The Changing Role of the CIO and Aligning Organizational Priorities

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Posted: June 10, 2013 | Modern Marketing

Because digital business is so omnipresent in how companies operate today, many of the traditional C-level roles have begun to overlap.  Since technology and infrastructure investment have become a central focus, the CIO’s role is becoming more integrated into business process than ever before. In the past, it was the IT department that controlled technology and infrastructure purchase decisions. But with the advent of cloud-based technologies such as marketing automation, CRM systems, social media, and the proliferation of mobile devices, purchase decisions have become a collaborative endeavor.

IT in a Silo

In the bad old days, IT tended to work in a bit of a silo. The focus was primarily on delivering IT solutions and infrastructure, with minimal collaboration between the IT and other departments across the organization. More of an “IT for ITs sake”, rather than with a business-focused approach. And this philosophy still exists today in many companies. There is also the aspect of large scale IT implementations with high failure rates (think ERP), that run the risk of causing the IT leader to remain cautious in delivering against challenging business priorities. While understandable to some degree, this approach will ensure that those businesses will be stunted, while those that adapt new agile philosophies of a collaborative C-suite will dominate.

The CIO as a Business Partner

CIOs need to be a true business partner. We exist to support our business counterparts in delivering business results and differentiation; to help Sales sell more effectively, to help Engineering deliver a better product to the market faster and error free, to help our Marketing teams market better, etc.

Process Before Technology

The old adage regarding People, Process, and Technology remains true and the successful IT leaders of today drive much more focus on the former than the latter.  Whether you are implementing CRM or marketing automation solutions, you’d be ill advised to map a bad business process to a new technology. Strategize with an eye on customer success and ensure that you are creating not just a solution for your customers, but an enhanced interaction with your customers and your company. The technology, which is more often than not the easy part, is simply one piece of it.

Internal Executive Alignment

Ensuring business alignment against IT project delivery is critical and helps ensure one isn’t deploying technology for technology’s sake (shiny object syndrome). A successful approach is creation of an IT Steering Committee, where the CIO is joined by the functional leaders across the company to collaboratively decide priorities and investments against the backdrop of overall corporate strategies. Also, work to ensure that you have complete transparency across all of your activities. In our case, all Steering Committee output, project plans, meeting notes and IT initiatives are posted for everyone in the company to see. This transparency helps breed communication and awareness of what we’re up to, as well as showing the variety of areas that we, the IT team, are delivering business value across the company.  Share all of your meeting notes, all of the standing lists of priorities. Make them available for your company, so that everyone can see what the executive team is focusing on together.  Once you have your plan, execute against it and articulate what is required from business and IT in order to build a plan and get it done on time and on budget.

The Overlapping CMO and CIO

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the relationship between the CIO and the CMO. In fact, according to many reports, the CMO is outspending the CIO. Here at Marketo we don’t look at it like that. It isn’t a competition. It is about making the right investments across the company at any given time, sometimes that investment is in Marketing, sometimes in Sales, sometimes… well, you get the idea. Having said that, it is clear that investments in Marketing technology are on the rise, and for good reason. We now have technology solutions that can help automate historically manual processes. But even that isn’t a blind spend. With these new tools, Marketing can make intelligent investments to do what they do better—and that is just smart business.

In it Together

The reality is that marketing is no more or less a business partner than sales, engineering, customer service, or finance. We are all in this together and we truly act as a group. Each department makes investments collaboratively. No one is in a silo anymore. The idea is less “marketing is spending more than IT” and more “what do we collectively need to get it done for the business?” And that makes our approach incredibly successful.

My $.02,
G

Greg Higham is Marketo's CIO. With more than 25 years of leadership experience in global organizations, Greg is responsible for leading Marketo's focus on its world-class technology infrastructure, including implementing and evolving information systems and tools that enable business growth. Greg holds a degree in computer technology from CDI San Francisco and is a graduate of Stanford University’s Professional Education program.

Read Greg's Blogs

It isn't “marketing spends more than IT”, it's more “what do we collectively need to get it done for the business?"

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