I have lost count of the number of articles and blog posts I’ve read over recent months that quote the Gartner prediction that CMOs 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 stakeholders. The original research is now a year old but there doesn’t seem to be any let-up in the number of articles using it as the basis for talking about the CMO/CIO relationship.
A number of commentators have used the Gartner forecast as proof that the CIO role is diminishing with some even claiming that the CIO will end up reporting to the CMO as a result of the latter’s growing IT budget. And just last week SAS global CMO Jim Davis claimed that CIOs and CMOs should be interchangeable. Of course it goes without saying that the article based on Davis’s comments included a reference to the Gartner prediction!
Needless to say that both claims are wide of the mark; I have written extensively over the last 12-18 months about why the CIO role is in fact growing and not diminishing in importance. In fact it is my view that, with technology playing an increasingly important role in any organisation, it has never been a better time to be a CIO. And yes, CxOs certainly need to be capable of taking on new or additional responsibilities but to suggest the CMO and CIO roles are interchangeable simply because marketing is using more technology is both simplistic and naïve.
But let’s return to that Gartner prediction that CMOs will outspend CIOs on IT within a few years. Does it really matter who holds the budget for IT investment? I’m sure the CFO is more concerned with the return on investment on any IT spend and whether it has been budgeted for than whose budget it actually sits within. There is after all only one bottom line. And why shouldn’t the relevant line of business executive be required to justify IT expenditure in their area instead of it falling to the CIO to include in their budget and seek approval?
Many companies recharge IT costs to business units or allocate external IT spend directly to the relevant functions. So one could argue that the CIO has been outspent on IT by other CxOs for some time now, if not forever. The fact the marketing budget is taking a growing proportion of the total IT spend shouldn’t be seen as a threat to the CIO’s position.
What’s more important is the role the CIO plays in deciding when and how the organisation’s IT budget is spent. This is where the influencing, collaboration and relationship building skills I talk about in Engage, engage, engage are so vital in ensuring the CIO plays a key role in the decision making process for IT investment and is not sidelined or bypassed as some people have predicted will happen. It’s true that the CIO of the future will not be the sole authority for deciding what technology solutions are used within their organisations but they still have a key role to play in the decision making process and what happens after the purchasing decision is made. For example, the CIO will need to make sure that new IT services can be integrated with other internal and external services and that they are reliable, secure and meet any standards required by the organisation, regulatory bodies and other stakeholders. With more functions getting involved in selecting technology solutions, it is easy to see why the CIO role is going to grow in importance.
The fact that the marketing function is growing its spend on technology and that the CMO may well have a larger IT budget than the CIO and other CxOs in the future is not a comment about the relative importance of the CMO and CIO roles. It could however be an indication of the importance of both roles relative to the rest of the C-suite.