The ongoing CMO / CIO debate

Over the last few years the debate has continued about the relationship between the CMO and the CIO. Just this week I read a Forbes article entitled “How To Avoid A CMO vs. CIO War” and another entitled “Three critical CMO-CIO gaps companies need to close now“. These, and others, referenced an excellent report recently published by Accenture. I myself have published several blogs around this – most recently on the Huffington Post with an article entitled “Can the CMO and CIO work together in harmony

I personally think it’s about time for a few home truths:

The marketing role has expanded
There is no doubt that marketing has risen in prominence. The rise of the internet has driven new behaviours in the customer base. In the B2B world, every buying center will research information online and it is the job of marketing to entice those buyers and bring them into their environment. Strategically, marketing are now the conduit for all business – yes, I did say “all” business. Tactically, this means driving inbound marketing programs, proactively working with sales on outbound initiatives and rising the brand of the company.

The IT role has focused
The IT department is changing – and will never go away. It has a critical role to play. Strategically they are the custodians of data. It is the CIO who is responsible for our data security and protecting the intellectual property of our company. This must include all systems – including those of marketing.  Tactically, they must drive out costs and lower the bottom line. (I have always involved IT to engage with new suppliers – quite simply they were brilliant at driving a great deal).

Budget ownership has moved
Gone are the traditional days of all technology being budgeted out of IT (did that really happen?!). Today most enterprises split the budget between line-of-business (LOB) and IT. However, growth initiatives are usually funded from the business function and this is often where conflict appears – marketing are trying to innovate faster than IT can respond. 

CMO’s and CIO’s much align
The business cannot afford conflict. There is too much conflict outside without needing it inside. However, this is where personalities come in. The most enlightened teams are where there is alignment. A recent customer demonstrated this to me when we were selling to their marketing leaders. They actively engaged with their IT counterparts who interrogated us around Single Sign On, security and data access / removal processes. I’ll never forget the words of the CIO: “I am not here to stop the business using what they want to. That’s their decision. However, I am here to make sure that you are secure, that we can get out data out as well as in, and that you have the administrative processes in place that we need to protect our data and that of our clients”.  In this day and age, that is a refreshing and suitable comment.


The debate continues to evolve. Marketing are driving innovation and looking to move quickly. IT are the custodians of data and need to protect the interests of the business. Both sides must come to the party and understand their viewpoints. Where this happens, companies will succeed. Where it does not, conflict will ensue and progress will be damaged.