Engage, engage, engage

cogs engagedMuch has been written about the CMO-CIO relationship recently. According to Gartner CMOs will soon outspend CIOs on IT, while some industry commentators have even gone as far as claiming the CIO will end up either reporting to the CMO or being replaced by their marketing peer altogether. And then there’s the growing trend of organisations creating the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) role reporting directly to the CEO and with a remit of driving digital transformation. A role some would argue should lie at the heart of the CIO’s responsibilities.

Should CIOs be worried about these developments? Do the articles, studies and opinion columns have any truth to them? And if so, what do CIOs need to do to ensure they have a role to play in shaping the digital future of their organisations?

I could probably answer all these questions with a real-life example I heard at a recent Marketer/Cap Gemini Futures Forum on the Digital Evolution of Marketing. In a workshop about the CMO-CIO relationship led by Cap Gemini, a marketer whose company was about to embark on a major digital programme commented that he had no idea how he was going to engage with his CIO on this major initiative as the CIO was “just not interested.” This was greeted by knowing nods of agreement from many of the other workshop participants indicating that it was not an isolated situation.

So the articles, studies and opinion columns do appear to have at least an element of truth in them; there are some CIOs who are not working with their marketing peers on digital transformation programmes. These CIOs will not have any influence over these projects and the resulting investment in technology; they are ceding control, influence and relevance to other executives at their own expense.

But perhaps I’m being too harsh on CIOs. You can’t judge a whole profession on one anecdotal example, right? Well, in the 2013 Harvey Nash CIO Survey the respondents (the majority of which are CIOs by the way) said that their relationship with Marketing is worse than their relationship with any other function in the business. So CIOs across the world and representing a range of industries and organisations acknowledge they are not as close to their marketing colleagues as they are to their operations, finance and sales teams. Given the growth of social, mobile, digital and big data, all of which are key to the future of marketing this has to be very worrying for CIOs and their future.

So what should these CIOs do to address the divide that appears to exist between them and their marketing colleagues? The comment above from the marketer gives a very big clue: engage. If CIOs are not even engaging with their key stakeholder – in this case the marketing function – then they only have themselves to blame when the predictions about their role diminishing, or even disappearing, become a reality.

The Harvey Nash report also highlights relationship building, influencing and collaboration as being core skills required by today’s CIO. To do any of these effectively CIOs need to start by getting involved with the rest of the organisation; they need to spend an increasing amount of their time outside the IT function building their knowledge of the business, developing their profile and establishing their credibility as a business leader and partner. You can only build relationships, influence and collaborate with other teams if you engage with them.

As a footnote, it’s worth noting that I was the only senior IT professional/CIO attending the Digital Marketing event. My advice to CIOs is to go such events as it will help you understand what is going on in the marketing world, the challenges facing CMOs and what they need from IT. Not only will this help you engage with one of your key stakeholders, it will also broaden your knowledge beyond technology and help position you as a more rounded business leader.


  1. […] can read the rest of this post on The CIO Leader, my site for business-focused technology […]

  2. […] will spend more on IT than CIOs by 2017. I’ve used the statistic myself in a recent post called Engage, engage, engage which talks about the need for CIOs to build relationships and collaborate with their key […]

  3. […] second takeaway is something I have written about before. In Engage, engage, engage, I advised CIOs to go marketing/PR events as it will help them understand what is going on in those […]


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