CIOs are often described as business leaders. That is true in the same way a parent might say they are the father of their country. Yes, they are a father, and they are of their country. And the CIO is a leader, and they are in the business. Beyond that, what, exactly, should a CIO define their job as? Some report to the CEO, but others to the CFO, and some report into operations. Were they business leaders in the sense of leading the business, they might have profit and loss responsibility, or growth targets, or be measured on the growth of the customer base. They don't.
Instead, they are business leaders in a limited sense, and they have refined their position. The language used by CIOs has changed, and their connectedness with the right concepts and terminology is there, and their view of themselves as business strategists has risen.
How have CIOs stepped up to the role of delivering better marketing insight, or driving higher sales, or pushed for a more loyal customer base? Ask yourself: where is the real money coming from to invest in these areas? The answer is likely marketing and sales, where the huge uptake of advanced analytics and data science is happening. And where social marketing is raging as a focus, as in the business-to-consumer space this is the linchpin, along with more engaging digital commerce.
And compare budgets: IT and the CIO might command 4%, but marketing has 12%, and now add in sales budgets, or customer support, where IT does not own that budget. Net: the CIO is resource constrained.
So: advertising, digital commerce, marketing analytics, customer experience – do these sound like the centre of the CIO's world? Do you see your CIO running off to a conference on CRM, or Customer Experience, or measuring the efficacy of the multi-channel engagement strategies to ensure customers are happy? No, likely that would be a head of marketing, or the chief customer officer, or a head of digital commerce / experience, or a head of customer support.
In fact, the CIO is unlikely to have firsthand experience or knowledge about the power of the multi-channel customer strategy at all, nor have the tools, dashboards, and alerts that point out to the change in customer sentiment and the underlying causes.
The CIO has enormous responsibilities, particularly in a large company: security, infrastructure, business integration, communications and networks, data management, testing and development, project management and IT budgeting and business applications availability. (Note to self: never apply for a CIO position!)
If you run marketing, or run sales, or digital commerce, help the CIO. Don't allow a team of outside thought leaders in to ‘educate' your CIO in business innovation. That is inviting a new age version of The Emperor's New Clothes – you will need to pretend that they are dressed in all of the latest ideas, only to admit privately that it is not the real deal. In the best companies, a powerful marketing leader, or sales or customer service/experience leader creates a picture of the customer journey, and helps the CIO translate their technical acumen into actionable programs that the marketing, sales and service organisations can use to improve the performance metrics that really matter: customer satisfaction, higher sales, and better margins.
Article by Michael Maoz, Gartner research analyst