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Untangling Big Data Dysfunction Through a True CIO CMO Alliance

May 25, 2016

Big data brings big data bottlenecks, and because the challenge is both customer-centric and technology-driven, the task of untangling the data traffic jam within an enterprise falls to both the CMO and CIO. While there’s agreement that cooperation between CMOs and CIOs is essential, the reality leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, there’s practically a cottage industry writing about how the relationship between the CMO and CIO is one fraught with hurdles, from budget disparities to personality conflicts.

On one hand, it’s tempting to succumb to the idea that techies and marketers will never quite get along. But so what? Enterprises thrive by summoning diverse people with different skills and backgrounds and directing them toward a common goal. So while there may be some who think the inevitable result of the big data revolution will be the hegemony of one department over the other, that mentality overlooks the inherent value of specialists — something that can be mitigated slightly by training marketers in tech, and vice versa, but never truly overcome. So the question remains: How do you untangle dysfunction at the enterprise level?

Every enterprise is different, but at the moment, it’s likely that the ownership of various data programs was assigned haphazardly. Marketers who have spent the past decade blazing trails onto new digital platforms to keep pace with consumers likely own social media and mobile. Equally, important data from transactions and finance is more than likely the province of the CIO. Meanwhile, CRM data might be either department’s domain.

Ultimately, as ad tech and marketing tech merge, those silos will have to be broken down, and their data and reporting standardized so it can deploy across the enterprise in real-time. But that doesn’t mean it’s time for an all-out turf war between the CMO and CIO. Frankly, they’re getting into the same boat, even if they are currently running programs in different waters. But it’s not just enough to task the CIO with running the boat and the CMO with steering it. The challenge isn’t so easily bifurcated.

As consumers, the CMO-CIO divide is most pronounced when we engage with brands where we already have a preexisting relationship. The data that guides the marketing department never quite seems to align with the data we’ve already given the company as customers. We buy a new car, for example, and even though we’ve handed over our banking information, email, home address and phone number, we’re overrun with direct mail offers for a new vehicle. Or, a big box store sends its valued customers a special offer, but to claim the offer consumers must once again share data they’ve already shared dozens of times before. Those are subpar customer experiences, but on an enterprise-level, those examples illustrate the wall that exists between CMO and CIO data. Viewed from inside the organization, brands face the challenge of aligning customer data held by the CIO with the audience data the CMO uses to grow the business.

Addressing this problem requires more than just promising to tear down silo walls. First, the CMO and CIO need to recognize that their core missions don’t include realigning their departments for data to be shared across the enterprise. Frankly, that’s too big of a challenge for one department, and while it’s possible to build data-sharing capabilities in-house, doing so probably isn’t feasible or cost effective. In all likelihood, most enterprises will choose to work with a partner that can help them standardize, share, and deploy data across the organization.

But that’s not to say that the challenge can be outsourced. In fact, success depends on the extent to which the CIO and CMO are able to work cooperatively with a partner. Typically, partners are brought in either by the CMO or the CIO and as a result, their work falls under one budget or the other. That’s a problem because the goal is to benefit the enterprise as a whole. To maximize the partner relationship, a business can create a new context of shared responsibility for data that rewards cooperation between CIO and CMO. Rather than allocating technology budgets in a vacuum, enterprises should develop shared and variable accountability metrics. Money spent on sharing CRM data across the enterprise is money saved through reduced churn as well media buys.

Getting those data sets to talk to each other is the first step to breaking the big data bottleneck. Once the CIO and CMO speak the same language, the data will finally belong to the entire enterprise.

This article was written by Lotame’s Chief Data Scientist, Omar Abdala.