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'CMOs, CIOs must forge shared agenda as new C-suite power team'

In the era of data-driven marketing and digitally-empowered customers, they can no longer perform on separate stages, says IBM's Virginia Sharma

K Rajani Kanth  |  Hyderabad 

Chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) must forge a shared agenda as the new C-suite (a term derived from the use of the letter C in most high-level positions) power team to drive marketing innovation, blending the art of marketing with the science of technology, according to technology and consulting corporation IBM.

“In the era of data-driven marketing and digitally-empowered customers, the CMO and CIO can no longer perform on separate stages. They have to complement each other,” Virginia Sharma, vice-president (marketing and communications) at IBM India,  told Business Standard.

IBM, which just out of necessity helped invent the discipline of the CIO in the 1950s through IT skills education and partnerships, has started realising the fact that the role of CMOs is changing during its interviews with more than 4,900 CMOs and CIOs in 2011.

“The transformation, as we see it, is a result of the increase in big data and use of analytics. From digital marketing and mobile commerce, to web sites and social media, marketers are inundated with data from consumers via searches, purchase histories, price-scanning applications on mobile phones, and social networking sites,”  she said.

“In addition to this, there is data from in-store traffic, conversations with call centres and updates from suppliers. Marketers confront a daily cacophony of data waiting to be sifted for nuggets of intelligence they can act upon to boost their business. This presents with big challenges – from how to deploy analytics to helping them manage the IT systems that are powering their social media efforts.”

Given the rise of social networking, abundance of data and the significance of analytics, she said, it was important for CMOs to be adept at using these technologies.

According to an IBM CMO study (2011) conducted with more than 1,700 CMOs from 64 countries, it was found that while 79% of CMOs expected high or very high levels of complexity in their job over the next five years, only 48% felt prepared to deal with it.

“Today, most of the CMOs understand that technology is the factor that can potentially fuel their success. This is because most of them are being held accountable for the first time for business results tied to technology investments, and for driving long-term growth beyond the latest marketing campaign. We should also understand that CMOs are among the last C-Suite functions to be integrated through the IT department -- through an enterprise ‘IT stack’. Due to their lack of technology training, CMOs are increasingly looking at CIOs to effectively streamline their technology needs,” Sharma added.

Considering the abundance of data that is already available and the ever increasing volumes coming online, it is no surprise that the data explosion is the number one factor keeping CMOs up at night.  Social media and proliferation of channel and device choices are the other technology challenges that the CMOs are facing. These same factors are top of mind for CIOs. They are already focusing on initiatives to manage the data explosion and capture value. Not only is IT positioned to help, it can play a pivotal role in identifying and implementing the technical solutions that marketing needs, she said.

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First Published: Tue, January 15 2013. 11:14 IST