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Why CIO-CMO Collaboration Is Key to Post-Pandemic Success

With the onset of Covid-19, companies of all kinds have been forced to embrace a digital-first mindset, enable a remote workforce and accelerate digital transformations – and almost everything in a moment’s notice. While these changes touch everyone in an organization, no one has been affected quite like the chief information officer (CIO), who is now being asked to help drive large-scale business change that are essential to survival and also implement sophisticated digital tools on an accelerated timeline. Likewise, the CMO’s role also experienced resurgence. The role is no longer simply about being great at marketing strategy, but now a critical driver of automation tools and digital transformation.

In fact, it’s becoming clear that to effectively utilize and operate next-generation marketing and customer experience systems, the CMO and CIO must build a partnership to ensure the success of these tools. That was exactly the focus of a new study by Indian IT major Infosys that sheds light on how the pandemic has influenced CMO and CIO roles to converge and digitally transform multiple dimensions within an enterprise. The survey revealed that a CMO’s people-centered skill set and CIO’s insights into enterprise IT systems are vital to the success of this new collaborative ecosystem.

According to the study that conducted surveys with more than 750 CXOs from companies with more than $500 million in revenue, as well as 220 business leaders, reveals, almost half of top-tier companies believe a collaborative relationship between the CMO and CIO could boost profitability by at least 5-7%.

Notably, more than four in five (83%) of those polled strongly agreed CMO-CIO collaboration can play a pivotal role in mapping and aligning business needs with stakeholder demands. The report also argued CMOs need to work with CIOs, and the wider C-suite, to deliver on environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. In other words, the role would evolve beyond customer experience, to delivering ‘human experience’ goals.

Other pain points between IT and marketing became apparent. Surprisingly, IT (62%) demonstrated a higher level of understanding than marketing (46%) with regard to collaboration between departments. Marketing was likelier meanwhile to describe agility – and customer to human experience evolution as more critical.

In an article published in Harvard Business Review, titled: How CMOs Can Work with CIOs to Gain Customer Insight, author Kimberly A. Whitler, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, explored how this concept works in practice.

“When CMOs and CIOs collaborate, the relationship puts the business at a competitive advantage,” she mentioned. “Technology provides the muscle to make sense of the explosion of data now at our fingertips, as well as the tools that can interpret those results to better discover what customers want. When the CMO and CIO share a focus on the customer, the power to drive business growth is potent,” said Whitler.

While historically, the CIO and CMO rarely interacted, that was already changing in the pre-pandemic world as a 2019 study by Adobe suggests that acquiring and interpreting customer data inherently must involve both the marketing and IT departments.

However, marketing and IT teams are largely involved in their own department’s performance, which affects innovation and also curbs better customer experiences. Hence despite various automation tools available in the market CMOs are struggling to convert data into consumer insight. However, given that CMO is often the main connection between the consumer and the company, a strong relationship with the CIO will allow CMO to leverage technology to better understand those customers, the study suggests.

The current situation is in fact even more critical. As Sumit Virmani, CMO at Infosys, noted the importance of the Covid-19 pandemic in accelerating digital transformation and further requiring this trend to develop. “Now is the time, more than ever, for CMOs and CIOs to collaborate to deliver tangible business outcomes,” he said.

“When the dust settles, companies that will emerge stronger will be the ones where the marketing and technology functions took joint ownership to drive digital transformation and engage customers in a meaningful way,” added Virmani.

As per the Infosys study, the Covid-19 pandemic was a wake-up call, and enterprises have begun to embrace the opportunities presented by digital technologies to survive and thrive in this new normal. Two of the core business disciplines are at the fore front of this digital transformation: IT and Marketing.

To conclude, the pandemic has accelerated the need for marketing and IT teams to interconnect and radically transform the business. A stronger CMO-CIO bonding therefore will serve as a force multiplier to drive revenue and digital maturity while evolving the organizational DNA in this digital age.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at