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Apple's history offers insight into CMO-CIO relationship

Tom Kaneshige | May 30, 2014
Liz Allen, a former Apple marketing executive, has seen the volatile relationship between CMOs and CIOs evolving over the years. CMOs were worshipped and CIOs despised at Apple, but Allen isn't taking sides: 'If you're at odds, your competition is going to win.'

For most companies, the CIO and CMO don't see eye to eye. Bickering and internal politicking ensues. Silos are erected. Communication between the departments breaks down. At Gap, for instance, Allen didn't even know the CIO's name. At Lucas Arts, she had to seek out the CIO and ask for his participation and approval to get a visual database so marketers could access images such as Darth Maul. It took a while, she says.

CMOs and CIOs Don't Know They Need Each Other
"There are massive opportunities for collaboration, but we don't really see that happening," Donovan Neale-May, founder and executive director at the CMO Council, told a roomful of CIOs at the CIO Perspectives event in San Francisco last week.

Neale-May is quick to point out that marketing is wrought with inefficiencies that CIOs can help solve. Marketers lack accountability, have poor visibility and must manage globally distributed teams, he says. They face a huge problem in their digital marketing makeover. Neale-May says some CMOs are trying to acquire digital and analytical skills in their marketing department by recruiting from the IT department.

In other words, marketing needs IT just as much as IT needs marketing, says Allen. She doesn't advocate for marketing to take a leadership role over IT, instead she firmly believes in close collaboration between the CMO and CIO. But Allen also acknowledges the challenges in collaboration: marketers tend to be more vocal, while IT is more reserved. Marketers like to run with a nugget of an idea and then brainstorm, while IT wants fully baked ideas. Marketers want things right now, while IT serves many internal customers.

"The perception that IT is slow-and-no is true in a lot of places, but I absolutely have empathy when they are bogged down just getting the MacGyver-ed infrastructure in place," says Allen, whose father was a mainframe programmer. "But sometimes you just have to make things happen."

The ability to make things happen -- in marketing's case, sales from the digital customer -- really means IT must do marketing's bidding. No longer can IT throw up barriers. Truth is, IT has always been seen as a cost-center, whereas marketing sits in the money-making driver's seat. At Apple, there was no in-fighting, and the results clearly speak for themselves.

"If you're at odds, fighting, and have different objectives, then your competition is going to win," Allen says. "You need to be fighting outside these walls."

 

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