Is it time for marketers to take a backseat to IT, the CIO and the C-Suite in digital experience (DX) technology decision-making? A survey by Digital Clarity Group suggests so. According to the "Digital Experience Platforms: Buyer Trends, Preferences, and Strategies" report (Registration Required), 40 percent of the respondents say the C-Suite drives the DX strategy while involving all business units. Further, 31 percent of respondents say DX technology is primarily an IT issue, and 16 percent answered IT and marketing should jointly lead projects. So the question remains — who is the DX technology leader?

CIO's Role an Evolution

Some didn’t see this coming a few years ago — a trend toward CIO leading DX technology initiatives. “I'm having so many conversations with CIOs around customer experience,” said Patrick Salyer, former CEO of Gigya who came to SAP through acquisition. “I wouldn't guess that two, three years ago.” Digital technology selections requires infrastructure and understanding the customer, Salyer added, and “you can't do it alone as a CMO.” “It's not just branding,” he added. “It's digital infrastructure. It’s going to be a really interesting time the next couple years.”

Ted Schadler, Forrester analyst, who wrote a report released this week, said he, too, has found CIOs coming to the fore. He cited QVC, whose CIO and executive VP of commerce platforms now meet quarterly.

Related Article: How Digital Customer Experience Software Has Changed in 5 Years

CIO, CMO’s Should be Partners

Some don’t see DX technology selection leadership falling on one particular department head. Kathy Schneider, chief marketing officer at Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS)said the decision of which digital customer experience technologies to implement should not rest solely on either the CIO or CMO. Instead, the CIO and CMO should work closely to spearhead a successful customer experience strategy.

Why, you ask? Well, CMOs have a strong understanding of the customer, how to reach and engage them, and how to market the company’s products or services to them effectively. The effectiveness of a marketing strategy has become increasingly dependent on the digital technology that underpins and enables it, Schneider added. “While this has pushed CMOs to become informed about the various new platforms, applications and technologies out there, CIOs have a strong understanding of the company’s infrastructure and how to evaluate technology and deliver implementation,” she said. 

Schneider suggests aligning these two roles to ensure they have some performance objectives and outcomes in common. “Too often,” she said, “these roles can have opposing goals such as ‘grow pipeline and bookings’ and ‘reduce cost and/or shrink the number of applications.’ Excellent customer experience requires a cross-functional commitment and the expertise of both functions.”   

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: Investigating the Cost, Integration and Other Realities of Digital Experience Platforms

Splitting Up Priorities

When it comes to who takes what in DX technology, some feel it’s better when the CIO and CMO prioritize different things. Justin Rodenbostel, vice president of open source application development at SPR, feels this way. He said the CIO is usually more concerned with internal issues facing the technology. Does the software properly fit into an organization’s already existing ecosystem and does the organization have the talent necessary to support its implementation and alignment across other organizational concerns? 

The CMO, on the other hand, is usually more focused on the digital CX tech improving the company’s product and services, market fit, usability and adoption. “Traditionally,” Rodenbostel said, “CIOs have chosen technology based on operational concerns — cost, ease of implementation, ongoing maintenance and on-time delivery. But if this route is taken without any CX input from CMOs, when customizations are required, the easier-to-implement tool suddenly becomes much more expensive because of increased maintenance overhead.”

Related Article: 9 Tips to Consider When Selecting a Digital Experience Platform

More CIO, CMO Collaboration

CIOs and CMOs are actually collaborating. Want proof? Keith Collins, CIO and executive vice president at SAS, said he meets regularly with his company’s CMO and also meets regularly with other leadership team members to make sure they’re on the right course regardless of the nature of the project. “It’s not about the coolest app or the latest marketing cloud or the freshest approach to call centers,” Collins said. “The goal is to get all areas of the business working together to deliver a frictionless experience that delights the customer. It’s important for the CIO and the CMO to have a strong relationship and create a holistic vision for the organization. And it’s equally important for them to encourage agile, cross-functional project management teams that can keep projects moving.”


Rodenbostel believes that while understanding and improving customer experience is the primary goal for selecting a DX technology, organizations need to remember that there can’t be a digital customer experience if the company doesn’t have the infrastructure to support it. “Conversely, CIOs should not always settle for the option they think best without considering the CX needs driving this decision,” he said. “Because of this, a partnership between the CIO and CMO, along with input based on research from potential users, is the best way to make a decision on digital customer experience technology.”