Big Data Transforms CMO and CIO Relationship


Batman, Meet Robin: How Big Data Transforms the CMO and CIO Into a Dynamic Duo

As Marketing and Technology Converge, CMOs and CIOs Must Work Together Like Never Before

By Lara Shackelford, Vice President of Marketing at DataStax

The roles of the CIO and CMO have always been highly strategic. CMOs have been charged with overall marketing strategy and CIOs on the systems to enable that strategy. While the goals of the two were ostensibly aligned, in actuality it was rare to find CMOs and CIOs working hand in hand. 

In fact, over the past few years, with the advent of the cloud, SaaS-based software and social media tools, CMOs have been able to spend marketing budget on systems to enable their strategies, and these systems have fallen outside of IT control. Along the way, CMOs got a little more technical and have found that they have become accidental shadows of IT managers. In fact, their IT budgets have become material. 

Gartner projects that by 2017, CMOs will spend more money on IT than CIOs [1]. Companies risk losing their competitive edge if CIOs and CMOs can’t work together, according to IBM’s 2012 State of Marketing Survey [2]. What has changed, and why now?


How Data Changed the Game

CMOs need data; we must know everything about our customers and prospects all the time, their buying patterns, what they think of the latest ad, which competitor products they like, when they may be about to switch loyalties, where their eyes go to first on our website, where they click, where they give up... the list is endless. This focus on data has a name – "big data." 


Today’s companies use big data to inform everything from customer acquisition to product development. Yet the ability to track, analyze and predict outcomes based on data analysis means nothing if a company’s data is “dirty.” 

It is the job of the marketing department to ensure all customer-facing data is clean, organized and complete to best serve the company as a living asset. A number of technical tools, including automated CRM systems, social monitoring tools, lead generation, data strategy, partner portals, the company website, business intelligence tools and dashboards, and content management systems, are now in the domain of the CMO. Marketing executives must know their software inside and out, as well as have the analytical ability to discern how to best use the data their software generates. 

In the past, CMOs did not need to deeply understand technical requirements, they; they were able to  just presented a request like ‘we need a new website’, ‘we need a CRM system’, ‘we need to integrate this with that’ and the CIO would make the decision on what would get adopted (Siebel vs SalesForce etc.) - Now the CIO needs to understand the business need so they can collaborate and be a trusted advisor on which systems will best enable the strategy.


Working as a Team

In my own career as a marketing executive, I’ve experienced the best- and not-so-good-case scenarios for interacting with a CIO. The not-so-good-case scenario occurred when I worked at a company with a dirty data problem. Over a 20-year span, the company implemented two different CRM and ERP systems and didn’t integrate them correctly. Instead of harnessing their data to better serve their customers, they stored it in siloed systems and ignored it, leaving it to atrophy.

Whenever our marketing department requested a new service or integration, the CIO wanted to understand the strategic value of the purchase. Meanwhile, our CEO blamed the marketing department for the company’s dirty data problem and lack of ability to predict future outcomes based on customer and prospect behavior. We blamed IT for not giving us the systems we needed. It was a constant, stressful battle that impacted our ability to serve our customers.   

Compare that to the best-case scenario I’ve experienced. In this case, I worked for a company that did the majority of its business through its thousands of partners. In order to make the business work, we had to connect massive amounts of data together, including contacts, partner-driven campaigns and deals that our partners generated.

Our company’s CRM system wasn’t updating our partners’ information correctly. Partner-generated leads were lost and accidentally assigned to our direct sales team and, as a result, our partners grew frustrated.

I worked with the CIO to find the best solution from both a business and user experience perspective. We facilitated strong cross team collaboration between our marketing and IT team members. Because we worked together, we were able to solve the problem quickly and with the right solution. After we rolled out a new partner portal technology, our partner marketing problem was addressed. We were both congratulated by our company and partners. 

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Working together isn’t just urgent because big data is becoming a business mainstay. Successful collaboration is also a good career move. CMOs and CIOs are two of the shortest-tenured positions in the enterprise. The average tenure of a CIO is four to five years [3], while CMOs generally last less than four years [4]. 

To further both their own career interests and elevate their positions in the company, CMOs and CIOs should take proactive steps toward cultivating good relationships. Here are a few tips: 

Acknowledge which of your interests are mutual. Which elements of customer strategy and technology strategy can you both agree upon? Which metrics will you use to measure that success?


Aim for where the (hockey) puck is going, not where it is.  Build your marketing and IT strategy and plan for the company you intend to be in the next 24-36 months.


Understand stakeholder expectations and demonstrate value aligned to expectations.


Agree on which technologies will be the best long-term investments for the business.

State of the Union Between CIO and CMO

With the rise of big data, managing data and managing a business are interdependent. When CMOs and CIOs can align their strategies, both the business and its customers will benefit. Moreover, the company will be equipped to handle today’s rapidly changing technology with minimal business disruption. If you haven’t already, it’s time to make the CMO-CIO relationship less like apples and oranges, and more like Batman and Robin.



[1] Gartner, “By 2017 the CMO Will Spend More on IT Than the CIO,” January 2012. <>



[2] Forbes, “IBM to CMOs and CIOs: Work Together or Become Irrelevant,” 24 July 2012.  <>


[3] Computerworld, “CIOs Aren’t CIOs for Long,” 23 March 2011. <>



[4] Forbes, “CMO Tenure Hits 43-Month Mark,” 14 June 2012. <>




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Bill has been a member of the technology and publishing industries for more than 25 years and brings extensive expertise to the roles of CEO, CIO, and Executive Editor. Most recently, Bill was COO and Co-Founder of and the parent company PSN Inc. Previously, Bill held the position of CTO of both Wiseads New Media and