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Going beyond IT: What's the CMO’s role in the digital transformation journey?

As we discussed in a previous blog, a ‘grey zone’ now exists between the marketing and IT departments. The advent of ‘martech’ has seen CMOs become increasingly involved in IT buying decisions as they look to invest in marketing automation software, CRM, data and analytics. But marketing isn’t the only discipline that’s been transformed by new technologies. The digital age has also given rise to fintech, HRtech and legaltech, among others. So, why would marketing have a more significant role in the digital transformation process over other lines of business?

Going beyond technology

Altimeter Group defines digital transformation as a movement through a customer-centric lens - specifically, “The realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touch point in the customer experience lifecycle”. It’s clear from this definition that digital transformation is much more than a shift in technology investment. Its implications span the realms of infrastructure, organisation, and leadership. Most significantly, however, it leads to and is inspired by a renewed focus on the entire customer experience. Strategic CIOs are well-equipped to bring an innovative vision for what’s technologically possible and desirable for the organisation, but not so much when it comes to mapping out the customer journey and the various digital touch points. This requires someone who is skilled at gaining insights from customer needs and experiences, and who knows the customer better than the CMO?

According to an Accenture Interactive study released in October 2015, improving customer experience is the top business priority for organisations pursuing digital transformation, considered more important than growing revenues and differentiating from the competition. In addition, improving customer satisfaction is one of the top three motivations for digital transformation, along with increasing profitability and accelerating speed to market. It’s clear that digitisation is further blurring the lines between marketing and IT, to the point where they’re overlapping. As Managing Director of Accenture Interactive, Anatoly Roytman, said, “Customer experience is now clearly at the heart of digital transformation, and digital is at the centre of customer experience”.

Building a bond

The overlapping of responsibilities presents an opportunity for a very powerful partnership between the CIO and the CMO. The CIO’s expertise in development and IT architecture combined with the CMO’s customer data and creative vision enables organisations to have two champions swapping insights to solve the complexities surrounding marketing automation and SMAC technologies (social, mobile, analytics and cloud). In many organisations, however, the overlap has led to internal friction as the department leaders grapple with who owns what. Common areas of conflict include data and project management, lack of communication and collaboration, a misalignment of priorities, and different delivery timelines. This can have serious implications for the bottom line; an article in the Information Age warns that a lack of CIO-CMO alignment has the potential to stagnate digital transformation.

The key to forming a strong CIO-CMO bond is to unite around the common goal of delivering a seamless and engaging customer experience. For this to be a constructive collaboration, clarity is essential around duties and areas of focus. Generally, CIOs will operate at the infrastructure and platform level, while CMOs will be in charge of certain services and applications. By focusing on the customer instead of their differences, the two leaders can jointly execute a shared digital vision.

Customer first

A healthy obsession with improving the customer experience is the foundation of any digital transformation. In digitally-enabled organisations, a mindset focused on the end-to-end customer experience permeates the company. They have processes that enable them to capture and learn from every customer interaction – positive or negative – which help them to regularly test assumptions about how customers are using digital and constantly fine-tune the experience. Digital ownership sits between the marketing and IT functions, and while this can cause tension at times, it’s important that the department leaders don’t let this hinder them from delivering strong digital outcomes for the organisation and most importantly, its customers.

Whether you’re a CIO, CMO or CEO, our how-to guide can help you navigate the world of digital leadership. Download your complimentary copy here.

Tags big data, CIO, CMO, Digital Transformation, CIO Leadership, Cloud, customer experience, analytics, digital, digitally-enabled enterprise, Marketing, martech, mobile, SMAC

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