Three years ago, Gartner made headlines projecting that the CMO would outspend the CIO on technology by 2017. So far there has been little reason to doubt that bold prediction will come to pass.
More recently, CEOs have said that digital marketing will be their biggest technology-enabled business investment over the next five years, according to a 2014 Gartner survey, and marketing IT budgets continue to climb even as other marketing spending stays flat.
“Marketing as an enterprise function has been taking a leading role in the implementation of new technologies that help customers connect with businesses,” said Adam Howatson, CMO of enterprise information management provider OpenText, in an interview with CMO.com. “I think it is safe to say that CMOs who ignore technology won’t be CMOs for much longer. Marketing technology will be a defining factor in how an enterprise communicates with its customers.”
Forrester Research has for some time been advocating the establishment of a marketing technology office to help bridge the gap between marketing and technology management. And the value of having a marketing-specific CIO or CTO to manage the complex and growing web of digital marketing technology seems clear. Just take a look at the network of marketing tools from thousands of vendors Gartner laid out in it “Digital Marketing Transit Map” back in 2013 or Scott Brinker’s more recent “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic.”
“Almost everyone is in catch-up mode since the landscape is changing so quickly,” said Christine Cutten, principal with Deloitte Consulting and a leader within its customer transformation practice. Marketing will have to master emerging technologies to enable new strategies, she told CMO.com.
Yet few marketing organizations outside of the high-tech industries have appointed a chief marketing technologist to oversee this dynamic environment of technology strategy and operations. Deloitte’s Cutten, for example, said she has seen just a handful of such roles, and only when the CMO is attempting to make bold changes. “Having a chief technologist solely as part of a marketing function is a luxury few organizations can currently justify,” OpenText’s Howatson agreed.
The Culture Challenge
Cloud computing is quickly becoming the primary delivery mechanism for customer-facing technology. Mobile solutions are becoming the primary channel for customer communications. And a host of new tools—from the Internet of Things and wearable technologies to advanced analytics and artificial intelligence—will further transform marketing operations. “CMOs recognize that technology is in a state of constant changes,” said Michael Cooke, partner with business consultancy Strategy&, a unit of PwC, in an interview with CMO.com. “And it’s changing fast.”
The availability of more on-demand solutions may have lulled some CMOs into a sense of security when it comes to tech strategy. But, as Howatson pointed out, “Just because the CMO can decide on his or her own choice of technology, run it in the cloud, pay for it on a credit card, or from their cost center, it doesn’t mean they should.”
Reliance on third-party agencies to fill the technology hold has also deferred the introduction of dedicated tech resources within the marketing group. “The agencies the marketers tend to work with [also] supply the technology—like with campaign analytics—so there may be a lack of urgency or lack of perceived capability gap,” Deloitte Consulting’s Cutten said.
But the chief challenge in setting up a strategic technology group within marketing is cultural. “Part of that culture challenge is being able to embrace a more digital organization,” Cooke said. “For others, the challenge is more basic—they just haven’t done it yet, and it’s a new frontier for the organization.”
The focus on marketing technology is more prevalent in consumer- and digital-focused industries, such as electronics and consumer products, according to Cooke. They believe in the power of digital marketing. But many other companies, particularly in more traditional industries, including manufacturing, automotive, and industrial products, are only beginning to investigate brining technology capabilities into the marketing group.
“Too many companies don’t do marketing tech at all. Their leadership is intimidated by the technology,” said You Mon Tsang, CEO of marketing automation software maker OutMarket, in an interview with CMO.com. “In order for marketing tech to be successful, the CMO must believe in the impact of technology on marketing.”
The question of who owns the marketing tech budget also remains open. “The functional areas that control that budget today may have a hard time relinquishing control,” Cooke said. “The bottom line is organizations need to face the reality that the world is changing. The responsibility of the CIO is such that it will become too much if their focus is on both maintaining legacy IT systems, adopting new marketing technologies, and meeting the big data needs of the company.”
Defining The Role
Gartner’s chief marketing technologist job description calls for someone familiar with marketing techniques and technologies—including marketing software, data and analytics, social and mobile platforms, digital advertising networks collaboration, and Web site design—who can align the two “to define markets, attract, acquire, and retain customers.” The chief marketing technologist must create an agile environment that can rapidly respond not only to technology changes but evolving customer wants and needs.
“Think about a culture change that enables some rapid test and learn and it’s OK to fail forward,” Cutten said. “Sometimes marketers think that if they can’t have every feature, function, or experience [they] don’t bother with development.”
At the same time, a chief marketing technologist should take the 35,000-foot view of technology strategy, setting long-term priorities. “Technology cannot fully shift from shiny object to shiny object,” Cutten said. “Some time is required to make it stick, but you can incorporate new things into a test-and-learn agenda.”
The role is typically defined by the organization’s operating model. “For more digitally focused businesses, like a consumer technology company, the role may reside outside the IT organization and in marketing,” Cooke said. “In other industries, the role may fall under the purview of the IT organization where the technology spend is controlled.”
A director-level role within the marketing organization can be a source of strength, however. “The chief marketing technologist role could have validity by bringing marketing application priorities into the hands of the marketing organization, where traditional IT still owns infrastructure and back-office applications, and marketing owns marketing applications,” Cutten said. “The role would need to be careful about creating silos versus integration. IT is usually the biggest blocker to this, but is also the biggest reason why the companies that have added the role are pushing for it.”
But wherever the marketing technologist resides or what the role is called, success requires clear roles, rights, and responsibilities. “Just because we’re talking about newer technology, the basic leadership principles still apply: Communicate clearly and consistently about vision and end state; demonstrate what new, different, or better really entails; and stitch together what may seem like one-off experiments into a broader enterprise change,” Cutten said. “And, of course, the principles of good marketing still apply as well: Work from the [customer] back. So even an executive who has technology in her title needs to understand consumers intimately and be focused on what drives their sentiment and behavior change.”
As importantly, a CMO needs to put his money where his mouth is. A robust marketing technology group should receive at least 10 percent of the marketing budget, according to Tsang.
A Good Marketing Technologist Is Hard To Find
Todd Merry, CMO of Delaware North, said he would love to hire a chief marketing technologist—if only he could locate one. “They aren't easy to find, and our hope is to identify someone in IT who would switch sides and join the marketing team,” Merry told CMO.com. “Short of that, our search is focused on people who have come up through the consulting or tech-heavy side of marketing.” The most likely source of future chief marketing technologists, Merry added, might be an integrated digital marketing and consulting firm.
“Marketers struggle with technology skills, and a translation role is required to understand both marketing and technology,” Cutten said. “There are very few people who have both skill sets, and these people command a premium, so scarcity of resources may be at play. Head-count costs could also be an issue since it would require increased [full-time employees] on the marketing books to support.”
Julie Woods-Moss, CMO of communications and IT services company Tata Communications, does not have a chief marketing technologist either, but may have some professionals that will grow into such a role. She told CMO.com that she has been increasing investment in digital marketing staff and analytics talent. The digital marketer must possess both creative and technology skills—“a combo that doesn’t often come together,” she said. “This person will have the ability to work with IT engineering, product management, and brand marketing.”
Woods-Moss’ head of data sciences focuses on analyzing global customer and partner data to uncover previously hidden business insights. “In the next year, the position will also develop into a more proactive role with our recent artificial intelligence investment in terms of what new services can we develop as a result of the vast data sets that we leverage to discover useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision-making,” said Woods-Moss, who is also CEO of Tata’s Nextgen Business.
Additionally, Woods-Moss is expanding the role of her chief innovation officer, who has a background in product management and is skilled at working with customers and internal teams to create proof-of-concept initiatives. “Overall, marketing needs technology skills, but it will probably be a year or so before our chief innovation officer becomes a full-fledged CTO role in marketing,” she said.
The CMO-CIO Hybrid
In 2012, Eduardo Conrado was given what still largely is a rare corporate title: senior vice president of marketing and IT at Motorola Solutions. “In this role,” the company announced at the time, “he is fusing the marketing and IT organizations to enable the company’s drive toward a customer-centric strategy.” Last November, business software maker SAP appointed CMO Jonathan Becher as the company’s first chief digital officer.
As technology becomes increasingly embedded in marketing, some organizations may see IT as such a strategic priority that the CMO takes on the role of CIO as well, in de facto fashion, if not in title. “What has happened recently with SAP’s CMO is very interesting and could become a new trend with other companies,” Woods-Moss said.
“The role of the CMO is changing to be much more technology-focused,” OpenText’s Howatson added. “Whatever we will call ourselves in the future–chief marketing officer, chief innovation officer, chief data officer—it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that technology and innovation need to be central part of the marketing strategy.”
Even in cases where the marketing organization does hire a technologist-in-chief, the CMO must be fluent in technology. “The CMO role has evolved from managing the image of a company to driving customer and product strategy, mining data for customer insights, and providing strategic guidance to the CEO,” Howatson said. “By having a comprehensive grasp on the technology—and how it can benefit the enterprise—the CMO will become the chief evangelist for marketing technology in an organization.”
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