CMOs are the new CIOs — crazy or prescient?


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A headline on Forbes caught my eye the other day: Are CMOs the New CIOs? It cites the Gartner study following the money from IT to marketing and concludes (emphasis added is my own):

The convergence between marketing and technology is undeniable, and it’s still in its infancy. Imagine a world where a brand’s success will ultimately come down to how well it can handle and leverage an infinite network of relationships and market interactions. That’s where this is going. Managing the network will be the key to new innovations, sustaining customers and creating a responsive nature for doing business. The technology infrastructure for connecting and distribution information is the linchpin to it all.

The question is are marketers up to the task. And eventually, if the CMO ultimately morphs into a CIO.

I tweeted the article, and Peter Kretzman — an outspoken CIO/CTO whose perspective I respect at many levels — replied back how crazy that was, calling it “baitful.”

Tweet: CMOs as the new CIOs is crazy, baitful

He’s right: it is baitful. And, if you think about the current state of CIOs and CMOs, it’s certainly easy enough to dismiss this oversimplified proclamation as crazy. Even I — a vocal advocate of growing technology leadership within the marketing department — admit that the headline seems over the top.

Until one day, suddenly, it may not be.

Disruptive Innovation Model by Clay Christensen

As a big fan of Clay Christensen’s model for describing disruptive innovation, I am amazed at how often this pattern seems to occur:

  1. Everyone is happy with the status quo.
  2. A new innovation appears that threatens the status quo, but it only seems usable for “low end” applications.
  3. The status quo leaders laugh at that: “It will never be good enough to handle real applications.”
  4. But that new innovation continues to improve, steadily climbing up the performance curve to bigger and more important applications.
  5. The status quo leaders continue to retreat further up the complexity curve: “But it can’t do this!”
  6. Eventually, the old status quo is squeezed into a niche and the new innovation dominates.

If you take the notion of marketers running their own technology as an “innovation” — enabled by the explosion of connectivity and computing through the cloud and a massive wave of marketing technology entrepreneurship — the narrative sure starts to sound like this pattern.

“Ha, it’s crazy to have marketers in charge of their own technology. Okay, well, maybe just let them handle their own ad networks. Okay, maybe just their own social media tools — those don’t require any heavy-lifting IT muscle. Hmm, they want API access to the CRM? How did they learn about APIs? Well, okay, they can have those under the following conditions. Wow, they built a mobile app? But the real online experience is in our data center… well, okay, they can use that hosted web content management system, less headache for us to deal with patches. But the business intelligence we get from analyzing all the data collected is… hrr, they’re experimenting with Google BigQuery for that?”

For marketing-IT evolution to play out like that, five things must happen:

  1. Technology for marketers must get easier to use.
  2. Technology for marketers must become more essential to their core mission.
  3. Marketing must have more technical talent directly within its ranks.
  4. Marketing leaders must become more savvy at technology management.
  5. The money for marketing technology must come directly from marketing.

All five of these seem to be progressing — in some cases quite rapidly. “Marketing leaders must become more savvy at technology management” is probably the slowest to develop so far. CIOs have a big advantage over most CMOs in that regard. But the incentives are there for CMOs to get smarter about that dimension of their domain, and subsequent generations of CMOs may possess such perspective natively. Their steps up Christensen’s performance curve might be small, but they are moving upward.

What was laughable yesterday, and crazy today, might yet be the new status quo in the future.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Scott Brinker
Scott Brinker is the president & CTO of ion interactive, a leading provider of post-click marketing software and services. He writes the Conversion Science column on Search Engine Land and frequently speaks at industry events such as SMX, Pubcon and Search Insider Summit. He chairs the marketing track at the Semantic Technology Conference. He also writes a blog on marketing technology, Chief Marketing Technologist.


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