After apprehensively watching the waves of big data crashing into their businesses, CMOs and CIOs have been grappling with an important and growing question: Is big data a friend or foe?
With that question in mind, the CMO Council surveyed 237 senior marketers and 210 senior IT executives and came to the conclusion that big data is both a joint obstacle and opportunity. The trick now, according to the CMO Council's latest report, “Big Data’s Biggest Role: Aligning the CMO and the CIO,” is figuring out how to influence CMOs and CIOs to work together for their mutual benefit.
“Marketing and IT now have a clear understanding of what they should do and what the other one should do,” said Liz Miller, CMO Council’s vice president of marketing programs, in an interview with CMO.com. “When we sat down to look at the material in the report, we thought we would see a widening gap between them. But the gap has narrowed.”
What is even more surprising is that with business data doubling every 1.2 years, CMOs and CIOs have any time at all to work on partnering with each other. The challenge is underlined by projections that the typical 40 percent global data growth will pace the meager 5 percent in global IT spending. The danger is that the overabundance of data will cause marketers and IT managers to slip into a state of “analysis paralysis.”
But something funny has happened as the big data phenomenon has exploded: CMOs and CIOs have begun to cooperate to take advantage of big data, often on their own.
“The chasm between the two functions is not nearly as broad as headlines might be claiming,” according to the CMO Council report, which was prepared in partnership with SAS. “In fact, the two are fundamentally in agreement about key direction, strategy, and even roles in the advancement of technology and the criticality of data across the organization. What is lacking is the mandate that customer centricity is the core value.”
The overarching mandate, according to the report, has to be created by the CEO, who brings the CMO and CIO to the table, even though marketing and IT may have developed the beginnings of productive partnerships on their own. Miller noted that CMOs and CIOs are bringing new tools to their partnerships; in their arsenals, marketers offer breakthrough developments in mobile and social networking, while IT has a host of new upgraded hardware and software tools.
Also important is the fact that CIOs are increasingly getting involved with marketing when strategy is being developed rather than waiting until marketing programs have been launched. “In the past, CIOs were brought into the timeline too late,” Miller said. “Now CIOs are brought in earlier and have a more strategic role. Everything now becomes easier. There are no big budget fights, no big fights over Internet strategy.”
In this emerging world of CMO and CIO cooperation, the CEO assumes a more important role because it is the CEO who sets the overall mandates. Observing that customer-centricity adoption is best driven by the top of an organization, the report quoted one CMO of a large life insurance company. “Customer centricity,” the executive said, “begins with a good understanding of your customer in terms of their needs, wants, behaviors, and attitudes toward your brand. The top is always the best place to start–if you can get CEO buy-in and support and have the CEO of the company be the champion of it, then the buy-in through the rest of the organization is a lot easier.”
By working closer at the beginnings of new marketing strategies, CMOs and CIOs are better able to develop highly sought after actionable intelligence. One important conclusion of the report found that by bringing in IT at the beginning of the marketing process, tools are presented to help CMOs analyze the mass of new aggregated data. The CIOs responding in the CMO Council survey generally believe that CMOs’ primary role should be to architect the customer engagement strategy, while IT should be the champion of the engagement’s measurement and collaboration technologies.
“It is the CMO and CIO who must work to democratize data, making it accessible and actionable across the enterprise,” the report states. “What is most obvious through these findings is that this will not be possible without partnership, and no partnership can flourish without support.”
The surge in big data, and its impact on business processes, is causing many companies to realign their approach to marketing. At Transamerica Brokerage, for instance, CEO Michael Babikian, who formerly was the unit’s CMO, said in the report that the company recently shifted its customer centricity, which was initially operated by IT.
“Now that marketing and IT have aligned their objectives around the customer, there has been a shift of responsibility,” Babikian said. “This has resulted in a partnership between marketing and IT–allowing the data to be used to experiment and solve.”
Babikian added that a few months ago he would have said IT owned the customer, but since rearranging Transamerica’s customer centricity, customer data is now owned by marketing to a large extent.