Surprise poll: Marketing executives are way more excited about digital than CIOs

Latest Altimeter Group study finds CMOs leading many digital transformation initiatives. But they stand on the shoulders of IT.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

When I hear of a survey in which marketing types are almost twice as likely to be championing digital transformation than IT leaders, I tend to view it with skepticism. Was it a marketing vendor-sponsored survey?  Was the survey instrument worded in such a way that it resonates more with marketing experience (discussions of CRM, channel development, lead generation, etc.)? Does it reflect a self-selection bias among marketing types who are already steeped in digital marketing initiatives?

In this case, the news comes from Altimeter Group, a very highly respected analyst firm in the digital and social media space, so there's plenty of credibility to the findings. Altimeter interviewed 59 business leaders on the status of their digital transformation efforts, concluding that much of the impetus to new technology initiatives has moved to the customer-facing side of business.

Based on all the work that's been taking place within enterprise IT sites over the past few years, that's a good thing. It means customers are finally the front-and-center focus of many new IT investments. That has been the ultimate goal of the web services and service-oriented architecture movements over the past decade, but it's often been difficult to connect these efforts to business results. All the moves that marketing leaders are able to make into the digital transformation space are possible because of the groundwork that IT has been doing. Today's cloud and mobile initiatives are made possible by the more agile and adaptable architectures that have been painstakingly built into today's IT systems.

Altimeter Group-2014 Digital Survey-CMO Adption

A good way to look at is that this survey is evidence that IT has finally become an enterprise activity, not something the IT department prepares and manages behind the curtain. That's good news because many of the components of digital transformation these days require enterprise buy-in and involvement. (And, again, with pleasing the customer the ultimate goal.) As the Altimeter survey also shows, the top challenges in such an effort are changing the corporate culture (63 percent), achieving cooperation between department silos (56 percent), and securing the people and resources needed to make it all happen (56 percent). 

Most IT people are really good at what they do, but they can't shoulder the burden of changing corporate culture on their own. They're not trained to do that. It takes a team. It looks like the vision of business-IT alignment is coming to pass.

(Thumbnail photo: ICANN.)

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