You are here

Is there still room for a CIO and CMO at the top table?

I read an interesting blog article recently that discusses the value of a CIO in today’s data driven, SaaS and cloud-enabled world. The author William Mougayar suggests that the CMO has risen at the expense of the CIO and that “the CMO-CIO relationship has already evolved beyond a peer one.”  In fact he argues that there is a valid reason for keeping the CMO and outsourcing the CIO.

Mougayar’s article is certainly a good read and has some valid points. Getting rid of the CIO is, he argues, just the inevitable progression from Gartner’s Research VP Laura McLellan’s prophesy that the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017. However, I would advocate that a strategic focused in-house CIO will deliver far more value overall.

Keeping the lights on

First of all let’s think about some of those no value maintenance and infrastructure tasks that the CIO is focused on such as desktop management. No added value, just maintenance. Right? Wrong. Our CIO-led Office of the Future project has enabled employees across the organisation to choose their own device.  An iPad in the office, Mac at home and corporate iPhone en route?  No problem. Corporate issued desktop in the office, home computer at home using VDI?  No problem. It’s an innovative, CIO-led project that has gained the admiration of FTSE 500 companies and more importantly it has given our employees the flexibility to get their work done, using the device that works best for them and speeding up their ability to serve customers in real-time. Each employee visit to a customer, prospect or partner reinforces Colt’s position as a company that uses IT services to change the way it does business, ensuring customers get a better experience. It also makes Colt a more attractive working environment for potential employees too.  

Protecting the brand

Secondly let’s briefly touch on the question of regulation and compliance.  If an enterprise decentralises IT accountability to the different business units, will the outsourced CIO take responsibility for protecting customer data across Europe? If you need to be PCI compliant who will ensure that the policies and procedures are in place to protect against large fines, or miimise the brand damage that comes from a high profile breach of customer data? Yes, these are largely operational issues but the point is that IT departments have been complying with regulation for years and it is therefore critical that the individual accountable for protecting customer data is part of the executive leadership team. In a recent study commissioned by Colt, Forrester Consulting argued that “Shadow IT” can pose a number of risks to the enterprise. Lack of experience in implementing compliant systems and immature working relationships with the regulatory team were noted. Nobody notices compliance and regulation on a good day. But when the CMO’s office is focused on a global comms crisis following a breach of customers’ data, it’s a totally different matter. Regulatory and compliance requirements will continue to increase. The risk to brand reputation is too high to outsource and should remain the responsibility of the most senior member of the in-house IT department, who needs to be working closely with the business to ensure that they understand the risks.

We want to collaborate

The third and final point is collaboration. We can all download our favourite apps but at some point the fact that everybody has different ways of sharing large media files instead of one easily accessible corporate system begins to grate, and interferes with productivity. Every day I use a set of fully integrated voice, messaging collaboration and video tools.  I share content with one and then three colleagues without having to wait for people to log on to 3 different systems. Yes, I could outsource my customer relationship management (CRM) to one of those many cloud based systems that are provided on a license basis. My team could also easily access hosting services for a website or a microsite, with a personal credit card.  I could buy all of these services without referring to the IT department, if the relevant IT budget resides within the lines of business, but at some point I might want to collaborate with sales or finance. Then I want a consistent and reliable user experience for my innovative collaboration tools, underpinned by an infrastructure that serves all. I also like the fact that I am the customer of my IT department and get a level of service that I demand. That can’t always be said when I consume 3rd party offerings.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the roles of CMO and CIO have evolved beyond recognition in recent years but let’s not get too carried away. While less than half of CIOs collaborate with the marketing department now this is not an argument for outsourcing the CIO. The enterprise will benefit far more from a CIO and IT services strategy that drives IT enabled business transformation. It’s simply time for the CIO and CMO to talk, in a language that helps deliver business advantage. Those IT and marketing departments that collaborate and work together closely will drive sustainable competitor advantage from an improved mutually beneficial relationship. I look forward to seeing how this relationship will develop during 2013.