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“CIO and CMO Will Not Replace Each Other”

Yuchun Lee

Yuchun Lee

Today’s always-on digital business is like a Tower of Babel for chief information officers (CIOs) used to traditional rules of tech trade. As most CIOs are not able to evolve with the changing times, they are increasingly being relegated to mere figurehead roles while chief marketing officers (CMOs) are getting ready to manage tech affairs of their organizations.

While the debate around the new roles of CIOs and CMOs is getting louder, RMN Digital decided to take tech major IBM’s viewpoint.

Yuchun Lee – vice president, IBM Enterprise Marketing Management Group – discusses the related aspects in an exclusive interview with RMN Digital managing editor, Rakesh Raman.

Qs & As

1. Are most CIOs and IT Departments acquiring the new skills and capabilities to manage big data driven by the growth of web, mobile and social technologies?

Actually, some are doing it but the majority of today’s CIOs continue to follow a traditional, business-as-usual approach when it comes to their job. This is a big mistake which explains why there is a critical gap between their performance and the new expectations held by the CEO.

CIOs must move now, expanding beyond their current back office support roles and into the front office where new technologies are critical to the success of their business. This is the difference between managing for cost-efficiency and managing for growth. CIOs can make major impact on the company’s revenue growth.

2. Today, when companies are trying to operate with a more customer-centric approach, can we say a CMO’s role is more critical to driving growth than that of a CIO in a company?

I would not agree with such a statement. That’s like asking a race car driver if their front wheels are more important than their back wheels. Of course the answer is no. As today’s empowered customer continues to evolve, trading in PCs for mobile devices and Sunday fliers for social media channels, businesses are struggling to stay connected.

Communicating with each customer as an individual requires the collective expertise of both the CMO and CIO, with the two sides merging marketing and technology skills to create a fully connected, cross-channel solution that addresses the unique needs of each customer.

3. Should CIOs learn marketing and CMOs master technology? Or can these two roles be merged in an enterprise?

Moving forward, the CMO will become more technology focused while the CIO gains knowledge of the vital front office technologies marketers require. That much is true. However, this does not mean that these two roles can or should be melded together.

For the CIO, for example, it’s not about becoming a marketer but about learning what the CMO is doing and then helping make their needs possible with the IT Department’s technology-focused expertise and resources.

To do so, CIOs will become more engaged in the business, taking on a more customer-centric mindset that expands beyond platforms. While this is certainly a shift in traditional roles, the CIO and CMO will not replace each other but rather co-lead a team that provides the company with the technologies and insights needed for success.

4. Do you think CMOs will be able to pull off higher ROI from tech investments?

Through this CIO alliance, CMOs will increase their ability to generate higher ROl by identifying solutions that best fit into their organization. Under the old model, CMOs were deploying technologies on an ad hoc basis off the CIO’s radar. This resulted in solutions which, while capable of addressing very specific and immediate needs, were located in silos where they were unable to connect to the overall marketing effort and deliver the organization the best results possible.

This issue was identified in IBM’s State of Marketing survey where 71 percent stated they believe integration across owned, earned and paid channels is important. Yet only 29 percent are effectively integrating these different channels. Through this CMO—CIO alliance, that hurdle will be removed and greater ROI achieved.

5. What are the current expectations of a CEO from the tech head of the organization?

Today’s CEO is looking for its technology leaders to be problem solvers and innovation drivers who are able to identify and deploy technology to obtain competitive advantages now rather than three to five years down the road.

In a world where customer habits and preferences can turn on a dime, the organization has to be more predictive of key trends and responsive of shifts in realtime. The multi-year project approach mentality is no longer a viable option.

6. What is your advice for a CMO who aspires to double as CIO?

My answer is simple: Don’t even try. These are two very different and valuable roles which in the customer centric era are essential both collectively and individually. My advice is to team up with your most strategic partner, your CIO.

7. What is IBM’s approach to empower a CMO to manage the tech affairs of an organization?

In the 1950s, IBM helped invent the discipline of the CIO through skills, education and partnerships. Now we are providing CMO with powerful tools and technologies, including $3+ billion on commerce technology acquisitions, $14B+ on analytics technology acquisitions, plus a five-year, $100 million investment in analytics R&D.

In addition to tools and technologies, we are also offering unmatched expertise in helping data-driven CMOs deliver business results and meaningful ROI. These efforts will ensure that CMOs are able to re-imagine their roles with next-generation skills, expanded peer networks, and the tools and technologies to transform their profession, while at the same time building a culture where creative leadership is fortified by big data, tapping into business, analytical and digital skills.

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Yuchun Lee (pictured above) is the vice president and general manager of IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management Group, the “Market” component of IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative. Prior to his current role, Lee co-founded and served as the CEO of marketing solutions provider Unica, where he was responsible for Unica’s overall strategic direction and day-to-day business operations.

A respected thought leader, Lee served on the Direct Marketing Association’s board of directors. As a published author, Lee has written “The DNA of Smart Business Growth” chapter for the Inside The Minds book series, and has co-authored the book Solving Data Mining Problems Through Pattern Recognition (Prentice-Hall).

Prior to joining Unica, Lee held senior-level positions with Digital Equipment Corporation and M.I.T.’s Lincoln and Media Labs.

Photo courtesy: IBM

This interview is published under the RMN Digital’s “Thought Leaders” series in which top tech market leaders of the world express their views on different burning issues and market trends.

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