CMOs Want CIOs to Add ‘Fast’ to Their Vocabularies

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Fast_Lane_logoATLANTA—Far from wanting to compete with chief information officers for IT dollars, chief marketing officers are spending more on department IT efforts in large part because their counterparts in IT aren’t responsive enough for their needs. Marketing has taken on a broader range of IT projects than previously, but are eager to coordinate their efforts with IT, and hand over the controls whenever feasible, according to a panel of three CMOs speaking Thursday during a luncheon sponsored by the Georgia CIO Leadership Association.

Annica Kreider, vice president of brand development for pizza franchisor Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, says marketing departments need everything “now,” while IT tends to follow rigorous processes that slow them down. “You know it’s going to take six months longer and cost you 25% more than the original budget,” she said.

Ms. Kreider noted that social, mobile and location-aware technologies have forced marketing to become more digitally oriented. Digital marketing is “really all IT,” she said.

Kevin J. Smith, CMO of pest control company Rollins Inc. said CMOs have been pulled reluctantly into the technology business because they need customer-facing applications more quickly than IT can provide it. “Fast is not really a word ya’ll use,” he said, with his CIO counterpart, Lee Crump, sitting in the audience.

Conflicting orders from the CEO sometimes make it impossible for CMOs to get what they need from IT quickly enough. According to Mr. Smith, the CEO of Rollins asked Mr. Crump to roll out a critical piece of infrastructure, but also expects Mr. Smith to increase the number of customers and hold onto them longer, which is something he needs digital technologies to help him accomplish. “Lee can get to that eventually, but if I wait for his budget to get to it, I won’t win,” he said.

That being said, the view of IT from the CMO office is far from negative. The CMOs present recognize that IT not only plays a vital role in areas like data governance and security, but is critical to advancing overall corporate objectives. In fact, they don’t really want to run IT unless they absolutely have to. “I don’t think any of us CMOs plan to be in the technology business,” said Mr. Smith.

He said marketing departments often budget for IT spending because “CIOs couldn’t get the money to support us.” He said many of the applications and systems developed by marketing are being transitioned back to IT, where he feels they belong. “I can’t wait to give it back,” he said.

In cases where neither department could get funding for an IT project needed by marketing, they developed a “skunkworks” project funded by marketing because “it was easier to hide it in the marketing budget than it was to hide in the IT budget.”

He also said marketing has had a greater influence on development of a new business management system than it would have in the past because it directly impacts customer experience. “We wouldn’t have done that 10 years ago. Not a chance,” he said.

Kristin Kelley, CMO of global staffing company Randstad NA, says “IT is a place everything has to go through” in order to avoid creating silos of information. “The expectation that everything you want is something the IT department is going to be able to deliver is a stretch,” she said. She said that IT and marketing departments need to work together to pick third-party vendors who can pick up the slack when IT doesn’t have the relevant skills or bandwidth for a particular project.

Ms. Kreider said IT is also critical when it comes to security and data privacy. “I don’t know about Heartbleed, I don’t know about PCI compliance. My IT team is letting me know about these things proactively,” she said.

 

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SOURCE: Wall Street Journal | Michael Hickins

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