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Editor’s Note: What the CIO role means in a martech-focused world

Last updated on April 16th, 2019 at 08:50 am

It was the analyst prediction that sent shock waves through IT departments around the world: Gartner said that by 2017, CMOs would spend more on technology than CIOs — suggesting the latter’s role would be diminished, if not usurped entirely.

Two years after that due date has passed, it’s pretty safe to say the CIO is alive and well, and will likely survive well into the future. I speak with some experience here: having spent more than 10 years editing publications directly aimed at IT leaders, I watched them being threatened by the consumerization of IT, by vendors who wanted to work more directly with line of business execs and a general sense that CIOs weren’t very customer-focused. Despite all the naysaying, I’ve personally witness them adapt to all these forces and more.

And yet, there’s no doubt that the CMO’s IT investments continue to grow, with Forrester predicting $23 billion in spending on marketing automation alone by 2023. And yet I rarely hear CIOs referenced by the many martech vendors I interview. Some of the key issues that tend to preoccupy CIOs — total cost of ownership, integration with legacy IT systems and data security standards — don’t usually come up unless I raise them. Instead of admitting that CMOs did not, in fact, displace CIOs, the martech community hasn’t spent a lot of time looking at what kind of partnership between the two roles has emerged.

What people sometimes forget is that, even if they are customer-obsessed as Jeff Bezos, CIOs have more than marketing and sales technology to worry about. There’s the overall infrastructure that supports the business, from servers and networks to the everyday productivity tools like smartphones and printers. Unless there is a formal IT security leadership role, CIOs often play double-duty fending off attacks from hackers and rogue employees. This is in addition to trying to cut costs wherever they can so that departments like marketing can be supported with the technology they need.

I suspect that the best CIOs see martech and salestech as planks in building a better customer and employee experience — no less, but no more. What they probably want most from CMOs is a clear vision of what technologies will contribute to customer acquisition, conversion and retention. This would be followed by a collaborative approach to the buying process — where they are not on the fringe of the buying committee but consulted from the very start.

Some of what CIOs bring to the martech selection and deployment experience might seem bureaucratic, like ensuring proper vendor relationship management and governance around the way data is used. When the right approach is in place, however, CIOs are in a prime position to help their peers in marketing, sales and beyond transition to more data-driven ways of working.

This, of course, means CIOs have to work harder than ever to foster strong internal alliance — a marketing campaign that has been underway for years now. We’re going to revisit that in more depth this month in “The CIO Issue” on B2BNN, hopefully proving that it’s not who spends more on IT that matters, but what happens before and after the tools have been bought.


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Shane Schick
Shane Schick
Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.