Business Issues, CIO Leadership, IT Performance

Why CMOs and CFOs Will Rule Above CIOs: high priests of IT no longer rule

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The link below will take you to a bleak assessment about the future of the CIO by one who should know -- former and well-credentialed CIO and CTO Larry Tieman. CMO and CFO influence will rise while the CIO's will decline (since when has the CFO's strong C suite ever been in question?). Here's why the CMO's role will expand and I have to say, Tieman's argument is compelling:

"It's the marketing organization that's going to have to learn how to use social networks of all types, buy and use historical data, make sense of big data coming from customer interactions, and ultimately own the customer experience and new products. Gartner predicts that some CMOs will spend more on IT than their companies' CIOs by 2017."

Click here to access that webinar in which Gartner predicts the CMO may spend more on IT than IT itself.

In the short term, it won't so much boil down to an across the board decline in CIO influence. Rather, it will depend greatly on the individual occupying the CIO position  and his or her relationship with the CEO. But small things become big, ergo a trend when enterprises examine what their rivals are doing.  

The CMO is probably the biggest threat to CIO influence because what they do is critical from a competitive standpoint. Marketing supports the business mission and often what they need is time sensitive and opportunistic.

Tablets, myriad applets, social media, Big Data and smart phones have emerged as powerful and mainstay tools for marketers.  What's more, they are cheap, accessible and easy to learn. In some respects, they put a face on how progressive and innovative an enterprise's marketing department is. 

Marketers won't wait for IT to supply them (this idea stands in stark contrast to an ECF discussion about how to control or even suppress the `Bring your own Device' movement). In fact, why would marketers tie their success to another department, often considered slow-moving, conservative and one step removed from business mission? This isn't all IT departments or CIOs, but they suffer from this rap.     

Tieman predicts the CIO and smaller IT departments will endure, but outside the C suite where their presence has always been tenuous from years of cratered projects and the inability to accuarately assess IT ROI. CMO's and "IT-savvy" CFO will see to that. The days of the CIO as the high priests of technology are over and they probably have the late Steve Jobs to thank for that.

And who's to argue with the consumerization and democratization of technology? Marketers won't. That's for sure.

What do you think?

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Joshua Brusse 33 Points | Mon, 07/30/2012 - 01:36

The topic discussed here is in fact the “democratization of IT” and in regards to that the CMO is not the only threat to the CIO but I don’t see a threat for the CIO…it all “depend greatly on the individual occupying the CIO position” as it was written above.

Democratization of IT means that the customer decides what IT support is needed. This isn’t new…it was always about that but we have been lost in the wood for years thinking that IT decides what is needed because the power of knowledge was at their side! However IT goes back (and it should!) to what it was all about in the first place: delivering Information Services 365/24, everywhere, to everyone that wants (and needs) it.  

So – as was also said by Pearl and Keith - every CIO that will focus on delivering the right Information at the right time for the right price to whatever device will be seen valuable. No CMO or CFO or whatever CxO would want to deal with providing Information because that is not their core task…they want information / need information to do their job well and as long as there is someone dealing with that for them - efficient and effective - they will not bother doing it themselves.  

Every CIO that understands that the WHY and WHAT are decided by the customers and that it is his / her responsibility to deal with the HOW will continue to be relevant as it is in charge for one of the most critical parts of running a business.

Every CIO that is innovative enough to continuously find more efficient and effective ways to deliver information will be seen as a critical member of the board. Every CIO that has the right competencies to lead their organization through constant change supporting the ever changing business needs will be absolutely present in the boardroom.

Every CIO that is inventive enough to support agile Business Process Redesign so that business can adapt to rapidly emerging varying market opportunities will continue to be appreciated. And what Keith was saying…every CIO that has the ability supporting  the CMO to balance the glut of information with the poverty of people’s attention will sure be as influential as the CMO itself.

Keith Macbeath
Keith Macbeath 8 Points | Tue, 07/17/2012 - 19:10

I agree with Doug that the age of 'IT monarchy' is over, but this is really just the endgame of a trend. I would pick up on Pearl's point about architecture; some of the toughest needs of the CMO, such as unified customer experience or big data analytics running in what Geoffrey Moore calls 'systems of engagement' like social media depend on hard core IT deliverables such as master data management and 'inside-out' architecture. We have a client in Europe that has totally redesigned their architecture to focus on the linkage between systems of record (the traditional business applications) and systems of experience. If you can't tie the two together your marketing will not be effective.

So there is an ever more important role for the CIO - if he or she is business-oriented and aggressive about enabling these changing business needs. CIOs that are defensive will probably get stream-rollered as John suggests. There is a degree to which the CIO is now more than ever put between the rock of the CFO and the hard place of the CMO, but that is an opportunity to carve out a valuable role for those that seize it and can show results.

Paul Calento 255 Points | Mon, 07/16/2012 - 13:14

Best management structures are meritocracies. In that case, arbitrary "ranking" will be determined by results, ambition. True, IT is no longer isolated, but hasn't that been the point all along. All comes down adaptability and elusive IT-business agility.

--Paul Calento

(note: I work on projects sponsored by and HP)

Pearl Zhu 90 Points | Thu, 07/12/2012 - 17:05

Hi, John, thanks for bringing the discussion here, I did also read the article, though it's good alarm for CIO and IT to create business value and teamng up with marketing and all business partners, on the other hand, I would say, the title of article is debatable, CIO & IT actually takes more unique position in which both CFO & CMO can not replace: 

1. Metaphorically, if business is a car, when CMO insists he or she is driver, then CMO compete with CEO more, CIO and IT these days are more like engine for innovation, and CFO is more like brake, still, via leadership collaboration, the car can run smoothly

2. Strategically & architectually, CIO and IT is nature bridge between front office functions such as sales/marketing/customer service and back office functions such as HR, supply chain, fiannce, as information is pervasive these days, and process optimization is a jouney, that's why IT is still at unique position to ensure business as a whole is more effective than sum of piece.

3. Tactically, keep the light on is fundmental, GRC/security are all critical for business's success, marketing may not have capacity and capability to execute it, that said, today's IT has too much to do, keep both top line growth and bottm line result are all crucial. 


That said, if CFO is left brain bean counter, and CMO is right brain business dreamer, CIO need become whole-brain rain maker, still, the executive team need work as a whole to steer up the business. thanks. 


Doug Goddard 123 Points | Thu, 07/12/2012 - 14:48

I think the days of the CIO, who thinks every decision related to IT must be made by an IT Monarchy, are limited. I'm sure some of them will manage to make a power grab and pull everything in behind the mote, in the short run, but I don't think it will last long, especially if they don't deliver. However, for those CIOs, well versed in IT Governance, who manage to align IT with corporate strategy and share decision making with the heathen, the future looks bright. Under almost any strategic scenario, those CIOs ought to maintain exclusive power over architecture and infrastructure and share power and have input into all the other IT decision stacks, including investments.