chief digital officer, customer experience, cmo, cio

In this digital economy, marketing and IT departments have to become BFFs in order to prosper. But can companies benefit from a go-between, such as a Chief Digital Officer? CMSWire spoke recently with Mark Gambill, Chief Marketing Officer of marketing cloud provider Vocus, to get his take. 

A variety of reports in recent years have pointed to a state of affairs that most marketing and IT departments know well-- the need for two of the most different departments in an organization to work together. A July, 2012 report from IBM, for instance, pointed out that the two entities need to align, while in January 2012, Gartner predicted that the average CMO will have a larger IT budget by 2017 than will the average CIO. And, last August, Accenture released a report that called on CMOs and CIOs to “bridge the gap to seize the digital opportunity.”

The Need for a Marketing Technologist

As the Accenture report pointed out, it’s not just that CMOs and CIOs have different backgrounds, knowledge or skill sets. They often have completely different worldviews, with 61 percent of CIOs thinking their companies are ready for the digital future and only 49 percent of CIOs agreeing.

CMOs’ top concern is insufficient funding for digital marketing channels, while CIOs’ is solution complexity and integration. Nearly half of CIOs think marketing makes promises without IT’s sign-on and does not provide adequate business requirements, while 36 percent of CMOs say IT does not deliver as expected.

With such differences, a liaison would seem to serve a critical role. Marketing departments, Vocus' Gambill told CMSWire, are “looking to do more, much more” these days, which involves not only technical tool assessment, acquisition and use, but integration with existing systems and analysis of data streams.

A top-level position that is a peer of a CMO or a CIO, such as Chief Digital Officer, is one possibility, “although you could also create a liaison a little further down,” such as a technically- and marketing-inclined project manager or a role titled something like marketing technologist.

Gambill pointed out that such a liaison is “not a new idea,” but it’s one that is increasingly becoming relevant, especially in this data-driven age. Among other things, he noted, marketers are being asked to get “real-time analysis or measure user sentiment, with adjustments on the fly.”Even for cloud-based solutions, he said, this means “having internal data plumbing in order” and undertaking a “massive fusion of activities.”

Learning Opportunities

A Liason Needs To Know Digital Strategy, Data Analytics

Gambill also said that, while some companies can utilize “an automated platform outside of IT” that is enough for their purposes, many cannot or do not use cloud-based services, and even those that do often need integration with existing systems, such as data streams.

The Accenture report highlighted the different cultures between marketing and IT, but Gambill suggested that is changing, especially on the marketing side, as younger marketing staff are more familiar with, and less resistant to, technological requirements.

The generational change also seems to be working its way through IT departments. Another report -- from Forrester in August -- pointed to the more cloud-oriented, more risk-inclined younger IT workers.

The key, then, to this liaison role is not so much a tech-savvy marketer, or a marketing-savvy engineer, but, Gambill said, someone who is strong in two areas -- digital-based strategy and data analytics. All the rest --the security of that marketing cloud, for instance, or integrating data streams or figuring out the actual technical needs of the marketing department -- are nuts and bolts that staff people in each department can figure out.

Image courtesy of violetkaipa (Shutterstock)