CxO Talk: Can a CIO and CMO be friends?

On this week's show, the CMO of legal information provider, LexisNexis, and CIO of Seton Hill University share advice on enterprise relationships, software, and selling advice to vendors.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

In episode four of CxO Talk, co-host Vala Afshar and I talk with Steve Mann, chief marketing officer (CMO) at LexisNexis, and Phil Komarny, chief information officer (CIO) at Seton Hill University

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The discussion includes an insider's look at the CIO and CMO roles, along with advice for technology vendors selling to senior executives.

Steve Mann on the CMO role

According to Steve, CMOs "sit at the intersection of creativity and strategy." Steve says he partners with the CEO to translate his company's vision into marketing strategies that deliver revenue and customer satisfaction:

The CEO's strategy comes to life in the various strategies and channels the CMO uses to touch the market. The company's branding, communication efforts, demand generation, pricing and packaging are all manifestations of translating a business strategy into a marketing strategy.

Digital, social, and mobile. Translating a business strategy into a marketing strategy affects what the business does digitally. For example, ecommerce on the web site and creating products for sale electronically are "digital personas" of the company. Among Steve's key measures is the degree to which LexisNexis digitizes its marketing and moves to a "digital style" of engagement.

Steve believes that mobile is a primary platform for translating marketing strategies into "something that is consumable," although the company wants to be platform-agnostic. Although he looks at all channels, Steve is more concerned with the engagement model than the consumption device. Therefore, LexisNexis follows "social first," rather than "mobile first," as a primary strategy to drive market engagement.

Relationship with IT.  Prioritizing projects and budget is a tension point, because IT may focus resources based on its own strategic goals rather than placing marketing goals and efficiencies first. To bridge this gap, the CMO must recognize that IT has valid, yet competing, demands for limited resources.

When asked whether he ever bypasses IT and buys cloud solutions directly, Steve remarks that having web development and marketing operations teams within the marketing organization is a "great thing." Certain marketing tasks such as campaign deployment and management, as an example, require "intricate knowledge" that IT cannot fulfill unless they provide dedicated resources to marketing. Although not trying to cut IT out of the loop, Steve does ask IT to help his organization get to market faster.

Phil Komarny on the CIO role

Phil explains that the CIO must support core organizational objectives, much as the CMO does. In higher education, these goals include increasing enrollment and student retention, as well as establishing digital initiatives to communicate with stakeholders across all parts of the business.

He continues that cloud, social, and mobile computing help remove siloes, which can blur roles while helping people across the organization work together. During conversations with Seton Hill's director of marketing, Phil has asked whether IT can help reduce marketing spending by developing platforms the school can own and reuse.

Phil is deliberately consumerizing his infrastructure to create a more collaborative and social environment. For example, he built HTML5 portals to bring together data from multiple systems, including ERP, to make interacting with systems and data easier for users. When management uses these personalized views on mobile devices, they can make decisions based on real-time data during meetings; instead of requesting reports from IT, as in the past, management can simply look up the data they need, on the spot.

Are CMOs "attention-seeking land grabbers invading IT turf?" Phil responds to this impertinent question by saying that some CIOs and IT organizations "deserve" marketing to go around them. He explains:

If you are not around the table adding to the discussion, you don't deserve to be at the table. Too many IT departments "default to no," which does not work in today's cloud, social, and mobile world. 

Phil's team plays a significant role in the procurement of business applications because IT has "earned the right to be part of that conversation." Getting to this point required Phil to transform the IT organization; today, he says, "Everything we do is based on the user experience. Everything." 

Sales advice to vendors

Steve's environment at LexisNexis is based on the Oracle stack, including Seibel 8.1 for CRM. He also has several Salesforce.com deployments ongoing, due to their shorter 30-60 day implementation time. The Oracle and Salesforce.com implementations each integrate with Eloqua as a marketing automation umbrella; he wants both systems to share the same master data for customers and prospects. 

Steve says that vendors fall off his radar when their products are "too difficult to understand." He points to Spredfast and Semphonic as companies that quickly understood his needs and rapidly created an execution plan.

Phil's current software projects at Seton Hill University include Workday and Salesforce.com. He is concerned about SaaS vendors that do not make clear what the cost of ownership will be in year one. He says, "It's becoming difficult to judge cloud implementations; there are hidden costs requiring due diligence."

Both Steve and Phil want to engage with vendors over social channels, including Twitter and LinkedIn. Steve suggests three vendor ideals:

  1. Transparency on strengths and weaknesses
  2. Openness to learning new ideas
  3. Collaboration and willingness to partner

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