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CIOs and CMOs must join forces to win digital consumers

Tom Kaneshige | Oct. 16, 2014
Winning in the age of the digital consumer and the 'mobile moment' requires the CIO and the CMO to work together, Forrester CEO George Colony said at Dreamforce. Together, they can truly understand customer behavior and how customers use technology.

"If the CMO tries to build it, they will fail," Colony says.

So what should companies do?

Ideally, the CIO and CMO should work together. Unfortunately, their relationship has been rocky for decades. In turn, some companies created a middle-man position, called the chief digital officer, or CDO. Forrester argues against this; adding another high-profile personality into the mix is a recipe for disaster. While a CDO might provide some short-term benefits, in the long run a CDO will likely clash with the CIO, CMO or both.

"Don't hire a chief digital officer," Colony says. "We don't believe the CDO is the answer."

The best bet is for CIOs to up their game, work through relationship hurdles with the CMO, and ultimately take charge of the business technology agenda. In order to do this, they need to change the way they think about technology from a cost-controlling, bottom-up approach to a customer-first, top-down one. They need to understand customer behavior and how customers use technology.

This is a rough road to trod. Consider this: Among CIOs in the top 500 companies -- arguably, the best CIOs in the world -- only one in five says they have the skills to build the business technology agenda. This means the vast number of CIOs will struggle.

On the upside, the prize at the end of the road is a big one. In the age of the powerful digital customer and the need to win mobile moments that ultimately lead to sales conversions, companies must become technology experts and will lean on their CIO to guide them. In other words, business technology will become a part of every company's DNA.

"In the future, all companies will be software companies," Colony says.


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