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The CIO and CMO perspective on big data

Stephanie Overby | Aug. 6, 2014
CMOs now command more of the tech budget than any other executive outside of the CIO. With big data being one of the main drivers of technology spending, a strong relationship between IT and marketing is critical to business success.

The problem is that many organizations put the technology before the business problem they're actually trying to solve. "It's often easy to get mesmerized by the vastness of big data or the capabilities of the tools in the market today. Who hasn't been captivated by a beautiful bit of data visualization or the distillation of mountains of data," says Merry of Delaware North. 

CIOs can be a good check on the business value of the latest shiny big data tool and force CMOs to put the business outcome first. "Marketing is often used to take quick action and get quick results," says Meyers of Biogen Idec. "Since much of this is still so new, and the technology is still so immature its important we focus on the handful of things that really matter and spending the time together to work through an experiment and scale it up to something that can be sustainable for the long-haul." 

"CMOs and marketing organizations need to hone their focus on both the business questions they need answered, and the decisions they want to inform, with analytics," says Suzanne Kounkel, Principal and leader of Deloitte Consulting's customer transformation practice. Without that emphasis on the end result, marketers often ask IT to aggregate, store, and host all available customer data, which is both costly and risky. "As a result, data aggregation often becomes a bottleneck due again to the volume and velocity of digital data today, and the CMO can inadvertently task the CIO to create an extreme data environment," Kounkel says.

"Big data engineers can pull swarms of data about a company's current and future customers, yet not all of this information is valuable for a CMO," says Samer Forzley, Vice President of Marketing at Pythian, adata engineering company. "Instead of going overboard with the quantity of data, CMOs need to focus on quality, and only seek information that they can directly transform into sales."

Taking a Critical Look at Big Data Vendors
Marketing's big data requirements can put a lot of stress on already overloaded IT organizations. At Delaware North, marketing and IT have been working together for the 30 years, but big data has put a particular strain on the relationship. "It's also introducing a new set of vendors and partners often disrupting existing IT relationships," says Quinlivan.

Marketing can ease some of the CIO's stress by approaching the big data ecosystem of suppliers in a more focused way. "It's not uncommon for marketing to want to use many different agencies and buy many different off the shelf tools for different jobs" says Meyers of Biogen Idec. "We try to show them the value of having inputs in as few places as possible. The more diverse your data sources the harder it is to extract something useful." 


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