Technology plays a vital role in almost all business functions, which means chief information officers (CIO) regularly have to work with colleagues from outside the IT department.
Technology is changing how firms manage their accounts, keep tabs on employee performance and absence, and monitor their supply chain, for example. Few business functions have been affected by technological advances more than marketing, with CIOs increasingly being called on to help marketeers use new technologies in the right way.
“The most loved CIOs I have come across are the ones who take the time to work with each department and key stakeholders. What are the outcomes they are looking to achieve, how can technology best support them and make them look really good in their job?” said Caspar Craven, co-founder and director at business intelligence provider Trovus.
Given these increasing demands on their time, many CIOs are beginning to complain that they are being seen as a utility that has to continually respond to different stakeholder requests.
“Well, if this happens you’re naturally on the back foot straight away. The key thing is to educate your internal clients on how they behave around you and what to expect,” said Craven.
Natalie Kouzeleas, senior executive of customer and retention analytics at Accenture, added that CIOs and chief marketing officers (CMOs) have had uneasy relationships for many years.
“This is because the CIO wants to make decisions that are right for the infrastructure of the organisation, not just for today but for the future, whereas the typical CMO’s tenure in an organisation is about 21 months, so they want to move very fast when they come into an organisation. Generally, there’s been a tendency to see IT as something that’s just going to slow them down,” she said.
Kouzeleas added that CMOs have tended to go outside of the organisation and use third parties to help implement new marketing technologies quickly, but as a result, useful customer data is put beyond the reach of the rest of the organisation.
Bob Barker, vice president for corporate marketing at analytics solutions provider Alterian, said CMOs and CIOs must work together on one common goal - ensuring the quality of customer data. He said CIOs should team up with their marketing counterparts to get a better view of their customers’ behaviour.
“The IT and marketing departments need to work more closely together, because, at the end of the day, everything in business revolves around the customer. They share a common ground in using data. Being able to put all of it in one place, ensure data quality and run queries on it is essential to both departments,” he said.
Barker added that IT heads also need to help their marketing colleagues in securing their data, as it is an important company asset.
CIOs also have an important role to play in advising marketing departments on what technologies they should use. According to Panayiotis Vitakis, chief technology officer at mobile marketing solutions provider Upstream, there are a plethora of technologies that can be used in marketing departments, and CIOs need to be familiar with them.
“The main issue is that marketing has changed. It used to rely on manual processes, not technology, and there was very little interaction between CIOs, CMOs and their respective departments. That has changed and the key technologies responsible for this are the internet, social media, mobile and CRM.”
Matt McNeany, CEO at strategic holding company Omnicom’s Creative Technology business, agreed, saying: “No company can participate in every technology trend, so how do you decide which to use? It’s important to assess the efficiency drivers and which are the best new ways of engaging.”
However, with the sophisticated technology available to businesses, it is easy to overstep boundaries and collect data that businesses are not permitted to collect. Herein lies a challenge for CIOs and CMOs - they must ensure they do not breach legal barriers in their collection of data.
“There are technologies that can tell you what sort of customers you have, but legal issues prevent businesses from finding out too much. For example, with web analytics, you can’t discover who each of your customers are - you can’t find out their name, just their IP address,” said Joel Curry, managing director at contact data management software provider Experian QAS.
He added that CIOs and CMOs need to work together to take joint responsibility for the management of data and to ensure the organisation does not contravene data laws.