The advent of digital is dramatically transforming businesses and industries, providing opportunities to disrupt and reinvent as well as challenges to respond to and stay ahead of changing customer demands. As we talk in depth to hundreds of C-suite executives in the course of our work, we hear about the increased urgency to understand and capitalize on digital opportunities. In particular, through recent conversations with CMOs and CIOs at some of the world’s leading companies, we observe an interesting convergence of point of view between these two roles who are at the front lines of this transformation. We find that the CMO and CIO roles are more closely connected and aligned than ever on the power of digital transformation, representing an increasingly synergistic opportunity to drive change together.
What We Learned
CMOs and CIOs are deeply involved in digital transformation with a common focus on customer experience innovation and enabling a new kind of customer experience driven from the customers’ perspective. CIOs lead the process or operational innovation that supports new customer experiences. CMOs are reinventing the way their companies engage with customers, translating digital into an integrated way of connecting and communicating with customers and prospects. At the same time, both recognize the continued role of physical engagement in concert with digital to create the relevant and differentiated customer experiences their customers seek. The need for speed and agility, together with an environment of experimentation echoes through both of their priority sets.
CIO/CMO Digital Transformation Priorities
Highlights of the areas of CIOs’ and CMOs’ common digital transformation priorities include:
• Enabling a new customer experience. Engaging with customers on their terms, in a way the customer enjoys and cares about, is a fundamental shift that is driving the need to think differently about the customer experience for both CMOs and CIOs. One CIO shared: “We need to be integral to our customers’ lifestyle and build a joyful customer experience.” A CMO offered a similar perspective. “The customer is ‘always on’ now—we also need to be ‘always on’ and relevant in the context of the customer’s life.” In terms of the nature of the engagement, CIOs and CMOs are similarly thinking about the need for more authentic, relatable connections. “We want to build amazingly addictive customer journeys.”
• Digitizing engagement across channels. Enabling a new customer experience requires an integrated digital customer experience across channels, and CIOs and CMOs are both focused on making the shift. CMOs are concentrating on how to interact and engage fluidly across all channels, delivering a seamless client experience. CIOs seek an operational environment to support the seamless experience.
• Physical and digital convergence. An interesting paradox of digital transformation is the continued and often increased need to care about the physical experience even as both CIOs and CMOs push to enhance the digital connection. As one CMO described, “We are seeing the convergence of physical and digital. In the future, physical presence will be a differentiator.” A CIO echoed this. “Pure play digital approaches aren’t working. We run the risk of losing touch with our customer base if we go all digital.”
The merging of the digital and physical ups the ante for both CIOs and CMOs in their quest for a seamless customer experience. For CIOs there is the increased complexity of designing the systems that enable an integrated experience across the two different environments. For CMOs there is the challenge of how to create a seamless face for the brand conversation within the two contexts. This reinforces the need for CIOs and CMOs to join forces to develop an integrated approach to deliver on the enterprise transformation agenda.
• The need for speed and agility. Speed and agility are critical to both CIOs and CMOs, and creating an environment of experimentation is key. CIOs are concerned about the need for speed and agility in the business model and in customer engagement. CMOs are building agile teams to engage with customers through content and channels, responding in real time to changing customer needs and evolving life moments.
Each function has an important and interdependent role to play in the transformation, and the need to align to respond – and lead – is an imperative. As IBM’s new C-suite study underscores, disruption is the C-suite’s single biggest concern, and the time is right for CMOs and CIOs to leverage their strengths together to help reinvent their businesses.