What's the CIO's role as marketing builds its digital empire?

Elizabeth Heichler

So, what authority does the CIO retain?
I think as CMO you admit that you're not a software developer, that you respect their experience. The other thing is, multiple devices make things very complex, so CMOs need to rely more on CIOs to help them maneuver through this jungle of multiple devices — I'm using my iPad, my mini iPad, my Samsung Galaxy and my iPhone all in one day, and it's both personal and business.

Will companies move toward seeing technology as a core competency and bringing it in-house instead of buying it from software vendors?
I think companies will build more internally, and rely more on outside vendors for strategy.

So that creates an opportunity for the strategic technologist in a company?
Absolutely, there's a huge opportunity there. Also, it's amazing how much development is happening in places like Costa Rica and Argentina, because companies refuse to pay what's an average [US]$300 an hour now just for basic Web development work. That is just prohibitive, if you're going to be a digital enterprise, which every company will be. So, it's important to understand how to manage that.

All this digital marketing depends on customer data, which is then a tremendous asset to protect. Is it the CIO's or the CMO's role to oversee that protection, and to advocate for it, and set policies?
Each has to take a role. The CMO is an educator around the importance of data and analytics, what needs to be protected, what doesn't need to be protected. And then the CIO has to know what software's available to help meet the rules that have been determined.

Amid all the enthusiasm for digital marketing, is there a danger that the predictive power of big data is being oversold?
Yes. I think trying to automate everything is a mistake. There's a reason that we never had a marketing ERP [enterprise-resource-planning] system, and that the attempts to do that, like Siebel and Salesforce ended up being just big contact management systems. There's a human element to content creation, and there's a reason that we can't completely automate all of this, even as we go marching toward more automation.

Do you know of companies where the technology and marketing partnership is working well?
Yes, Amazon comes right to mind. And I think actually Google is doing a very good job. And then, for companies in traditional industries? I think Tesla's doing a good job. The way they're doing customer relationships and information is a pretty good example of how those two segments are working together for an industry that's been around over a hundred years.

Where would most Fortune 500 companies rank in digital marketing, on a scale of one to 10?
The more advanced ones are a five to a six. The main reason they haven't been able to fully engage next-generation marketing is the way they're organized. For example, why would customer service not report to the CMO? You have to organize around the customer. There are also some more advanced companies saying, maybe CMO is even the wrong title. Maybe the future is the chief customer officer.

(The interview transcript was edited and condensed.)

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