It was the "wow" moment of the business conference.
Meghan Walsh, senior director of eCommerce Platform System Management for Marriott International, told the Gilbane Conference in Boston in December that the CIO reports to the CMO at her organization.
“Ooh.” “Aah,” came murmurs from the crowd.
Well into 2014 now, the topic of CIO and CMO is still a hot one. Do people believe it's an effective C-Suite strategy? Depends on who you ask and what type of organization it is, information technology and marketing executives told CMSWire.
No, Don’t Do It
“No,” Loni Stark, director of product & industry marketing for Adobe's Digital Marketing Solutions, told CMSWire when asked if the CIO should report to the CMO. “I see this question getting asked a lot. I think it is because in many organizations, the rise of digital marketing has caused friction between marketing and IT.”
Stark added that organizational structures address management issues, but they don't replace leadership and collaboration.
“At the C-level all functions depend on each other, but that doesn't mean they have to report to each other,” she said. “Marketing's dependence on IT has grown, true. But marketing also depends on hiring the most talented, creative and empathetic thinkers, and yet we don’t debate if HR should report to the CMO.”
Yes, Go For It
Monica Coney, chief ringleader for Chief Executive Connections, an executive resource firm based in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, said the CIO to CMO reporting structure can be successful.
“Absolutely,” she told CMSWire. “It is the trend, and it makes perfect sense.”
Companies have to improve on customer data aggregation and analytics, she added, to ensure they are customer-centric in their marketing strategies.
“Extracting and executing on data is the core of the marketing department’s endeavors to ensure they are understanding and reaching their audience,” Coney said. “Collaboration with CIO/IT is critical, and they must embrace and work hand in hand with marketing to ensure there is a real-time view of the customer. Marketing has to take ownership of the complete customer experience, thus the CIO/IT should roll up under marketing in my opinion.”
Too often, Coney added, executives become protective over their area and not as focused on collaboration as they should be.
“It is one of the common areas that the C-Suite needs to constantly improve upon,” she said. “The corporate culture starts at the top, and for every great one there is another that I wonder how they stay in business. Work shouldn't be an internal battle right?”
Asked about the reporting structure of a CIO answering to the CMO, a CIO told us successful models can vary.
Mark A. Stone, system CIO in the Office of the Chancellor at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, said the answer “can differ for different companies.”
“If the company is in essence a technology-based company (e.g., Microsoft, Oracle), the CIO should definitely report into the CEO and not to the CMO,” Stone said. “It is possible in such a company for the CMO to report into the CIO. If the company is in essence a marketing-based company (e.g., Amazon, Audible), the CMO should definitely report into the CEO and not the CIO. It is possible in such a company for the CIO to report into the CMO.”
In most companies, however, Stone told us the CIO and CMO should report into the CEO and not to each other.
“This ensures that both perspectives are heard at the executive level,” he said. “While it does create a potential overlap in areas of interest (e.g., online marketing, ecommerce, database marketing), it also increases the likelihood that both IT and marketing are overseen by deeply competent resources.”