CTO Strategies For Building Stronger Relationships With The CMO

By Pete Rogers, Vice President, Technology at Merkle

The urgency to unveil actionable data insights and improve the customer experience through marketing efforts has never been greater from a revenue growth perspective. As organizations continue to recover from changes and setbacks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, marketing teams will be critical cogs in the engine of innovation to move forward. In order to be successful, the CMO and CTO need to be more aligned than ever before.

These C-suite executives lead on innovation, data-driven metrics, governance, and alignment and integration. However, what role does the CTO play in this partnership?

Let’s dive into the need for better collaboration across the board and how leveraging this partnership will create a stronger relationship for both executives and their teams to ultimately strengthen the entire organization.

Set the stage: How marketing and IT have traditionally worked together

Over the past few years, the marketing team has become the primary user and owner of customer experience technologies and thus, have also been handed the reigns of the martech budget, which was once commonly governed by IT. Forward-thinking marketing teams are working to quickly stand up solutions to meet the needs of today’s consumers. According to Gartner’s 2020 CMO Spend Survey, marketing technology accounts for the largest portion of the marketing budget (over 26%).

Consumer demand requires the CMO’s role to expand

With changing consumer demand, the CMO oversees not only branding decisions and channels, but also delivering the total customer experience. This is why the marketing technology budget has shifted hands; it is the engine to power use cases for delivering next-level customer experiences at scale. While the roles are changing, it is important to understand that IT still plays an important part in the marketing tech stack. Brands need the IT organization to contribute technical expertise for implementation and connections, apply governance, and react with the speed and agility that marketing requires – all with close communication between the teams. Here are some strategies to better support this partnership:

1) Marketing, use IT as a spot check

It is critical for marketing teams to understand how they want to use technologies and for IT teams to understand what is feasible within the current technology environment (or how to best restructure if needed). The two teams must be in communication with each other to agree on use cases that are both feasible and actionable to hit the ground running and get the most from technology implementations. When marketers present use cases they want to solve, ensure that the IT team has technical documentation from the vendors you are considering. This will help them confirm that systems are in place to stand up selected use cases quickly to gain value from your investment and learn how to achieve incremental wins from the tool.

2) Agility is key

As organizations drive toward more personalized customer experiences, technology (especially data platforms) is a fulcrum aspect of the transformation. Traditionally, organizations could easily acquire and implement technologies or hire outside agency partners to accomplish this. Where organizations struggle is in creating ways to work with these technologies that don’t hinder efficiencies or effectiveness in other business areas.

One key example is that IT teams can sometimes implement governance and development processes that can slow down the ability to adapt to market conditions and remain agile when needed. For IT leaders, it is fundamental that they understand that all processes (IT and marketing) are critical to success and must be rooted in agility. If any process limits the speed at which change is applied, we have erred in creating and implementing our processes. For example, COVID-19 forced organizations to react fast and, for some, to put a much larger effort into online initiatives, which could have received IT push back from a governance standpoint. The CTO should not only understand this concept of agility but also be synced with the CMO to align on objectives that the marketing team is looking to accomplish.

3) Give IT a heads up

Another way that CMOs and CTOs can be better synced is to consider having a scheduled audit of marketing tech systems. This could be twice yearly or at the end of every quarter, with marketing identifying anything on the horizon that could put their existing martech in a precarious spot. This allows the CMO to give the CTO a heads up on possible upcoming upgrades needed in the infrastructure, instead of creating unnecessary fire drills for the IT team. Building in these checkpoints can mitigate unnecessary tension points between teams and will give IT an understanding of expectations from marketing, with a reasonable timeline attached.

With a more synced IT and marketing team, organizations can proactively implement or maximize marketing technologies, allowing them to power the world-class experiences that customers expect today while also gaining monetary value.

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