The Gladiators Fight: CMOs vs. CIOs

According to the Bible, the world was created in seven days. And from the second Eve sunk her teeth into the forbidden apple, we’ve become considerably more intelligent.

We developed innovative computers that supported business decisions, and more relevant to this article, computers and software that helped us market to our clients.

On the face of things, marketing teams began to use this software to achieve impressive business results, but behind the scenes they often heavily relied on the professional expertise provided by the internal IT department.

To understand why these two departments needed to work so closely together, here’s a brief list of marketing and technical challenges:

  • Choosing the right hardware to support the software (think hard drives, redundancy, etc.)
  • Finding and installing the right network components, like switches, Internet connectivity, and managing bottlenecks in the network. 
  • Identifying and installing security components (hardware or software) such as firewall, anti-virus, setting access rights, password management, etc.
  • Choosing and installing databases to support the software (MS SQL, my SQL, Oracle, etc.)
  • Selecting a software that best fits all of these components, from a vendor that will support it, install updates, and will provide more users licenses

It’s true. I’m biased, but it does look complicated doesn’t it? And remember, the above is just a preliminary list.

Traditionally the relationship between the marketing and IT departments was a complicated one. Marketers needed the results and the technology that helped them market to their clients. However, it can be argued that they did not fully understand database enquiries, the administration of the application, and the infrastructure, and thus relied on the IT teams to execute segmentations, to send campaigns, and run the daily marketing jobs.

IT departments have their own priorities, and in my experience, don’t like to work for marketing departments who put additional pressure on them to get things done faster. The IT department is busy administrating software, solving network bottlenecks, liaising with vendors for further support, and restarting the server after it crashes.

That’s an overview of how things used to work, pre-cloud revolution. In essence, cloud computing means applications are available to access by a simple login via your browser, and at the same time it provides the user with state-of-the-art technology, security, and administration without the need to undergo the tedious installation and administration of hardware, security, and other related components.

OK, you have to admit this part is simple.

Take for instance, that you need to install Facebook on your computer and constantly update it with new versions, while needing to administrate it, look after your computer security, access and make sure the hard drive doesn’t crash, etc.

The emergence of cloud-based solutions marked a simplification in the administration of software and its user interface targeted the users and marketers instead of the IT departments. Software vendors who led the trend started to understand that the chief marketing officer (CMO) is not only the ultimate user, but has the ability to administrate cloud solutions, and the budgets supporting these decisions are moving by organization from IT departments to marketing departments.

A notable change agent who leads the way is Marc Benioff, the chief executive (CEO) of, which not only coined the term cloud computing, but also leads the way in providing solutions architecture that fits the purchase habits and needs of the CMO. Back in 2013 he said, “The CMO is expected to spend more on technology than the CIO by 2017,” while basing his argument on market research from Gartner that said “predicting that by 2015 consumer technology companies will have switched one-third of their traditional marketing budgets to digital,” and on the statement that “Q1 digital advertising revenues in the U.S. hit $9.6 billion, a 15.6 percent increase over the $8.3 billion figure reported in the first quarter 2012.”

With the increase in spend on digital channels, this train has well and truly left the station and in my opinion is an unstoppable force. It’s an opinion also supported by other companies like Adobe, Oracle, and IBM, who have also joined this trend and are actively targeting the CMO as the ultimate decision maker.

It also means that chief information officers (CIOs) will need to reinvent their value within the organization and that CMOs wanting to survive in their line of profession, who wish to remain in a relevant corporate position, will stand against each other battling for control over budget and agenda behind purchase decisions.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.