The CIO and CMO Are Learning to Work Together

Two new studies show that, despite lingering challenges that often involve communication and budget, marketing and technical execs are finding ways to improve their relationship.

Your CIO and CMO may have the two executive roles most affected by technology, but they haven’t always done the best job talking about it. On the plus side, the communication freeze seems to be thawing.

That’s according to a recent study by CIO Magazine, EPAM Systems, and the CMO Club. “The CIO-CMO Omnichannel Crossroads” white paper, for which more than 400 chief information officers and chief marketing officers were interviewed, reveals that the people in these leadership roles have often found themselves at odds over the division of resources.

“On the surface, it seems that funding is a point of conflict,” the study states [PDF]. “In reality, though, the entire organization is seeing an increase in technology budget. CIOs tend to be more pragmatic in their answer to future funding, while CMOs are more likely [to] see a larger share of their budget including technology. And, for CMOs it is likely fact.”

Even though cooperation in the C-suite isn’t always evident—one problem, writes the magazine’s Tom Kaneshige, is that different disciplines use different words to describe the same thing—it is getting better.

According to the study, 63 percent of CIOs said their relationship with the CMO has become “much closer” or “somewhat closer” over the past three years; 71 percent of CMOs said this of their relationship with the CIO. However, CIOs are far more likely than CMOs to say the relationship has gotten “much closer”: 34 percent versus 25 percent.

Hiring Across Disciplines

Likewise, a recent study by Accenture finds that CMOs and CIOs are becoming chummier, with 43 percent of CMOs and 50 percent of CIOs saying that the relationship has improved over the past year. The study, “Cutting Across the CMO-CIO Divide” [PDF], was wider than CIO Magazine‘s, surveying 1,100 top IT and marketing executives.

Despite improvement, the relationship could get better. Forty-five percent of CMOs said there could be more collaboration with CIOs, and just 23 percent of marketing chiefs believed that collaboration between the departments is at the right level.

One way the two execs are working to improve their relationship by hiring people into their departments who share skills from other disciplines.

“There is no doubt that the pace at which marketing needs to adopt new technologies will continue to increase, and both functions are seeking ways to bridge the collaboration gap,” the study states. “CMOs are bringing more digital talent in-house—including those with technology expertise—while continuing to rely on external agencies. CIOs are hiring more technologists with marketing experience.”

In the end, CMOs and CIOs who learn to work together may reap more rewards. The CIO Magazine study refers to this concept as the “omnichannel”—the idea of combining disciplines into a single, stronger force.

“Companies that fully embrace omnichannel understand that it is critical to their future and imperative to the development of relevant and engaging interactions with their customers,” the study says.

How’s your relationship with your marketing or technology counterpart these days? Think there’s room for improvement? Offer your take in the comments.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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