How The CMO And CIO Will Determine The Future Of Business In 2015

Forrester has just published 45 sets of 2015 predictions for every role we write about, from customer insights to application development to security and risk. In my role as Chief Research Officer, one thing is now clear to me: the two roles that matter most for 2015 are the CIO and the CMO (see our infographic below) -- their relationship and joint strategy to boost the business will determine the future of any corporation.
CMOs historically focused narrowly on marketing and promotion. That’s not enough in the age of the customer. The CMO of 2015 must own the most important driver of business success -- the customer experience -- and represent the customer’s perspective in corporate strategy. Andy Childs at Paychex is a great example -- he owns not only traditional marketing but strategic planning and M&A.
The CMO of 2015 must take charge of customer-centric innovation, starting with mobile and expanding out into every technology-enabled channel. In a world where customers can switch brands in an instant, the CMO must reach out through innovative products, processes, and connections to build a deeper, more loyal set of customer relationships. Unfortunately, only 22% of CMOs focus on customer retention as a top priority. We believe it’s time to make customer engagement a key success metric for the whole company.
Technology powers these changes, and that’s where the CIO comes in. CIOs that focus mostly on IT -- keeping the systems running -- will see their budgets cut and their positions marginalized. Successful CIOs instead will focus largely on the BT agenda -- investments in technology that win, serve, and retain customers. This is an unfamiliar role for most CIOs. Customer-focused projects require real-time responsiveness and cloud architectures. They require a new perspective on data as a resource -- like the sensor-enabled tractors whose data powers John Deere’s FarmSight Service. And as they pursue revenues, CIOs cannot take their eye off of security -- in fact, we expect 60% of enterprises to experience a data breach next year, with the worst and most-publicized examples destroying years of brand value.
The true challenge for these CIOs and CMOs is to accomplish these goals together. Companies where the CIO and CMO work as a team enabling customer-focused technology -- companies like Lego and Home Depot -- will gain market share. But while more than 60% of CMOs and CIOs tell us they enjoy a relationship of mutual trust and respect, only 46% of marketing leaders and 51% of technology management leaders have a single view of their customer across all the company’s touchpoints. Half of CMOs and CIOs deploy projects jointly -- these are the companies that will establish competitive advantage. The other half will get left behind.
The structural changes we’ve described are difficult. But as our analysts have predicted, 2015 will be a year of unprecedented customer power, worldwide, through mobile, social, and digital channels. Companies can expect competition to arrive from any angle. The only cure is an obsession with customers, driven from the top by the CIO and CMO. These two executives, by their relationship with each other and with the technologies they roll out to connect with customers, will determine the future of business.


CMO-CIO Partnership 2015 infographic


Is there room in this for a Chief Digital Officer?

Since 2011 there has been a discussion over whether the Chief Digital Officer can help bridge the divide here. The question for me is whether this is still a necessary role or whether we should expect the CIO and CMO to collaborate on digital innovation and spend?

Similarly much has been written about the Chief Marketing Technology Officer and whether they provide a similar bridging role between marketing and technology.

Great post and inforgraphic.

David Sealey


I'm not really convinced that adding yet another leadership position and inevitable silo in the digital space would really address the problem space. In fact, it may make the collaboration on and execution of the customer centric strategy more fragmented.

An alternative approach to bringing the CMO/CIO into alignment on intent, strategic capabilities and value realization would be enterprise architecture.

In a perfect world, an EA would help the CMO to formulate their strategy, required capabilities, business prioritization and funding - and work with the CIO to bring the capabilities and targeted solutions to market - to advance and execute the CMO's strategy.

The reality in most organizations is that enterprise architecture is not positioned (i.e. staffed with the right skill sets/experience for the role) or have the credibility to perform this strategic role.

This is an interesting topic that highlights the ongoing and rapid transformation of "IT" in general.


To my mind if IT were to go away or otherwise move to a different organization (or organizations), it would have a significant impact on how we think, operate and support the IT ecosystem. The focus would move to the immediate problem being solved for. However, the CIO and IT as a whole carry a broader responsibility that spans the entire enterprise.

Neither the CMO nor the CIO

Neither the CMO nor the CIO would be able to fill in the gaps with regard to digital strategy.
The priority of the CIO is to keep the lights on while the CMO to enable sales. Not even their collaboration would be able to deal with the impact of the fast progressing technology and its integration in the enterprise.
A new role is necessary to focus on this.
This would be the Digital Officer role or, in practice, the Enterprise wide Architect, that would be able to map the technology to the big picture.

The question is: Do CMO's and CIO's understand Crowd Economy?

great post Cliff. this makes me throw this question: Do CMO's and CIO's understand Crowd Economy? and only through crowd economy they will be able to determine the future of business faster. in the old marketing world where 4P's been usual practice for decades, two most important P's (People and Processes) have emerged quickly which brings us to the following 5P's of Crowd Economy that CMO's and CIO's should know:

Rise of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO)

Progressive companies will realize role differentiation between CMO, CIO and CDO. The CMO will drive brand management and communications, the CIO will focus on technology selection and deployment and the CDO will be responsible for identifying trends and impact of business - technology convergence, creating digital capabilities roadmap and identifying convergence and integration opportunities.