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.

Will marketing continue to grow their share of the technology budget?

marketing technology budgetIf you are involved with marketing and/or technology in any large organization, you most likely are hearing a lot about marketing technology (MarTech) and the ‘explosion’ of MarTech people, technology, projects….and budgets. There are some folks out there who claim that within a few years, marketing will be spending more on IT than the CIO but many IT professionals I speak with just have a hard time accepting that marketing will ever drive more spend on tech than IT does/will.

My response to these folks is simple: It is already here.

Let’s take a second to think about some of the higher priority items for the IT group. According to the 2016 State of the CIO report from IDG, the top 3 priority items for CIO’s in the coming year are:

  • Complete a major enterprise project
  • Help reach a specific goal for corporate growth
  • Upgrade IT security

Those first two items are pretty broad and specific to each organization, but they could easily relate to MarTech projects. For the last item on IT security upgrades, the report says that about 12% of the IT budget will be spent on upgrading IT security (which seems low to me, but I’m not as close to security as I am to other parts of IT).

Another nice little nugget of knowledge from the 2016 State of the CIO report is the following:

57% of the total dollars invested in tech is now directly controlled by IT (and is expected to grow to 59% in the next 3 years).

One thing to notice with this particular stat – while the majority of budget is controlled by IT, there’s no real detail in the report on where or how that money is spent other than to say that 33% of marketing’s budget is currently set aside for technology.

All the numbers and data points mean very little without some context, which is what many IT professionals (and non-marketing people) lack.  The spend on MarTech five years ago was generally small. Marketing groups would spend money on content management systems, web analytics platforms and e-commerce systems but very few were investing money in large, enterprise-level systems. That has changed in most medium to large organizations. Today, marketing organizations are spending money are those enterprise systems because they now understand how important an integrated, enterprise platform can be for driving engagement and revenue.

Will marketing continue to grow their technology budget? I think so.  Will IT professionals continue to complain about that? Probably….but the majority will realize how important MarTech spend is to the future of the organization.

Is Marketing Really Shortchanging IT?

budget pieI just finished reading Marketing’s New Digital Role Is Shortchanging IT.

The article had a good premise (e.g., IT and Marketing are fighting for budget) but rather than discuss the real reasons for this current predicament, the author obliquely places the blame at the feet of the Marketing group for ‘stealing’ budget from IT. The author claims that Marketing is shortchanging IT by taking budget away from IT initiatives.

While marketing budgets have been growing and IT budgets haven’t generally been on the increase, I’d argue that its the fault of many IT groups and CIO’s for not stepping up and leading organizations over the last few years.

Let’s take a look at a few things from the article. First, the author writes:

This might be all to the good except that the rapid change in marketing roles and skills has come at the expense of the traditional IT organization. More than just a drain or overlap in skills, organizational budgets have shifted rapidly away from IT, leaving the CIO scrambling to support legacy systems that are still necessary and costly to maintain.

The shift to digital in the marketing world has changed the landscape of every organization. Marketing budgets have grown and IT budgets have not (generally).  That’s not a surprise to anyone but I think we in the IT world need to step back and ask why marketing’s budgets for technology solutions have grown.  Is it because marketing and CMO’s are that much smarter than the IT group and CIO’s and know how to tell a good ‘story’ to the CEO to get that budget?  Perhaps it is…but I’d argue that the reason that CMO’s have been driving more technology projects is due to the fact that they (and everyone else in the organization) have tired of the IT group’s focus on operations over innovation.

A few short paragraphs later, the author writes:

…organizational power can’t simply continue to devolve from IT to the marketing department. CIOs and CMOs must meet in the middle. Decades of safe, smart IT practice needs to be applied to the new ways of finding and using data. Only a partnership will allow marketing to be efficient and effective as this revolution continues to unfold.

I can’t argue against the author’s comments here. For long term success, the CMO and CIO must be partners but I do think that partnership has to start with the CIO making the effort to mend any broken relationships they have within the organization. Again, the reason we are where we are today is because most CIO’s haven’t really been helping to drive innovation and business value…they’ve been focused on operations.

The author finishes up the article with this:

What is clear is that something will need to give as this revolution permanently changes the way organizations are structured and how all software, not just marketing tech, is purchased, deployed, and maintained.

Yes. This is clear and it has been happening.

Marketing isn’t shortchanging IT. IT has shortchanged IT. Rather than help lead organizations into the digital world, the IT group has faltered in most companies. It is time for the CIO to come out of the data center and start talking about how technology can help driver new and more efficient products, services and solutions to the organization and the organization’s client base.

As IT professionals, we can’t just keep pointing the finger at the marketing group and complaining that they are ‘taking our jobs’. We should be out front helping to lead those marketing technology initiatives.

The role of IT and the CIO in Marketing

Isaac Sacolick recently wrote a post titled Dear CIO, Here’s How To Help the CMO with Marketing Automation where he talked about the need for CIO’s and CMO’s to work closely together for marketing automation projects.

In that post, he wrote:

…fully achieving “marketing automation” is no where as easy as SalesForce, Microsoft, or Oracle will sell your CMO. There is certainly a lot less coding involved to develop workflows, produce dashboards, or integrate data but some of the same problems exist such as cleaning duplicate/dirty data, developing audit-able workflows, improving the usability of dashboards, crunching large data sets, securing private/financial data, or maintaining master data.

mauMarketing Automation isn’t just about implementing technology to ‘do’ marketing…there are plenty of aspects associated with marketing technology that many people overlook.  You don’t normally just turn on automation tech and ‘set it and forget it’ like many vendors and consultants will try to advise you to do.

Marketing automation, just like every other technology, can bring quite a bit of complexity to an organization.  Many people who haven’t lived in IT and technology don’t / can’t really understand how complex technology can be. After implementation, there is  still a great deal of work to do on the operational side of things, even if you use ‘the cloud’ for your solution(s).

That’s where the CIO and the IT team come into play.  We should be involved as early as possible in any project involving technology to help other teams understand the long-term issues around technology and should be playing more of a consultative role within the organization than we have in the past. The key now is for the CIO to build relationships with other C-level executives and ensure the IT group is involved in any/all technology projects at the outset.

The roles of the CIO and IT group are becoming more consultative rather than purely operational. That’s a good thing.  The CIO and technology professionals can play a much larger role within the marketing team that many currently are. Isaac’s suggestions were spot on…the key now is to make sure the CIO and CMO (and other CxO’s) are having conversations early enough to ensure that the IT group is involved in technology selection projects.


What’s the difference between a CIO and CMO?

Some smart-ass (like me) will probably say “1 letter”….but let’s dive into that question a little more deeply.

Last week, in an article titled “CIO’s vs. CMO’s – what’s the real problem?“, I shared the following 2010 goals/projects that CIO’s and CMO’s are reportedly working on.   In that article I also promised a discussion of what the real issues between CIO’s and CMO’s are…but I wanted to get this little tidbit out of the way first. Come back next week for the deeper leadership/communication discussion I promised.

To reiterate, they top 5 goals/projects for CIO’s and CMO’s are:


  1. Improve end-user workforce productivity
  2. Lower the company’s overall operating costs
  3. Re-engineer core business processes
  4. Improve quality of products and/or processes
  5. Innovative new market offerings or business practices


  1. Digital marketing makeover – platforms, programs, people
  2. Sales and marketing organization alignment
  3. Customer data integration and analytics
  4. Marketing performance measurement
  5. Lead qualification and harvesting system

See anything there that jumps out at you to highlight the difference between a CIO and a CMO?

Anything at all?

I do….and it just hit me while thinking about this article.

The CIO’s goals/projects are very operationally focused.  Words like ‘improve’, ‘lower’, ‘re-engineer’ start the top 4 goals/projects.

The CMO’s goals/projects at first seem operational too.  Data integration. Performance measurement.  Systems. Platforms.

Interesting stuff….but after digging a little deeper into each goal and thinking about them for a few minutes, something jumped out at me.

It seems to me that the CIO is focused on deep organizational issues.  It seems that CIO’s are starting to focus on the business rather than technology.

What about the CMO?  I see a bunch of projects and goals focused on tactics.  I see a lot of projects focused on technology.

Is this a good thing?  Bad thing?

I can’t really say….but maybe we are seeing a shift towards the Marketing Technologist now.  Mitch Joel just pointed out that the time is ripe for the Chief Marketing Technologist and Scott Brinker has been talking about the marketing technologist and chief marketing technologist roles for year and is also talking about the role(s) of the CMO & CIO in the future organization.

I just hope the CMO and Marketing teams don’t focus too much on the technology and lose track of what that technology is to be used for.

That’s the reason CIO’s and IT groups have been in trouble over the last few years, isn’t it?

Back to my original question: What’s the difference between the CMO and the CIO?  In today’s world…not a whole heck of a lot….and that doesn’t bode well for the CIO of the future.  Makes me wonder how much a real CIO and IT group  matter to organizations.

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