It’s every organisation’s worst nightmare: just as digitally-connected consumers expect a seamless service experience across all platforms, a cold war breaks out between the two departments charged with delivering it – marketing and IT.
A recent study undertaken by Accenture Interactive exposed a serious disconnect between chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) which threatens the ability of companies to deliver effective customer experiences. The study, based on a survey of 400 senior marketing and 250 IT executives in 10 countries, revealed that only one in 10 of the executives believes collaboration between CMOs and CIOs is currently at the right level. And these aren’t small businesses either – we’re talking about organisations with an annual revenue of at least $500 million.
The report showed that on the face of it CIOs are more committed to greater collaboration than CMOs, with 77% of COIs agreeing that CMO-CIO alignment is important, compared to 57 percent of CMOs surveyed. But before we start handing out the gold stars, only 45 percent of CIOs put supporting marketing near or at the top of their list of priorities.
The irony of these findings is that CMOs and CIOs actually agree that technology is essential to marketing and that its primary purpose is to gain access to customer insight and intelligence. The real problem is that when it comes to collaborating with each other, both departments have different priorities. CMOs for example claim that gaining customer insight is their number one motivator for collaborating with IT, while CIOs rank this tenth on their list of reasons to work together. CIOs’ top motivation for collaborating is to improve the customer experience, which CMOs rank as their third most important motivator.
Conflict On The Ground
And these differences aren’t just attitudinal – they actually affect how IT and marketing are working together. The report found that when collaborating on a marketing initiative, neither the marketing executives nor the IT executives come away satisfied. In fact 36 percent of CMOs say that IT deliverables fall short of the desired outcome, and 46 percent of CIOs say marketing does not provide an adequate level of detail to meet business requirements.
We also discovered there is disagreement over the freedom and control of the use of technology and data that also prevents effective collaboration. While 45 percent of CMOs say they want to enable their teams to leverage and optimise data and content without IT intervention, 49 percent of CIOs counter that marketing uses technologies without consideration for IT standards.
So Why Does This Matter?
Looking at these findings from a service design perspective, I am really concerned about the level of dysfunction that exists in so many large companies when it comes to IT and marketing. We know from working with a wide range of clients that organisations charged with delivering consumer experiences – whether products or services – are under unprecedented pressure from ultra-connected consumers. And these consumers have highly sophisticated expectations of digital services. They expect the elegant mobility of services like Instagram and Tumblr to translate seamlessly across their smart devices be they smartphones or tablets. What’s more, they want to use the digital channels at their disposal, such as Twitter, to communicate directly, one-on-one with organisations and at times to broadcast these conversations (a kind of customer-led adaptation of the old cliché “one-to-many”). The result is that the traditional divisions between marketing service provision, commerce and CRM are rapidly dissolving.
This picture of what is happening at a consumer level is completely at odds with what is taking place inside those organisations experiencing a disconnect between marketing and IT, where the silo-driven approach rules. The problem is that today’s consumers aren’t prepared to wait for companies to sort out their internal issues. If an organisation or brand is struggling to deliver the highly relevant brand/service experience they expect, they will go elsewhere.
And there really is no excuse for that to happen. The digital revolution isn’t just empowering consumers, it has also ushered in sophisticated data and analytics tools which - used in the right way - can help organisations not only to respond to consumer expectations but to shape and deliver a new type of customer journey.
In order for this to happen, resolving the differences between CMOs and CIOs has got to be a top priority. So what steps can organisations take in order to foster greater collaboration between marketing and IT? I would say there are three key actions:
- Reframe expectations: The CMO is a prime candidate to be identified as the Chief Experience or Chief Customer Officer (If CMOs do not seize this, expect someone else to do so. Forrester reported recently that more than 50% of companies they surveyed that had a Chief Customer Officer had that role report direct to the CEO). Reframing the role of the CMO helps to move the emphasis away from marketing (essentially an internal term organisations use to discuss how they relate to consumers) and focuses on how connected consumers relate to an organisation’s products and services in our digital age. As part of that shift, IT should be looked at as a strategic partner with marketing and not just as a platform provider.
- Shake-up the skills set: Rather than working in silos, marketing and IT should be learning from each other, enabling marketing departments to become more tech savvy and IT to become more agile and responsive to market demands.
- Focus on the consumer: IT and marketing should agree on key business levers and embrace tools, processes and platforms that help the organisation as a whole to understand consumer intent and unlock consumer value.
Ultimately there is no getting away from the fact that for organisations to succeed in the digital age, they must focus on technology to improve relevant customer experiences and advance marketing practices. If CMOs and CIOs can work together to agree on how technology can be best applied to drive their company’s specific marketing needs, they stand a much better chance of achieving increased brand affinity, loyalty and sales growth.<