CMOs Served Notice - If They Don't Drive Digital Transformation, CIOs And CTOs Will

It seemed to be a witty joke said in passing at the opening of last week's Adobe Summit in London but the challenge to CMOs from the CIO or CTO in leading digital transformation now seems to be far more than a joke -- it's real.

With the opening remarks, many might have thought the observation that there were more CIOs at the marketing conference than CMOs was a lighthearted jape delivered with the punch line that if CIOs and CTOs had probably read the Gartner prediction that the CMO is about to become the largest purchaser of IT within a business they just might be on the lookout to get some of that budget back. It got a big laugh at the time, but it must have caused many marketers to consider whether they truly are the driving force behind digital transformation within their organisations. If they are not, then is it any wonder that a SapientNitro study has just found that of CEOs at major brands across Europe are more nearly twice as likely to turn to either a CIO or a CTO to lead that transformation as they are the CMO?

Okay -- so 50 is not a huge number, and going back to CMOs being outnumbered at a marketing conference, it's worth noting that the remark only covered one job title and that managers and executives would have definitely meant that marketing outnumbered technologists. However, the fact remains, CIOs and CTOs are getting more interested in marketing, and still the fact remains: of the top 50 brands in Europe, the CEO is still twice as likely to turn to the CIO or CTO for digital transformation as they are the CMO.

The good news for the CMO fearing they may have missed their spot as the "gas pedal" for driving digital change comes with the observation that although nearly two in three CEOs want to start a digital transformation, only just over a fifth have. The takeaway? There's still some time for digital marketers to put themselves at the forefront of this revolution, and if they don't, they can rest assured the CIO or CTO will.

Adobe Summit delegates were left in no doubt as to what was at stake and how marketing can become the driving force behind transformation at companies. The likes of the bank BNP, lubricants developer Castrol and the British high street store Argos were all lined up to explain how they had taken IT into the heart of their transformation programmes. Through building task forces with both marketing and IT executives, IT was brought into the proverbial campaign tent, and crucially, was a part of decisions early on so there was no feeling of resentment that they were subsequently being asked to support tools and services they had no part in commissioning or building. Just as importantly, with IT teams at the heart of the change, projects were able to change tack quickly as learning started to come in. In a word, transformation projects were more agile.

The catalyst for this change, though, was strikingly similar -- customer experience. Marketing teams were working on how digital transformation could be used to better serve customers. One example highlighted was a soda vending machine being developed that could be controlled by an app. This not only made it simple to select and pay for a drink, it opened up a new possibility. Customers were able to mix different sodas to come up with their favoured personalised mix. What's more, being an app, they could swap and discuss these with friends and colleagues, allowing each other to try their own favourite drink. It was a pretty simple idea, but one can imagine that if were rolled out globally it could add a personal, human touch to selecting and even mixing and sharing drink ideas.

It's through reimagining how a brand can reengage with customers, and prospects, through digital technology to open up new forms of behaviour that will empower CMOs to stay ahead of the digital transformation game where it's going to be far better to be in the driving seat than a consultant in the back enjoying the ride the CIO or CTO take you on.

Given the fact that CTOs and CIOs realise this too, the CMO might well considered a warning has be duly served.

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