Co-Mingling and Competition: The Future of CXO Roles in a Cloud-centric World


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We work in a business landscape being shaken to its very core by social media and shifting user expectations on one side, and mobile and cloud technology on the other. I mean that literally, as the traditional business core must become fluid in nature, enabling nimble redefinitions of the core strategy to take advantage of rapidly changing competitive advantages. Haydn Shaugnessy of Forbes recently wrote on the new business paradigm of the fluid core, and the bottom line paints a picture of business roles and priorities constantly in flux. But how do you break down siloes and manage the fluid core? And which department does the future belong to?

In this new world, externalizing labor and software plays a key role in maintaining agility, and with the rise of cloud-based technology challenging power dynamics at the CXO level, a heated debate has risen. Major analyst firms like Gartner are predicting a shift in technology budget and power towards the CMO over the CIO, while Forrester analysts believe in the need for close alignment between the CIO and CMO; at the same time, others purport that the CIO will retain budgetary control without question.

Considering the opposing predictions, especially with the wildly unstable nature of these changes, the true transition occurring at the CMO, CIO and general CXO level likely lies somewhere between the extremes. I reached out to those currently living the debate – business and IT leaders with a holistic global view of the change being brought about by the cloud revolution – to share their thoughts on the future of CXO roles in a cloud-centric world. This outreach is part of a bigger vision for the future – where companies successfully harness the cloud to connect business and IT leaders across the organization, ultimately creating a truly integrated future. Here I share some of the insights I was fortunate enough to receive from visionaries Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions, Louis Columbus of Plex Systems, and Michael Krigsman of Asuret.

Dana Gardner on Breaking Down Barriers
Regardless of a company’s culture, industry, or top-down/horizontal structure, the C-suite must place a greater focus on lifecycle and continuous productivity benefits that leverage process and feedback loops. Unfortunately currently defined CXO roles don’t cater towards this need, which requires better communication and agility. The way the C-suite is set up, with defined domains, creates departmental silos – to leverage feedback loops, the C-level domains need to break down for improved cooperation.

The traditional top-down vertical approach doesn’t work as well with cloud applications bringing in outside data, which must be integrated into all existing departments. Dana predicts more co-mingling at the CXO level, at least partially breaking down rigid departmental definitions to give way to a more horizontal approach.

With regard to technology data for marketers, this horizontal alignment will allow marketing (and other departments) to take on more of a self-service approach, where marketers become both a consumer and a provider of data analysis. Intelligence management and delivery will transform from a purely technical role to become more business-oriented.

Louis Columbus on the Need for CMO/CIO Cooperation
Louis thinks that the most successful CMOs and CIOs will create their own unique frameworks for the future, which include plans for how legacy systems can become better aligned with current marketing strategies. These frameworks will also contain plans to more closely align strategy for greater cooperation between the CMO and CIO, but the departments will retain their defined roles, seeking to successfully replace legacy CRM, SFA and ERP systems through collaboration rather than merger.

With this collaboration, roles will still change significantly, as the CIO partners with the CMO to transition IT from a cost-center to a contributor boosting top-line growth and profitability. This partnership will lead to a “fail fast” mentality of improvement through trial and error, and with this mentality, the CTO must assume responsibility for keeping the changing framework aligned with customer needs and a vision for future cloud technology direction. Thus, as the CIO role moves towards delivering value in unison with the CMO, the CTO will take on the role of unifying IT and marketing with a comprehensive technology vision. In essence, while the CXO leaders will retain specific roles, marketing and business leaders will take on more responsibility for technology, while IT leaders must contribute to and understand business priorities.

Michael Krigsman on Added Responsibilities and Mandates
The bottom line driving change at the CXO level is that cloud computing and SaaS solutions make buying and consuming technology infinitely easier. This inevitably blurs the lines between technology providers and consumers, changing the CXO dynamic whereby a marketing executive can now directly purchase affordable, advanced technology without signoff or involvement from the CIO. However, evaluating the specific cloud app and determining how it fits into the overall enterprise technology picture requires the CMO to either adopt elements of the CIO’s responsibilities, or partner with the CIO for added insight.

The lack of role clarity has ups and downs for both the CMO and CIO. The CIO can benefit from these changes by retooling their skillset to increase attentiveness to business needs (and learning how they can benefit business users), while the CMO can increase their understanding of the technology they use to ultimately better leverage cloud applications and data to drive the bottom line. The change in buying power has already occurred with the rise of cloud apps, and the change in roles is rapidly catching up – the CIO must assume responsibility for infrastructure, security and data exchange while the CMO will become a domain expert in marketing-related technology.

Check back soon for insights from more cloud leaders on the shifting roles of CXOs in the cloud economy. But before that, what changes have you seen in the C-suite? And how do you think the roles will co-mingle or compete in the near future?

Share your thoughts below, or connect with me on Twitter.

Lou Guercia

Lou Guercia
As President and CEO for Scribe Software, Lou is responsible for Scribe's direction, continued growth as a leader in mid-market and enterprise integration as well as the company's entry into the cloud through integration-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings. He is a member of the SIIA Software Board of Directors and the MassTLC Cloud cluster.


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