​​​At Odds

Despite t​he obvious need to ​collaborate, the divergent priorities of IT and marketing leaders breed mistrust and misalignment.

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​It is modern marketers who see the most opportunity from harvesting big data — so much so that research firm Gartner predicts that by 2017 chief marketing officers (CMOs) will spend more on IT and analytics than chief information officers (CIOs). So it would seem that marketing and IT would be motivated to collaborate. Not so fast.​

A new Accenture PLC study reveals that only 10 percent of senior marketing and IT executives consider their collaboration to be at the right level. "Despite their growing understanding that they must be more closely aligned, CMOs and CIOs have a trust issue," states The CMO-CIO Disconnect (PDF), which is based on a survey of 252 CIOs and 405 CMOs of large companies in 10 countries.

Both marketing and IT focus primarily on building relationships with other members of the C-suite rather than on working with each other. "As a result, the two functions are disconnected in how technology should support and enable improved marketing performance," the report finds.

To varying degrees, marketing and IT executives agree that their functions should be aligned more closely. In the Accenture survey, 56 percent of CMOs see a need for more alignment with IT. More than three-fourths (77 percent) of CIOs want to be more aligned with marketing, but only 45 percent consider it a priority.

Why the disconnect? "Marketers want more freedom from IT," the study posits, "and IT wants more planning and compliance with standards." Indeed, nearly half of CIOs say marketing deploys technologies without considering IT standards, while a similar percentage of CMOs want to use data without IT's involvement. "This is the crux of the issue," the report states. "Who operates the technology to drive outcomes, who controls the design of experiences?"

No application illustrates this disconnect better than big data. For marketing executives, big data has the promise to yield information to more accurately tailor customer experiences, the report notes. As a result, access to customer intelligence is marketing's No. 1 motivator for greater alignment with IT, but it ranks just 10th for CIOs. IT executives are more concerned with privacy and security of customer data — ranking it fourth among reasons to align with marketing — whereas CMOs rank those areas 11th.

Among marketing concerns, gaining better customer insight and engaging with customers more effectively is a top issue for CMOs and CIOs. But while improving marketing's productivity and delivering more qualified sales leads are marketing's priorities, IT leaders say it is more important to tie website analytics to business outcomes.

Looking at IT priorities, there is general agreement on the need to control costs. CMOs, though, want more IT focus on building platforms to measure marketing's effectiveness, while CIOs want more focus on operational systems for marketing.

The lack of alignment sows discord internally. Although both groups say solution and integration complexity are the top internal obstacles they face, 38 percent of CMOs accuse IT of keeping them out of the loop — something that 33 percent of CIOs admit they do. But 36 percent of CIOs hit back that marketing goes around IT to work with vendors directly.

Bridging this seemingly insurmountable divide requires IT and marketing to find common ground. For starters, the Accenture report advises organizations to identify the CMO as their chief experience officer, who is responsible for the customer experience and "customer-centric" measures. By the same token, marketing needs to accept IT as its business partner, not just a solutions provider. Both marketing and IT should agree on key business levers for integration so that alignment is a big part of both functions' agendas and investment plans. Moreover, marketing staff members need to become more technology-savvy, while the IT staff becomes more responsive to changing market demands.

Finally, the two groups need to build trust through communication and working on cross-disciplinary teams.



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