It’s not just sales and marketing alignment we need to focus on, it’s IT and marketing alignment

Most B2B CMOs that I speak to are continually working to improve Sales and Marketing alignment to ensure that not just the lead-generation-to sales-closure-process works more smoothly, but so does the entire customer journey.

But as technology becomes more and more embedded in marketing processes, ensuring a smoother, more improved customer journey also depends on tech and this in turn relies on a highly collaborative relationship with the CIO.

Cast your mind back just ten short years: Marketo and Hubspot had just been founded, Facebook was still  used almost exclusively by students and smartphones were in their infancy – in fact the first iPhone was still in development. Mobile marketing wasn’t really a ‘thing’ and in fact the use of technology in marketing, apart from automating email-shots, was very limited.  At the same time, the bring your own device trend hadn’t started yet and the IT department was very much in control of purchasing and running all IT, right across the business. This centralised approach to IT and more limited use of technology meant CIOs and CMOs didn’t need to work together.

But in the past decade we’ve seen so much tech innovation –  innovation that has truly disrupted business models. Just think of the impact of mobility and advancements in mobile devices; the creation and widespread appeal of social media networks; and the adoption of cloud computing and big data on both your personal and work life.

Gone are the days of separate, stand-alone marketing campaigns: these days detailed customer data is seamlessly shared with marketers and as a result we now have fully integrated, end-to-end marketing campaigns.

This mind-boggling amount of data – 2015’s 4.2million Facebook posts per minute represents just a fraction of the total – drives the customer communications experience that the CMO is responsible for. Therefore it’s imperative that marketing teams have access to the martech that enables them to mine this data in order to deliver meaningful, contextual customer communication experiences.

It’s drivers like this that made Forrester state in 2014, that by 2017 CMOs would actually have a larger IT budget than CIOs. While for many businesses this prediction is coming true, not only does it just focus on one part of the picture, more importantly, it appears to pit the CMO against the CIO.  

In reality, marketing success today requires the CMO and the CIO, not to be opponents, but to be on the same side, collaborating (relatively) harmoniously. Why?

Well, for a start, if the CMO wants to get the most out of their investments, they need to take into account the IT governance and existing IT systems when purchasing a new piece of martech or rolling out a digital campaign. If they don’t they might well find that they are unable to benefit from all the software features they have bought. At the same time, the CIO needs to consider prioritising development or integration necessary for marketing-critical software.

But there’s more to this CMO-CIO collaboration than just working together on specific martech projects. New technologies have transformed not only marketing tech, but also the actual role of the CMO. Today’s CMO has responsibilities that stretch far beyond a traditional view of marketing. As I alluded to earlier, most CMOs are now responsible for enhancing the customer communications experience. And to keep pace with innovation, businesses need to invest in technologies that enable customer communications experiences right across the enterprise and the CIO needs to work closely with the CMO to deliver this.

It’s also important to remember that modern marketing is no longer based on gut-instinct: it’s data-driven. And while most of the company’s data flows through the marketing department, the CIO is really the company’s information architect. At the same time, the CMO’s understanding and actioning of that data is critical.

In short, thanks to today’s smart, digital world, marketing and IT have become interdependent.

So what does this mean for the CMO and CIO in 2017? I believe the CMO needs to make a concerted effort to become more tech savvy and understand the governance the CIO works under; and the CIO needs to become more marketing savvy and take a customer-centric approach to the company’s IT strategy.

Successful CMOs know their customers, they are digitally competent, and, as importantly, they collaborate with the CIO to ensure their campaigns work. And as a result they have financial backing from the board. It’s these CMOs that we will increasingly see being promoted to CEOs. Why? Because they’re successfully driving the beating heart of the business – the customer communications experience.