This blog is part of our ongoing series, “CIO-CMO Alignment for the New Era of Digital.” To see all content in this series, click here.
As more companies see the benefits of collaboration across marketing, sales, and IT, internal alignment has moved from frontline tactics to C-suite prioritization.
To enhance that alignment, the role of a B2B CIO has evolved over time. CIOs are now spending more time aligning IT projects with business goals, as well as leading business innovation and organizational change. With this shift, CIOs are discovering the best ways to work collaboratively with their chief marketing officer (CMO) counterparts and marketing teams.
Let’s take a closer look at how the CIO role has evolved in recent years, their top priorities for the immediate future, and key trends that will have an impact as CIOs focus on digital transformation.
How the CIO role has changed in the last 10 years
Traditionally, the CIO has served as the nuts and bolts person. But today, CIOs aren’t just in charge of managing technology—they are stepping into a more strategic role, leading organizational change and fostering a digital-first culture.
B2B buyers are now demanding more from digital experiences—and those demands have impacted the role of the CIO. As the buyer’s journey goes digital, the CIO’s role is no longer limited to procuring technology and managing internal engineers to support other teams. Due to the greater need for customer-focused data and the opportunity that exists in a data-driven technology model, CIOs are called to take a seat at the table and lead strategic initiatives with a customer-first focus.
CIOs must go beyond technology selection, implementation and updates, and instead prove ROI and spearhead employee adoption across departments. TheyCIOs today must use digital and technical skills to innovate, but strategic leadership and integrated teamwork have become essential elements for success.
What are a CIO’s biggest priorities?
For IT leadership, meeting strategic business goals will require a robust technology infrastructure that supports, optimizes, and drives the buyer’s journey. To make this happen, a CIO’s main priorities in the next six months to a year focus on creating an integrated technology experience, using customer data to pinpoint a buyer’s needs and supply them with information to make purchase decisions, and scaling it all to drive business growth.
Priority 1: Unifying technologies
As a technology expert, the CIO will take the lead in assessing current technologies and how they are integrated with distributors, as well as across business units and their goals. Integration addresses a top buyer pain point: 42% of buyers said difficulty integrating suppliers’ tech solutions with their own solutions was a top pain point with supplier technology.
The CIO evaluates all technologies that need to work together for the business to function effectively, including the commerce and fulfillment platform, marketing automation and CRM, and customer service. They identify the gaps and provide solutions for bridging them. Integrated technology also promotes optimal cross-team collaboration, allowing teams to streamline processes, apply data and analytics across applications, and drive better results.
Priority 2: Scalability and repeatability
When the basics are up and running, it’s time to scale. Decreasing the amount of custom code in a technology stack can streamline updates and simplify workflows—which is imperative when looking to scale your business. The CIO should maintain a focus on cybersecurity and data protection, stay up-to-date on new technology releases, manage license costs and maximize return on investment (ROI) for technology. This strong foundational base can then be repeated across geographic areas, business units, and distributors to accelerate scale.
Scaling a business can seem impossible without the right team to support growth efforts. Training, updates, and security maintenance can take time away from new development or strategic improvements. CIOs with limited internal resources may want to leverage a managed services provider to offload time-consuming tasks.
Priority 3: Maturing data insights and analytics
Increased digital interaction means increased accessibility to immense amounts of customer data. The CIO brings data in from every channel and touchpoint to establish a deeper consumer connection, uniting it with a CMO’s behavioral, demographic, and transactional data to understand a customers’ preferences across multiple channels.
Based on data on how buyers interact with the site, the CIO can enable easy, straightforward site updates and support strategic optimizations. By harnessing the power of customer data to inform future decisions, the CIO can drive real business ROI, no matter their industry.
Strategic trends for B2B IT leaders
Current key trends for IT leaders may tap into emerging technology tools, like artificial intelligence and cloud-based technology, but only if they support big-picture business strategy and leadership. CIOs now have to possess a strategic, future-focused vision in order to best advise how to optimize, integrate, innovate, or update their tech stack to improve the customer experience.
Digital transformation has made collaboration between marketing and IT inevitable. Internal team alignment – from the C-suite down to entry-level staff members – is important for successfully executing on a CIO’s priorities. Just as they are called to integrate technology, CIOs also need to collaborate closely with marketing, operations, and sales teams to prioritize these strategic improvements.
Within some company structures, the beginnings of a partnership between CIO and CMO already exists. Forrester estimates that more than 20% of marketing budgets is used for technology, and one third of marketing organizations already have a dedicated technology team. In another study, nearly 60% of CIOs meet with their CMO counterpart on a daily or weekly basis. And it makes for better business. The study showed 95% of CIOs say partnering with the CMO improves their organization’s customer experience, while 93% say it promotes innovation.
As a starting point, CIOs have to take stock of current challenges in order to pave a way forward. B2B teams often encounter an outdated or dysfunctional IT infrastructure that can’t support expanding marketing technology. As those marketing solutions generate enormous amounts of customer data, teams struggle to organize and analyze this data in a meaningful way. While some companies have created a partnership between marketing and IT, many aren’t using that collaboration to its fullest potential, slowing the progress.
CIOs have an opportunity to improve and scale their customer-facing digital solutions by fostering a partnership with their CMO counterparts. Through this alignment, these business leaders can create a digital experience that streamlines and nurtures the buyer’s journey. They can build a deeper customer connection using data-driven insights and a seamless sales funnel that will generate repeat purchases, cross-selling, and brand engagement.
As B2B digital transformation continues, this level of collaboration will need to increase. It’s not just about tapping into a budget or a team when the need arises. It’s about breaking down detrimental silos for the benefit of the whole organization. CIOs who take on a more strategic, collaborative leadership role, centered on their foundational expertise in technology and data, will find success in delivering on their priorities and achieving business goals.
If you’re ready to execute on your priorities with cross-team collaboration, get started by downloading our white paper Solutions For The C-Suite: How CIO And CMO Collaboration Drives Digital Innovation.