The Ultimate Power Duo – The CMO and CIO

The New Jersey CIO Executive Summit produced by Evanta was held on December 5th in Whippany New Jersey. I had the pleasure of moderating the lunchtime keynote – a panel discussion titled “The Ultimate Power Duo – The CMO/CIO Partnership”. Joining me on stage were two CMO-CIO teams:

Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc:

CIO – Nicholas Colisto,

VP Corporate Marketing and Sales – Laura VanVelthoven


CIO – Gabrielle Wolfson,

VP Marketing – Betty Noonan

Bloggers, Industry analysts, and Surveys are fueling the CMO-CIO partnership discussion and delivering some very bold predictions:

  • Fully 60 percent of marketers point to their lack of alignment with the company’s IT department as the biggest obstacle to reaching the consumer
  • Gartner says ninety percent of technology spending will be outside of the IT budget by the end of the decade. In contrast, only 20 percent of technology spend was outside of IT as recently as 2000
  • In 2013, global technology spending is expected to reach $3.7 trillion, according to Gartner – and IT spending is being spread more widely than ever across the business
  • Gartner Research predicts the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017
  • A recent IBM Survey shows that leading Marketers are extending their role beyond Marketing

Marketing’s perception of internal IT is not very positive according to a recent survey by Gartner. In the survey, Marketers say that IT:

  • Is perceived as always looking at expensive solutions
  • Moves too slowly
  • Typically says no
  • Prefers stability to innovation and change

Well, that negativity won’t cut it if companies are going to succeed in the future. Not only is this partnership critical, but there are likely to be several new Executive roles introduced in the next several years that can only complicate this scenario. Let’s think like a Venture Capitalist and look at some forcing functions that drive IT into closer relationships with the business:

  • The convergence of Mobile, Social, Cloud, and Big Data and the broad implications across the business
  • The blurring boundaries between personal and business computing, industries, and Enterprise functions
  • The engagement era and the movement towards systems of engagement and customer centricity
  • The accelerating pace of technology-enabled change

But perhaps the biggest forcing function – and one that I believe disrupts current operating models – is the need for the Enterprise to exhibit these characteristic:

  • Open, agile and collaborative
  • Powered by knowledge, creativity and ideas
  • Fast, iterative and experimental
  • Ability to listen, adapt, and respond
  • Engagement and insight driven

With this as a backdrop, our panel discussion focused on the approach that these two teams used to drive partnership success. Some of the questions I asked the panel follow, with some thoughts from the discussion:     

How are you approaching the convergence of IT and Marketing? Where have you been? Where are you now? Where are you going?

Our two teams talked about the critical need to establish a strong relationship. Like most companies, the CIO and CMO have spent little time together in the past. A trust relationship is essential and the chemistry on stage told the audience all they needed to know about the strength of theirs. At the end of the day, working together on common goals has enabled success.

Although the CIO and CMO are critical to riding the digital wave – digital is quickly permeating every aspect of business. Talk of new roles like Chief Digital Officer would seem to add a new wrinkle to this relationship discussion. Do you have any thoughts on future executive roles and how they impact this dialog?  

Our panelists believe they are in a unique position to define the future relationship and governance structure leveraged to support the Digital Enterprise. Much work remains, but the excitement level exhibited by this team bodes well for their future efforts. As digital expands in scope – and it will – this will be a critical challenge for companies.

Future investments in IT are likely to be dominated by what Geoffrey Moore has termed “Systems of Engagement”. These systems leverage the nexus of four primary innovations: Mobile, Social, Cloud and Big Data. Success in this world requires speed, agility, responsiveness, and adaptability – not the traditional strength of IT. How can The CMO/CIO partnership work towards creating these digital enterprise characteristics?

There were several funny exchanges between myself and Nick regarding the notion that IT is slow. Nevertheless, the systems of engagement world will require a different approach to delivering solutions. Our two teams were happy with improvements they’ve experienced in getting to market. But the systemic life cycle changes – as companies strive to exhibit the characteristics referenced above – have so far been elusive for most. As one CMO said to me several months ago; “I don’t know my requirements – we need to experiment and iterate with speed”. 

How do you partner with each other to determine what you need to accomplish?  Do you share the same priorities? 

As simple as it sounds, working together up front and having a shared agenda seems to be the secret sauce for these two teams

So – how would you answer these questions? Are you on the journey to creating this ultimate power duo?

2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Power Duo – The CMO and CIO

  1. Interesting to hear about the discussions at this event, Frank. I tend to agree with the supposition that Mobile, Social, Cloud and Big Data are the nexus of future innovation – and the speed, agility, responsiveness, and adaptability required to harness them effectively is something IT and Marketing have to work closely together on.

    This begs the question of how IT processes should change to meet the future challenges. My answer to this, as briefly as I can state it, is this: IT must redesign processes to be agile in its purest essence, and they must adapt to a ‘customer’ rather than a ‘user’ focused perspective, as well as being increasingly device-agnostic.

    Best regards



  2. David – thanks for your perspective. There has been some talk about the use of agile approaches and where they are appropriate and where they are not. Example – not appropriate when dealing with Finance, but very appropriate when dealing with Marketing. So far, I have not head a great answer to how people are dealing with the need to be fast, responsive, iterative and experimental.


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