becomes a defacto execution arm. IT must be involved early in the process, where business outcomes are conceived. Example business outcomes include increasing sales to existing customers, educating prospects on product capabilities, reaching broader audiences, and faster content creation to name only a few. 

IT must also uplevel it’s knowledge of marketing. IT can’t be an effective marketing partner if it doesn’t understand marketing basics. Embedding IT staff within marketing, providing training, and attending conferences or vendor demos are a handful of ways IT can up its marketing game. 

Here’s how these executives can join forces to drive innovation

Marketing may be from Mars and IT from Venus, but even odd couples form a strong team when their strengths are combined. For example, let marketing take the lead on creative and customer behavioral dimensions of projects. Likewise, allow IT to take the reins on technical architecture. The takeaway here is having relatively clear swim lanes to avoid conflict before it starts. 

Finally, CIOs and CMOs merely “working together” is a means, not an end. IT and marketing leaders should co-design outcomes (and associated KPIs) jointly so that not only execution, but success is shared. When both teams are marching toward a common goal, there will be fewer disputes over technology and greater emphasis on business results.