CIO and CMO: closer than ever before

I travel the globe speaking with a lot of CIOs, sharing best practices and learning what’s new. They tell me there has been a change in the importance of their relationship with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Today’s consumers want real-time access to companies. They want a rich dialog and immediate access to products and services. And they want this primarily online. This ‘digitization of business’ creates new dependencies at all levels of an organization. CIOs are no longer hidden deep within the infrastructure of an organization. We are more visible in the Board Room and are becoming an important consideration in how a company interacts with its customers.

At the Microsoft U.S. CIO Summit, I discussed one of these new dependencies, between the CIO and the CMO with Chris Capossela, chief marketing officer at Microsoft. We spoke about the increasing collaboration and dependence between IT and marketing here at Microsoft, which is reflected in other companies and industries as well.

Building a connection between the CIO and the CMO is not a new topic. CIOs and CMOs have been thinking about this for years. In fact, Forrester devoted a conference to this relationship. They called it the ‘age of the customer,’ to distinguish it from prior days of innovation around back-office automation and information. I agree that attracting and retaining customers by creating value is a common bond for the CIO, CMO and their teams. From my discussions with CIOs around the globe, I know that there are many who are on the fence about this concept. However, the explosion of data and devices will force more of these conversations at the executive level.  

In order for a company to get the most out of its marketing investments, the marketing team needs IT to be a strategic partner. The era of ‘owned media’ is upon us when company websites and company-owned online services are a fundamental part of digital marketing campaigns. Not only does that require agile infrastructure and application development, it also requires analysis tools to demonstrate return on investment and marketing impact to the sales pipeline. This is a great opportunity for IT to work with marketing to make an impact together.

With the rise of social media and networking, customer and partner satisfaction reign supreme. While marketing teams are experimenting with new channels and devices to reach and listen to customers and partners, IT needs to enable marketing with customer data flows while mitigating risk(s) across systems. Customers expect the ability to communicate with us through social media, a service center or other channels. Our marketing team wants that feedback as real-time as possible. IT is there to enable online customer interaction, but also turn this customer data into information and intelligence for the business. At Microsoft, we have about 3.5 billion downloads from every month and our marketing colleagues want that seemingly simple customer experience to be fast and consistent in all the countries we serve around the globe. At that scale we need to make every experience great  to drive customer loyalty.

IT also has a role in driving higher levels of satisfaction with partners and indirect sales channels. At Microsoft, these indirect channels represent a substantial part of our top-line revenue. Together, marketing and IT can create and deliver better value. For example, look at our retail channel. This holiday, Chris, our CMO, wants to be on 300 different websites with thousands of Microsoft-branded pieces of marketing content in
order to drive sales of XBox, Kinect, Windows Phone, Office and more. We in IT have a role to help marketing scale its efforts so it’s easy for partners to use our materials, investments and sell our products. And while this is happening, Chris wants to syndicate the channel content into our systems so that we’re showing our price and partner price on Microsoft owned-media. All of this requires high speed, low-latency business processes to meet the demands of digital-savvy consumers and businesses.

The role of the CIO is changing rapidly in this digital evolution. No longer are we relegated to the server room. We are in the Board Room and at the table with the CMO as brand stewards, responsible for delivering a
great customer experience.

Tony Scott