CMOs tapping more IT, but won't replace CIOs

Marketing initiatives are now using more from the IT budget, but a potential power struggle between CMOs and CIOs can be turned into opportunities for IT heads to collaborate and exert influence rather than control.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Marketing initiatives are increasingly a big driver of IT expenditure among organizations in Asia, and this is putting more pressure on the CIO to support IT enablement for marketing department. However, it does not entail yielding IT leadership to the chief marketing officer (CMO).

Rather than a power struggle, closer joint partnerships instead between marketing and IT can be forged.

- Jon Kruase, Gartner

Even in a scenario where marketing is the main driver for IT expenditure, the CIO is not being replaced by the CMO because the former still has overall responsibility for the company's operational systems and IT architecture. Areas where the CMO has greater control are technology-related budgets which typically involve managed services, marketing campaigns, and customer relationship management (CRM), John Brand, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, explained.

Andrew Milroy, Asia-Pacific vice president of ICT practice at Frost & Sullivan, said even though influence on tech spending by other departments such as marketing is growing--a case more apparent in the West than Asia--IT expenditure remains the bulk of the budget.

But both analysts noted there is no doubt technology in Asian organizations is moving from being solely an efficiency and maintenance tool, to being transformative and creative--which are attributes frequently associated with marketing. As such, CMOs are becoming more involved in IT decision-making, whereas CIOs are under pressure to enable CMOs to do more with technology.

According to Gartner, by 2017, CMOs globally will spend more on IT than their counterpart CIOs. Organizations' IT expenses are falling increasingly outside the IT function, largely caused by the impact of IT consumerization. Marketing will account for much of this, too, especially in consumer-facing organizations, said Jon Kruase, executive partner at Gartner.

But he, too, agreed the CIO role is not being taken over by the CMO.

"CMOs are spending more on what might be IT-related services, though not necessarily taking this from the traditional IT budget. As technology impacts more and more business functions, there is a sense that every budget is an IT budget," Kruase explained.

Analyst firm IDC also recently predicted 2013 will be the last call for CIOs to transform themselves as business-oriented leaders, or risk having their position removed.

Collaboration rather than conflict
Rather than a power struggle, Krause emphasized the need for closer joint partnerships instead to be forged between marketing and IT. This, though, would depend on how open CIOs are to the idea of collaboration, he said.

The key lies in whether the CIO is able to move from a traditional mindset of control, to one of influence and collaboration with other functions to achieve business success, the Gartner analyst said. No one literally owns all the information a business needs, but orchestrating how information is accessed, analyzed, and acted upon is a good opportunity for CIOs to provide leadership through influence, he explained.

Milroy concurred, saying the days of the "reactive IT department" are over. Rather than think of it as survival mode, the progressive and proactive CIO turns what potentially could be politicking to cooperation which mutually plays to the strengths of both parties. For instance, if CMOs drive their own technology initiatives, CIOs will focus on ensuring CMOs comply around areas such as security and data sovereignty, he said.

In fact, marketing heads may or may not think of themselves as "calling the IT shots" in their companies, although this boils down to perspective, said a marketing executive at a Singapore online media company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Marketing leaders don't have a degree in IT obviously, and what they do is likely limited to using consumer or Web technology which may be sufficient for the most part to get things done," she said. "But there are bound to be times when marketing really needs the IT guys to help out when problems arise. Depending on how you see it, it's either IT that is absolutely indispensible or IT is only important when technical issues need fixing from a handyman."

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