Customer Experience, Ignoring IT May Increase Speed But It Reduces VisionScientists have discovered that one of the reasons that there are so many accidents at railroad crossings, is that humans are actually pretty bad at judging how fast large objects are approaching. As a consequence, they misjudge how quickly the train is approaching on the track. As one scientist said, the bigger an object is when you first see it, the longer it takes you to notice it change."

The challenge of creating dynamic and relevant customer experiences across multiple channels is a huge change that is barreling right for most business. And the blinding speed that CMO’s are being encouraged to work at in order to meet this challenge, is very often obscuring the perspective they might have when it comes to working with the CIO (or IT more generally).

Sheryl Pattek from Forrester recently discussed this in a paper she wrote called CMO’s Role In Technology Purchasing. In a blog post to accompany this piece, she wrote

"in today’s post-digital world, technology has become the lens through which you should view your relationships with your customers. Your marketing team cannot be at its best unless it excels at understanding and using the right technology.”

Admitting The Challenge

For those of us in the content management space, we’ve known for some time that the relationship between the CMO and the CIO hasn’t always been the most cooperative. CMOs often think IT is the department of “we can’t do that” -- and CIOs think the marketing department managers are a bunch of “irresponsible noobs.”

new survey conducted by Accenture Interactive even points out that this relationship has reached a downright unhealthy status.

This has to change. The CMO and the CIO must develop a trusted relationship in order for the business to be successful in creating technology-driven customer experiences. And speed alone isn’t the answer. For the CMO to succeed it’s not just about moving fast, it’s about having the long-term perspective and capability to succeed over the long haul.

Now of course the first step to understanding the challenge, is actually admitting that there IS one. The Accenture study actually does a great job of outlining the reasons why there is so much distrust.

In fact, the study found that the two biggest reasons that CMOs are frustrated with IT is that they “don’t understand marketing requirements” and they want marketing “employees to be able to operate data/content without IT intervention.” And, conversely, the study found that CIOs are frustrated with the marketing teams because the “marketing teams don’t understand IT,” and that “marketing requirements change too frequently.”

So, no real surprises for those of us in the content space -- CIOs are frustrated that marketing wants changes too fast to maintain quality, and CMOs are annoyed that IT can’t keep up with the pace of change.

Mind The Gap

There are valid points on both sides of this -- and in our experience we find that the most successful companies are employing a process where the CMO works hard to understand the technology requirements – and even staffs for it -- while the CIO works hard to understand the business needs of a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

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From a digital content and marketing perspective, here are three suggestions that we’ve found very helpful in making a transition to this kind of model:

1. Identify A Chief Content Officer

Whether it’s the CMO or someone who reports to the CMO, it’s important that someone be in charge of creating the digital content and contextual experiences for customers across every channel. This may be a group of people that are cross-functional in nature, or a singular person whose responsibility is to facilitate and drive optimal customer experiences. But by their very nature they will be driven by technology (CMS, Analytics, Social, Mobile, etc.) and this will mean they have to work closely with IT in order to enable this.

2. Align The Marketing And Technology Playbook

By some accounts, more than a third of both marketing and IT budgets are now related to some form of technology solutions. So, it only makes sense that both groups are working together on the business solutions that technology will help facilitate. The CMO and the CIO should work hand in hand to make sure their planning is well communicated. Creating cross-functional teams to understand (and then be understood) can be a great first step here.

That brings us to our third suggestion …

3. Mix It All Up

Adding technology resources to marketing, and marketing resources to IT will help build trust and ensure mutual understanding. Scott Brinker, the marketing technologist writes almost exclusively about this -- and it’s a really great idea. This enables both departments to come together around customer experiences -- and let the business goals drive the discussions.

Trust Is The Name Of The Game

Trust is something that is developed over time. The two teams may never join up together for the company picnic, but over time a mutual trust between these two groups is critical.

For marketing -- a myopic focus on speed will cause them to lose perspective on the bigger picture. If they continually route around IT and install widget technology and one-off’s, they risk losing the centralized content, data and experience design capabilities that a well-thought out technology implementation can provide.


Conversely, the IT group must understand how quickly marketing needs to change to adapt to new challenges such as mobile, social and personalization across multiple channels. It’s a team effort --  and the best teams are what win in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Title image courtesy of Jorg Hackemann (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more from Tjeerd in CXM Isn't a Job For One