Big Data: will it unite CMOs and CIOs?

Big Data remains a big buzzword – and a lot of the focus surrounds how companies (including brands and agencies) can leverage Big Data to become more responsive to their audiences and customers. There may be internal, collaborative advantages to throwing your arms around Big Data, too.

A new report by The CMO Council (and their partner SAS) suggests that Big Data can become the “real glue” between CMOs/marketing departments and CIOs/IT departments. As we noted recently, the alliance of a marketing-savvy CIO and a tech-savvy CMO can pay real benefits; in a Q&A with us, Brian Kardon went a step further and said that tech-phobic CMOs are guilty of “malpractice.”

Big Data as bridge between departments

Many companies report little alignment between marketing and IT. Gartner found that CMOs will be spending more on IT than CIOs by 2017, a report that’s received a fair amount of attention and has helped heighten the notion of “CMO vs. CIO.” In some cases, though, it’s not a matter of “versus” so much as each department living contentedly in its own silo.

So where does Big Data enter the equation? Presumably your CMO and CIO agree that information is important, but agreeing on the absolute basics doesn’t mean you’re “aligned.” Clearly, the future of marketing is tied closely to advancements in data; as the council report notes, Walmart collects more than 2.5 petabytes every hour from their customers. But what are we doing with this avalanche of information? That’s where things get a little murky sometimes.

The report’s executive summary notes:

It is around big data that we find the most common ground for the two functions—and also the strongest tie that will bind the two roles together. According to 61 percent of marketers and 60 percent of IT executives, big data represents equal parts opportunity and obstacle, as many are struggling to manage the complexity, flow, aggregation and analytics of the massive amounts of both structured and unstructured data flowing in to the organization.

Big Data presents a real, customer-impacting opportunity, and it’s not the sort of thing that should be stashed at one desk or within one department (there aren’t very many of those stash-worthy items remaining, period, but that’s a topic for another day). By coming together at the very start of the strategic conversation, CMOs/marketing and CIOs/IT can bridge a traditional gap by turning a data avalanche into action points.

Big Data wants to be a helper, not a stalker

Of the 237 senior marketers and 211 senior IT executives polled for the report, an overwhelming majority from both departments acknowledge some basic truths: collaboration is critical and the customer needs to come first. Use the force for good, Luke. As you put together a plan for data analysis, be guided by serving the customer, not selling to the customer.

Once you agree on a customer-centric approach, you need alignment on one major question: “OK, so who owns this?”

OK, so who owns this?

The council report digs into those fortunate few who describe a “total partnership” between CMO and CIO. Often times, the most copacetic CMOs and CIOs report to (and are supported by) a CEO who’s leading the charge. “Key among the common traits that these totally partnered marketers and IT executives share is a belief that the CEO unequivocally owns the customer (24 percent of marketers, 30 percent of IT) and that sales most certainly does not ‘own’ the relationship (only 4 percent of marketers and 5 percent of IT).”

You can find the full report – “Big Data’s Biggest Role, Aligning the CMO & CIO: Greater Partnership Drives Enterprise-Wide Customer Centricity Report” – and its executive summary on the CMO Council website.

Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.