What digital projects should you be chasing?

Chasing Digital ProjectsI was talking to a CMO today about their current and future plans for digital projects. We were talking about data analytics, customer experience, technology, social media and other topics when the CMO asked what the ‘next’ project or technology that she and her team should be chasing.

She asked:

We’ve talked about all data, social, digital transformation, the cloud and everything else…but what should I really be focused on? What projects should my team be chasing for the future?

I couldn’t give exact types of projects that her team should be focused on, but I did share my thoughts on the only area that I think make sense for marketing teams to focus on.

That’s right…just one area.  If you are going to chase digital, you should chase it in this one area.

The only area marketing teams should be focused on (and chasing) is in improving the experience for your customers. That might be SEO projects, data analytics or a new application, but by focusing on the customer experience, the marketing team is focused on one of the most important aspects of a business. Customer experience is the key to driving engagement and growth for a business and has been called ‘the next competitive battleground.’

If a project doesn’t touch the customer experience, there needs to be a very thorough discussion of whether that project is worth taking time and money away from your customer facing digital projects.  There are times when marketing teams need to take on non-customer facing projects, but you shouldn’t be out there looking for those projects or chasing those technologies. Let those technologies and projects come to you.

Chase the projects that are focused on improving the customer experience.

Whether that is engaging your clients better, improve customer service or eliminating a pain point for clients, those projects will improve your customer experience.

Beyond the customer experience, there are other projects that CMO’s can focus on and chase, but I’d argue that anytime you are working on these types of projects, you are not directly improving the customer experience.    There are always going to be knew digital projects and new technologies, but for the CMO and the marketing team, the customer experience should top of mind and a major filter for all new projects and technologies.

Finally, when a new technology or buzzword comes along, take a step back from all the buzz and ask yourself and your team(s) how that technology or approach will improve the customer experience and build competitive advantage for your organization. If that new tech or buzzword doesn’t drive customer experience, you probably shouldn’t chase it.

Demystifying IT

head_scratchingIn a recent “Movers and Shakers” article by Martha Heller titled “The Power of Metaphor“, Malini Balakrishnan, CIO of Building Materials Holdings Corporation (BMC) claimed that one of the most important roles that a CIO has today is helping the organization uunderstandwhat role the IT group plays.

Balakrishnan is quoted as saying:

“As CIOs, we need to demystify IT. When current business executives were coming up through the ranks, technology was not as pervasive as it is today so they were able to achieve success without having an understanding of it….How do you explain to a wide range of people what IT is, what role the department plays, and how our work relates to them?”

Ten years ago (and maybe even five years ago), I don’t think you’d find very many CIO’s who were talking about ‘explaining IT to the business.’  Most were focused on their role as controller and manager of technology and information.

The days of old are gone. People within most businesses have figured out how technology works and how they can use technology within their businesses. Most marketing organizations today have taken the initiative to ‘own’ their technological future. The role of the marketing technologist is one that has grown from an idea to a reality within just a few short years.  Gartner has predicted that by the year 2017, the CMO will spend more on technology than the CIO will.

The fact that the CMO and marketing group seems to be getting all the love these days makes some CIO’s today feel hampered or sidelined by the fact that they aren’t ‘in charge’ of all technology projects and initiatives within an organization.  Some CIO’s are spending their days complaining and whining about their current situation, when in fact they should see it as an opportunity to step up and lead their company through a very interesting time of change.

As I wrote in “Woe the CIO!(?)“:

CIO’s shouldn’t spend their time bemoaning their current predicament. They should see it as an opportunity to reshape their job, their career and the roles that the IT group can play within the organization.

Nowadays, the CIO should be spending their time working with the people within their organization to help the company understand the value of proper management of technology. CIO’s should be spending their time demystifying IT.

In years past, many within IT loved the fact that their jobs were a ‘mystery’. They loved the fact that nobody else in the company could do what they did. They loved the fact that everyone had to come to them to get anything done with technology.   We all know how that has played out over the years. We’ve seen the proliferation of Shadow IT over the past few years and now we see the CMO and marketing groups ‘taking over’ the budget for technology.

The role of IT and the CIO is changing from what it used to be. Companies no longer want a ‘controller’ of information and technology….they want a leader who can help them understand and use technology to deliver value and help innovate. Companies want someone to help demystify IT.

Woe the CIO!(?)

tumblr_maxet8dJqQ1rhw7hco1_r1_500Talk to some CIO’s today and you’ll hear nothing but a pity party about how their role is no longer seen as ‘valuable’ to the organization. These CIO’s will point to the growing role of marketing and the CMO in selecting and managing technology systems and solutions.  These CIO’s will talk about the ‘good old days’ when the role of the CIO was the end-all-be-all for technology and IT.

These same CIO’s talk about how they are always trying to get in front of marketing’s projects to slow them down, take them over or stop them. These CIO’s also spend a good portion of their time pushing their agenda and trying to rest control of budgets and projects from all areas of the business.

I tend to get a bit aggravated while talking to these types of CIO’s.  For some reason, they’ve decided that they don’t like having someone else ‘play’ in the technology field and are doing everything they can to make things difficult for the CMO, marketing and the rest of the organization.   Rather than embrace the new world that exists, these CIO’s are trying to hold on to the way they used to do things.

The marketing group’s ownership of digital has been growing for years and will continue to grow over the next few years. Gartner predicts that by the year 2017, the CMO and the marketing group will spend more on IT and technology than the CIO and the IT group. That really scares some folks who are used to the ‘old’ ways where the CIO and IT group was the one-stop-shop for all things technology.

Stop Complaining and Start Leading

My good friend Gene De Libero recently wrote about the migration from the CIO’s ownership of technology to the CMO and marketing group’s involvement with of technology and ownership of digital. He wrote:

This shouldn’t alienate CIOs. Instead, they should embrace this driver of digital transformation by partnering with the chief digital teams. The CIO should understand there’s a very relevant role to play in terms of addressing both the stated and unstated needs of their customers. To accomplish this, the CIO must develop a comprehensive and authoritative view of all the customers IT serves across the enterprise.

Well said Gene.

Rather than sit around and complain about their ‘demise’, CIO’s should take Gene’s advice and step up and take a leadership role within the organization. The role of the CIO is still as relevant today as it was in the future…and I’d argue that the CIO’s role today is even more important than it was in years past.  Ian Cox, author of Disrupt IT, agrees in a recent post titled “Are CIO’s being squeezed?” when he writes:

But I disagree. Far from being a sign that the CIO role is diminishing in importance, the growth in technology expenditure across the rest of the business makes the CIO even more important and influential. But it is a different type of CIO role, supported by a different type of IT function. Rather than being the gatekeeper of the technology budget and the provider of all technology used by the business, the new type of CIO and IT function act as brokers, providing advice, guidance and access to the technology required by the rest of the business.

Nicely said…and very true.

The fact that the organization is turning toward technology more today should mean that the CIO’s role should grow in stature and responsibilities.   The role of the CIO is no longer about keeping things ‘locked down’ with systems, processes and acting as a gatekeeper. The CIO role of today (and tomorrow) should be more strategic and less operational.

A few years ago, I wrote about the changing role of IT in a post titled “Spitting IT – Operations and Innovation.” In that post, I argue for the splitting of IT into ‘operational’ and ‘strategic’ arms.  This idea makes even more sense today. Organizations are already heading down this path today…its just up to the CIO to ensure the IT group plays a part in innovation and strategy and they aren’t relegated to the back room in the world of operations.

The CIO should be seen as a leader for all things digital within the organization. This doesn’t mean the CIO should own all digital projects and budgets, it just means they should be involved in a consultative role to ensure technology solutions fit into the organization’s strategic technology plan.

CIO’s shouldn’t spend their time bemoaning their current predicament. They should see it as an opportunity to reshape their job, their career and the roles that the IT group can play within the organization.

Are you avoiding risk or managing risk?

avoid_risk_from_ITADI just read a great article over on the Mckinsey & Company blog titled “Building a bridge from CMO to CIO” where Matt Jauchius, EVP and CMO of Nationwide, describes his approach to working with the CIO of the company.    I encourage you to jump over there and read the article…there’s some great advice to help the CMO and CIO work together.

There was a line in that article that really caught my eye. The quote from the article is provided below:

As CIO, you want a CMO to be safe and avoid obvious risk. Marketing has a cultural need to be innovative.

Now, there’s something to be said for avoiding obvious risk. You don’t want to rush off into the world and take on every risk that comes along but you also don’t want to avoid any risk altogether. Part of being in any leadership role is to decide on what risks are worth taking and then determining how to manage those risks.

There’s a considerable different between avoiding risk and managing risk.  When  you avoid risk, you put yourself and your company at a disadvantage.  As a CIO (or CMO) you should never want to avoid risk at all…your goal should be to identify and manage the risks that are necessary to ensure your organization meets its goals.

Back to that quote from the McKinsey article regarding CIO’s wanting CMO’s to be “safe and avoid obvious risk”.  While I understand and can somewhat agree with the spirit behind the statement, I can’t agree with the statement itself.    If I were a CIO, I’d want the CMO (or any other colleague) to identify and manage risk, not avoid it. In fact, if risks are ‘obvious’ there’s generally a way to manage those risks. It’s usually the non-obvious risks that really cause the most trouble for an organization.

Rather than avoiding risks, the job of a leader should be managing risk and mitigating risk. Every activity undertaken by an organization has some risk involved with it. Software development has risk.  Outsourcing has risk. Using cloud services has risk.  The difference in whether any project is a success or failure lay partly in how risks are managed and mitigated.

I have to ask you…are you managing risk or avoiding risk?

The Gap between the CIO and CMO – is it narrowing?

20130213-mind-the-gap-BODYI recently ran across a survey titled “Big Data’s Biggest Role – Aligning the CMO & CIO” that was put together by the CMO Council and SAS. The survey, which contained responses from 237 marketing and 211 IT executives, has some very interesting results.

A few of the highlights from the survey:

  • 85% of respondents believe the relationship between the CMO and the CIO is critical to the execution of customer focused strategies
  • 51% of IT executives and 40% of marketing executives agree that big data is critical to executing customer focused strategies
  • Marketing (52%) and IT (45%) both identify functional silos that make customer data and profile development difficult as the top roadblock to customer focus
  • 61% marketers and 60% of IT executives believe that big data represents equal parts opportunity and obstacle
  • 72% of marketing executives believe that their teams should be the ones responsible for defining platforms and systems for their use but only 34% are moderately satisfied  and 37% are unsatisfied with their current platforms
  • 34% of marketers believed that they “needed a liaison that could understand marketing, IT, finance and other marketing technology resources and strategies, which could function across both IT and marketing.”
  • 62% of IT executives want to be brought into the discussions about platforms and strategies that involve technology
  • 60%  of IT executives said that they was only a limited partnership between IT and marketing when it comes to big data

There is many more interesting responses in the survey. You should check it out.

After reading through the survey results, it is clear that CMO’s and CIO’s are (finally?) starting to see the value in working together. Sure, I’m generalizing here because there are many CIO’s and CMO’s who’ve always worked well together, but in the organizations that I’ve worked with in the past, there’s was a pretty wide gap between the IT group and the Marketing group and rarely did anyone work to close that gap.

Caroline Basyn, the CIO of Bacardi, states in the report:

“My hope is that we can have a relationship and partnership at a business level rather than just on a technology level.”

I love to see that. The CIO should be talking and working on the business level, not the technology level. Sure, technology is the outcome of the relationships and it is what the CIO’s group does, but it shouldn’t be the only focus of the CIO.

Links for June 22 2014

Cloud security is not an oxymoron
Quote: I get it: there is a lot of data that can’t move to the cloud, not because IT managers don’t understand the issues, but because they need to comply with regulations that were designed before we understood the scope of our security problems. If you’re in one of those businesses, which includes most of the health and banking sectors, you’re out of luck. But if you think that your IT staff can protect you better than the security teams at the major cloud providers, think again.

Satisfaction, Delight, Disappointment, and Shock
Quote: The phrase “meet or exceed customer expectations” is a mantra in the customer experience profession, said so frequently and done so rarely that the phrase itself has become devoid of meaning. Pondering this adage in light of the stimulus-response theory of emotion, I’m led to the sense that it was never quite right in the first place – that the satisfaction (or disappointment) of a customer has less to do with whether their expectations were met or exceeded and more to do with a combination of two factors: whether the outcome of an interaction was positive and whether it was predicted.

One Simple Solution to Unite the CIO and CMO
Quote: Why can’t CIOs and CMOs just get along? Based on my experience, there is one primary reason why their relationship is adversarial: the CIO and CMO can’t agree on who is responsible for what, so they are perpetually trampling on each other’s toes.

The Persistent Social Media Measurement Problem: A Mini-Manifesto
Quote: The magic in measurement is not in the activity of measuring itself.  It’s in knowing whether our company is moving in the right direction, and how and why marketing helps or hinders at the most fundamental level.

The Signal to noise ratio for innovation
Quote: We’ve found that many of the best innovators are often those firms that understand the value of change and change management.  The more innovation you do, the more change you encounter.  The better you are at change, the better at innovation.  And both change and innovation are enabled by excellent, consistent and concise communication.

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