What’s the difference between a CIO and CMO?

question mark

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.

25 responses to “What’s the difference between a CIO and CMO?”

  1. What’s the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://restwrx.com/daxc7D via @EricDBrown

  2. Whats the difference between the CIO and CMO? http://bit.ly/9OXwDJ #cio #cmo

  3. And i'm a CKO (knowledge) even more difference. RT @ericdbrown: Whats the difference between the CIO and CMO? http://bit.ly/9OXwDJ #cio #cmo

  4. #baot Reading: What’s the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://ht.ly/19rNqb

  5. RT @ericdbrown: Whats the difference between the CIO and CMO? http://bit.ly/9OXwDJ #cio #cmo

  6. Scott Brinker Avatar

    Hi, Eric — thanks for the thought-provoking question (and the kind mentions!).

    One of the points you make, which I think is very important, is that just because marketing is using more and more technology in the execution of its mission, it shouldn’t lose focus of its real mission. At its best, the technology is purely an enabler of marketing strategies and tactics.

    When marketing — well, frankly, any group — gets too tech-happy and starts chasing technology without a clear purpose, it’s generally not going to end well.

    The underlying premise for my advocacy of a “chief marketing technologist” — a lead technologist in the marketing department — is that in marketing technology it’s very hard to separate the marketing from the technology: if you’re doing it well. The choices of software and platforms, and how they’re configured and integrated, should ideally blend seamlessly with the marketing strategy and tactics you’re pursuing for competitive advantage.

    I think having one person just think about “marketing” in the abstract, and another person think about “technology” in the abstract, leaves a dangerous gap — which is what we see in a lot of the disconnect between marketing and IT today, even when both are doing their best.

    It might sound like semantics, but having something think about the marketing and the technology as one indivisible force is a qualitatively different (and, in my opinion, better) approach for modern marketing. And that’s ultimately a marketing responsibility.

    I still think there are plenty of roles and reasons for an IT department and a CIO, but one of those reasons shouldn’t be an excuse for CMOs to dodge this new dimension of their responsibility.

    1. Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. Avatar

      Hey Scott –

      Well said, as always.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly.

      The disconnect today between IT and Marketing IS the fact that IT thinks that they are the only ones that can think about (and manage) technology….and some marketing groups believe that as well.

      My argument is, and always has been, that the IT group (and CIO in particular) must start looking at ways how to help other groups use technology to meet their needs. This is a bit different than past / current IT practices of ‘owning and managing’ IT…where a technology is selected, implemented and expected to be used.

  7. Matthew Hooper Avatar

    As a CIO and CMO I still think there is a huge difference in these two roles. The challenge is it is going to change with each organizations vertical business segment, size, and growth strategy.

    The 10 goals add up to one common goal. Engagement! What CMO’s are focused on is engaging the external markets for direction and traction. What CIO’s are focused on is engaging business operations at every level of the enterprise to ensure they are supporting the market direction and gaining momentum on the traction at the appropriate scale.

    I’ve been told I am a rare bird, and not always in a complementary way, because I can do both. However, the reality is I am currently working for an IT service related company, so the chasm is easier for to bridge. In larger organization CIO’s and CMO’s will do well to learn to design their processes with strong interrelationships.

    1. Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. Avatar

      Hi Matt –

      Thanks for dropping by.

      There are huge differences in today’s CIO and CMO. Both have their sttengths and focus but there are some areas of crossover that many organizationes are having a tough time understanding.

      Based on survey results (see my previous post about the topic), CIO’s believe they own the digital strategy and are driving that strategy while at the same time CMO’s believe they do.

      The key here, as I said in my last post, is communication and leadership (a more detailed dive into that topic is coming next week). Both the CIO and CMO have their goals and objectives but still rarely talk with each other…at least in my experience and that seems to be summed up in the survey results as well.

      So…what’s the different between the two roles? There are lots of differences in reality…but I see the CMO owning more technology initiatives than in the past and CIO’s must be willing to work in this new world.

  8. What's the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://bit.ly/9OXwDJ by @ericdbrown — just asking for a punchline, eh? 🙂

  9. RT @chiefmartec: What's the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://bit.ly/9OXwDJ @ericdbrown >> A lot… see my comment.

  10. RT @ericdbrown: What's the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://bit.ly/9OXwDJ

  11. RT @ericdbrown: What's the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://bit.ly/9OXwDJ

  12. What’s the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://j.mp/b4M23u < interesting review and observations #CIO #socitm

  13. RT @carlhaggerty: What’s the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://j.mp/b4M23u < interesting review and observations #CIO #socitm #in

  14. RT @andrewtuson: RT @carlhaggerty: What’s the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://j.mp/b4M23u < interesting review and observations #CIO #socitm #in

  15. RT @andrewtuson: RT @carlhaggerty: What’s the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://j.mp/b4M23u < interesting review and observati …

  16. Olin Hyde Avatar

    There are only two functions in business that create competitive advantage: Marketing and Innovation. This timeless mantra from Peter Drucker is the key to deciphering your riddle… CIOs are NOT operationally focused… that is the role of people with titles that don’t start with a “C”. Moreover, CMOs are strategic. The notion of adding “technologist” to the title is absurd. Technology is a tool — not a strategy. CMOs have always adapted to changes in technology and society — from the use of mass outbound media to the internet… and now tech enabled social commerce.

    All the name changes are just hooey.

    The end goal is the same as always — just requiring that leaders learn new skills… the way good ones always have.

    1. Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. Avatar

      Excellent Olin. Great comment.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Sue McKittrick Avatar

    I was troubled by your characterization of CMOs as focused on tactical components. So I went back to the CMO Council report where you pulled the “goals.” In fact, the question asked was, “what projects do you have planned” not “what goals do you have.” I think you are mixing apples and oranges.

    CMOs lead the growth agenda for the company. No need to worry if they are getting too focused on the technology. Their focus is the business.



    1. Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. Avatar

      Hi Sue –

      Perhaps my use of ‘goal’ was incorrect, but both the CIO and CMO’s “projects” for the coming year are quite clear…the CMO is focused on roling out technology.

      Add that to the fact that the majority of CMO’s believe that they are driving the digital agenda of the organization, and you have a CMO who’s focus IS on technology.

      Is that a bad thing? Not at all….my point was just to make sure that CMO’s don’t over-focus on technology and forget about the business reasons for that technology.

      That exact same narrow focus is what has caused many troubles with CIO’s today…a focus on technology over business strategy. Hopefully CMO’s don’t make the same mistake.

      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate the comment.

  18. What’s the diff between a CIO & CMO? http://ow.ly/2Yxat | uh, maybe brand evangelism, passion for consumer, market insight, creativity…?

  19. RT @ericdbrown: What's the difference between a CIO and CMO? http://bit.ly/9OXwDJ

  20. […] promised in earlier posts (here and here), its time to talk about the two main issues that cause problems between the CIO and the […]

  21. What's the difference between a #CIO and #CMO ? http://bit.ly/9OXwDJ via @ericdbrown