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CHIEF information officers (CIOs) are beginning to collaborate more with their counterparts in marketing in a bid to help their organisations derive better understanding of business objectives and grow their revenues and profits, says research firm IDC.
Sandra Ng, group vice-president for information and communications technology (ICT) at IDC, noted that traditionally, CIOs and CMOs (chief marketing officers) rarely ever collaborate actively, as their portfolios do not often cross paths.
Speaking to Digital News Asia in an interview on the sidelines of an IDC-IBM Managed Service roundtable on May 14, the analyst said conventionally speaking, most CMOs are quite focused only on traditional marketing plans and emerging trends such as social media.
“When it comes to social media, they don’t usually look to the CIO or the IT department because marketers believe they understand social media better than the CIO’s office and IT personnel [in general],” Ng (pic) said.
“But with [today’s] focus on chasing new opportunities and new customer segments, these organisations are beginning to look at issues such as governance, big data and business analytics -- which is where a lot of technical skill sets are required.”
Ng said that big data and business analytics are areas where any organisation would need both business understanding and IT knowledge. Business analytics, she added, allows companies to make better decisions and this is a very big part of a CMO’s key performance indicators (KPIs).
“[The CMO] should be able to deliver qualified leads and to have targeted products, services and solutions to support the sales organisation,” she said. “To do this effectively, they would need to now look at the CIO and his office for support as they [CMOs] can’t do everything by themselves."
David Gilbert, vice-president for integrated technology services, IBM Growth Markets, concurred, noting that his company has begun seeing this collaboration between CMOs and CIOs in the past two to three years.
“There’s been a lot of press over this and we at IBM have ... seen this happening since 2010,” he said at the same briefing.
Queried as to what the drivers are for getting the CIO to collaborate more with the CMO, Ng said that contrary to popular assumptions, big data and analytics are not the main drivers -- rather, it's mobility.
She noted that when Facebook went public, it said that half of its users were going to be on mobile, with this figure increasing to 75% in Asia.
Ng said that a lot of consumer-based, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and retail banking businesses are all targeting the consumer segment, and these organisations realise that they have to actually understand their customer’s usage from a mobile perspective in order to better manage, support and target them.
“Mobility is their first entry point,” she pointed out. From a CMO perspective, they have some technical knowledge as mobility is kind of a consumer technology. But they only have half the story because they still need the CIO to come in and help them with things like governance, management and trends like bring-your-own-device (BYOD).
Ng said organisations also have to integrate business analytics and big data -- and these would require the CIO working closely with the CMO to achieve workable business goals.
Top challenges, priorities
Meanwhile at the briefing, Ng also revealed that the top ICT challenges facing C-level executives in the Asean region -- based on IDC’s APeJ (Asia Pacific excluding Japan) C-suite Barometer 2013 -- are a limited budget (29%); the growing complexity and varied user needs (17%); and governance and regulation limitations (15%).
The survey polled 443 senior executives in Asean, including 201 at the CIO/ CTO (chief technology officer) level; 170 CMOs, and 72 line of business heads/ chief financial officers (LoB/ CFOs).
“As for priorities, these executives want to focus on simplifying IT (20%), building a more secure IT [infrastructure] (18%), and having better management tools (11%),” Ng said.
She highlighted that senior ICT executives are also diverting their IT spend into security, and business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR), a sentiment that was rather surprising given that BCDR is not normally a top priority.
Attributing this growing focus on security and BCDR to emerging trends such as cloud computing and mobility, she said, “although cloud is not a new trend, companies are also beginning to deal with multiple cloud environments and there are security concerns surrounding these.
“The use of online platforms and/ or e-commerce, procurement and supply chain management in a business-to-business or a business-to-consumer landscape has also complicated security for companies.”
Compliance and regulations have also become more important in verticals such as healthcare and the financial service industries, and this has further contributed to this trend, she added.
Ng also advised companies that are looking into managed services to partner with a vendor and/ or supplier that understands not only technology but business, noting that CIOs who make these decisions should ask if they have both technology and operational excellence.
IBM’s Gilbert said the company believes clients today are no longer looking for partners who can just drive cost reduction but also better drive business outcomes.
“Our clients today are focused on driving better business outcomes and are looking to achieve speed to market and flexibility in their infrastructure,” he said. "Our global and local presence helps assures C-suite clients of our dedicated management focus for our local clients.”
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