Why CIOs Are Smarter Than CMOs

If I wanted to know how well-managed and successful your company was, I would only need the (honest) answers to three questions:

1) How tolerant of IT risk is your company?
2) How committed is the executive team to using IT as a strategic enabler/differentiator?
3) How well-aligned and coordinated is IT with other business functions?

A number of times over the past six years, I have surveyed executives about those questions and have found–repeatedly and consistently–that high-performing firms demonstrate a relatively high degree of IT risk tolerance, have executives that are committed to using IT as a strategic tool, and enjoy alignment and coordination between IT and the lines of business.

What I’ve concluded from these studies is that how much you spend on IT is not as important as how you manage IT. There’s a reason why the sports team with all the best athletes doesn’t always win the championship: Because they don’t play together as a team.

Clearly, however, there are a lot of CMOs who haven’t seen my research.

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An organization (person?) called Harvey Nash surveyed Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and asked:

“How would you rate the IT department’s relationship with other business functions?”

Just 30% of CIOs surveyed felt that their relationship with marketing is “very strong,” in contrast to 61% who felt the relationship with operations was very strong, and 56% who rated the relationship with finance as very strong. The percentage rating the marketing relationship as “very strong” was slightly more than the percentage rating the relationships with HR and legal as very strong, but who cares about HR and legal? (just kidding)

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So why are CIOs smarter than CMOs?

Because another study–this one conducted by Accenture–found that:

“44% of CMOs surveyed from across the world simply don’t believe there’s any need for alignment with CIOs. By comparison, only 23% of CIOs agree that there’s no need for alignment with CMOs.”

Seriously? Nearly half of CMOs don’t believe that there is a need for alignment?

Here’s another data point from the Accenture study supporting my fear that CIOs are smarter than CMOs:

“While 72% of CIOs surveyed ranked the CMO/marketing relationship as important, only 57% of CMOs concurred with respect to the CIO relationship.”

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Forgetting the question of inherent intelligence between the occupants of the two CXO positions, Accenture’s findings beg the question: Why would fewer CMOs view the CIO/CMO relationship as important than CIOs do?

I have three theories:

1) CIOs better understand the findings of my research. Because their internal relationships are more numerous–and interdependent–than the CMOs’, CIOs get the importance of alignment and coordination across business functions.

2) The remnants of “legacy” CMOs. “Legacy” is my euphemism for “brand bozo” CMOs who still think the world of marketing is all about who creates the best TV commercials. No CMO will admit to believing that, but they’re still out there. Twenty to thirty years of experience is a tough thing to break.

3) CMOs who think that they can go it alone. “IT doesn’t know what it’s doing, doesn’t understand marketing’s needs, and doesn’t put marketing’s needs high enough on its priority list, so we’ll just hire our own marketing technologists, and build our own marketing technology capabilities.” You just know that that view exists out there.

If my theories have any validity, then maybe CIOs really are smarter than CMOs.

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