Digital transformations and the CIO shift in power
As a business embarks on its digital transformation journey, the culture and job roles within the organization begin to change. People and the technology that supports them need to adapt to be able to function effectively in the new multi-channel, data-driven business that starts to take shape. It’s an exciting time to be a part of any organization, and the change in job roles and responsibilities affects the entire business structure—from customer-facing staff to the C-suite.
For a few years now many industry experts, including Gartner, have pegged the CMO as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the move to digital. Dubbed “the next big IT owner”, the CMO will find him or herself more responsible for how the customer experience is created and managed; how the client journey flows, what colors to use, which style to use etc. But there’s another side to what the CMO will need to be—technical. This new breed of CMO, if they hope to take up the IT leadership role, will need to understand IT and how systems integrate.
This is because without the backend systems working together seamlessly, there is simply no way the business can run, no matter how shiny the website. While the business may be completely driven by the delivery of digital assets, dependent on the channel used, the CMO’s success will be tied into understanding the overall business digital strategy in a way not quite seen before, from that technical perspective. This has ultimately led to Gartner’s decision to highlight the growing power of the CMO as an IT owner—and they’re not wrong to do so. The CMO may indeed start to have a hand in commissioning the majority of IT projects, but this power does not come at the expense of the CIO. In fact, this suggested shift in “IT ownership” may give the CIO the opportunity to reclaim their spot in the Boardroom.
Why? Because, of all the C-suite roles, it’s the CMO’s that is the most volatile. Their goals and how they are measured in terms of performance are generally much more in the short term. This shorter-term view doesn’t particularly gel well with the long-term nature of the vital infrastructure projects that the CMO will absolutely need to be able to deliver to do their jobs well. This conflict of the CMO wanting a great customer experience fast, and the CIO wanting a sound and stable transition to suitable back-end infrastructure will at times cause boardroom tension.
However it’s the CIO who will win out—and there’s a simple explanation: Today, it is only the CIO who has a true view of how the back-end infrastructure will interface with the more flashy front-end marketing initiatives of the CMO. Ultimately, the CIO is in the driver’s seat and will need to start taking a proactive role in advising when and what things the CMO can expect from the IT department. The CIO will also be able to suggest alternative strategies where possible to meet the overall business needs.
The digital transformations we are seeing happen gradually around us are not a transfer of power away from the CIO or CTO, in fact they double down to highlight the vital nature of the role, in almost any organization (from retail to utilities to banks). After all, with big data, multi-channel and personalization trends converging, customer expectations of businesses will continue to rise exponentially. To meet them, the CIO and CMO will need to work together closely and each take ownership of their section of the digital transformation journey. The only way to win in the digital age, is together.
Originally posted October 30, 2015, by Simon Evans, Experior Group