As the Winter Olympics in Sochi soon get underway, I’m reminded not only of the exciting London games of two years ago, but a report from Gartner around the same time that said by 2017, CMOs would spend more on technology than their CIO colleagues.


I continue to see this prediction quoted and talked about in the business press, on blog posts, and at various conferences targeted to both groups. While I’m sure it also continues to justify a lot of decisions in the enterprise, I don’t think the prediction will come true.

Since the report exposed the uncomfortable dynamic between the CIO and CMO to a larger audience, companies are taking the steps to address the tenuous relationship between these two leaders. This interesting dynamic has existed for a long time and has become a rivalry akin to the US and Canadian ice hockey teams.

CMOs have historically perceived IT as an impediment to their success rather than an enabler. And if you look at CMOs’ more recent technology purchases, a larger amount of them are cloud-based technology that doesn’t rely on the enterprise’s data center or current IT infrastructure. The CMO has historically resisted buying anything that requires IT involvement, so they’ve looked for products that allow them to work around these constraints. These purchases have little to do with IT other than decreasing reliance on legacy systems.

In some ways, the Gartner prediction empowered CMOs because it made them seem more influential and in control, while the opposite could be perceived for the CIO. While that was very threatening to CIOs―and empowering to CMOs―companies thriving today have used this as an opportunity to bring together these two key enterprise leaders.

Going for gold

Gold medal-winning CIOs are much more interested in what’s going on with the various cloud-based technologies, and trying to figure out how these solutions and their own data centers can work together. They’re adapting even further by better understanding the needs of the CMO and working more closely with their colleagues down the hall.

New enterprise-level cloud technology can serve as the link between these enterprise leaders (and their respective teams). Without that link, it will be hard to enact change and break down silos that exist not only between marketing and IT, but also throughout the organization.

Consider that each Olympic ice hockey team has just one captain despite that each country has a handful of players who lead their respective professional teams with a “C” on their jerseys. So who will lead the enterprise? The CIO? The CMO?

It’s very hard to try to create those links through people and process. The new technology should actually empower people, getting different teams to work together towards common business goals. A technology that is nothing more than a workaround solution might be really valuable today, but won’t be part of the future.

Your season lasts more than two weeks

For CMOs working with cloud technology, there’s an obligation to respect all parts of the complex enterprise and fit them into the bigger picture, including connectors to other systems, flexible ways to move data, and more aligned key performance indicators (KPIs).

The longer view of a CIO, e.g. considering total cost of ownership, should be a top concern of the CMO, whose return on investment analysis often focuses on shorter term KPIs like return on ad spend. A product or service that doesn’t cost much and takes very little time to implement―like a display ad campaign―is over quickly, and it’s very hard to measure the impact that one campaign will have on an entire year or even longer.

The CIO’s broader view focuses on the all-in cost to this technology and the impact on a business over an extended period of time. CMOs need to start thinking a little bit more about the bigger picture costs and the longer-term benefits of what they do. They understand technology much better, and the CIO understands marketing more.

So when you watch the gold medal hockey game in a few weeks―which I hope includes the red, white, and blue―consider that these athletes work as a team for less than a month despite their different professional styles. Like a CMO and CIO, their communication (on and off the ice) makes them much more successful and able to put their differences aside and reach the top of the medal stand together.