Joining Forces for a CIO-CMO Strategic Alignment

MAY 01, 2015

By Chad Cardenas, President & Chief Innovation Officer, Trace3

The pendulum of power is swinging away from companies and toward customers in this age of pervasive information. More buyers are using mobile devices to quickly unearth every detail about competitive prices, service levels, and overall customer satisfaction. Suddenly, companies have no place to hide.

This mobile ubiquity is blurring the lines between the business functions for marketing and information technology. Chief Marketing Officers are now hobbled without a robust technology platform to share information and reach customers. Likewise, Chief Information Officers are ineffective without a clear roadmap that combines mobile, social, and location-aware applications for corporate marketers.

In this climate, both the CIO and CMO functions should operate in lockstep from an earlier stage than ever before. CIOs and CMOs are compelled to join forces and present a more unified, integrated strategy. The new alignment of the CIO and CMO utilizes the power of broadband communications to reach customers and partners with contextually relevant messages at just the right times.

All Business Today Is Digital Business

All of these rapid changes are having a powerful impact on the bottom line. Consider that companies ranked as “customer experience leaders” by Forrester Research and Watermark Consulting enjoyed a 43% growth rate in their stock values over the past six years on average, according to a recent analysis. Meanwhile, those ranked as “customer experience laggards” saw their stock prices plummet 34% in the same period.

Most CIOs I know are striving to achieve more of an innovation role for their companies, rather than just keeping their networks up and running. At the same time, many marketers need better training to present complex technical offerings to the outside world, and to explain how those offerings tie back to the company’s core competency.

At Trace3, I’ve worked very closely with Todd Gallina, our head of marketing, to develop this alignment as the best way to promote our company’s innovation agenda. Together, Todd and I have found that it is extremely difficult for one side to thrive without the other, so we’ve adopted a shared strategy. Trace3 has made a concerted effort to evolve our marketing and innovation message in recent years. We have transformed from our origins as a technology reseller and integrator to our current market position as a trusted IT advisor and innovation consultant.

To balance these overlapping demands of the CIO and CMO, here are several pointers to create a shared CIO-CMO strategic plan:

Adopt Digital Technologies to Become More Agile – Every business unit – right down to every individual job role – can become more digitally enabled by adopting software systems and sensors. From supply chains to manufacturing centers to storefronts, each business process should be analyzed for digital business transformation to cut waste, speed time to market, and increase customer satisfaction.

For example, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers rolled out tablets to gather feedback from its diners about menu choices and restaurant designs. Tablets were also used by 1,700 employees to improve kitchen training. This approach enabled Red Robin to rapidly change its recipes to better meet diner tastes and drive greater satisfaction.

Harness the Power of Mobile and Social Channels – With 2.4 billion global smartphone users expected by 2017, companies are being forced to make their products and services readily accessible over mobile devices. At the same time, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are generating enormous volumes of digital content that can be mined by marketers for calls to action.

For instance, hotel chains can use phone apps to offer steep discounts to preferred customers, while electronics firms can offer targeted upgrades to qualified buyers. All such decisions stem from crunching vast pools of big data that flow from smartphones and social media feeds.

Use Big Data from Everywhere to Your Advantage – Big data can be culled from countless sources to improve business insights, including websites, digital ads, mobile apps, social media feeds, and regular interactions with physical stores and call centers. By combing through these multiple data points with analytics software, CIOs and CMOs can get a much better handle on how to improve the customer journey.

Elevate Customer Experiences across All Touch-Points – Business decisions should be guided by measurable systems that reflect the ongoing customer experience. You can start by creating a complete framework that includes your competitors and partners, along with any relevant industry regulations and business constraints. Then you can work backwards to assess which key performance indicators should be adjusted for operations and sales. Airlines may find ways to improve their on-time arrivals and lost baggage claims, while retailers may need to modernize their store designs or speed up online deliveries.

Creating Alignment for CIOs and CMOs

As a CIO or CMO, everything you do should ultimately be focused on improving the underlying customer experience.

For CIOs, this change means recognizing that the role of IT is moving away from systems maintenance, which will be managed through greater software automation. Going forward, the IT staff will have to become more creative and agile by layering valuable new services atop the existing IT infrastructure.

For CMOs, this change means understanding that a digital business transformation depends on greater levels of contextual marketing. The context comes from gleaning kernels of meaning from vast streams of data, and turning those findings into actionable offers or service improvements.

Creating a strong and loyal customer base is no longer the job of marketers alone, just as creating an effective IT platform is no longer the purview of engineers-only. Both sides of the house need to come together to unleash a strategic transformation that keeps pace with this fast-moving world of digital business.

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