Byravee Iyer
Oct 24, 2014

CMOs no closer to getting along with CIOs: Panel

SINGAPORE - It is no longer possible to run marketing without technology, but judging by a panel discussion in Singapore yesterday, CMOs and CIOs are no closer to agreeing about their position in the pecking order.

L-R: Cummings, Nooruddin, Neat, Covington
L-R: Cummings, Nooruddin, Neat, Covington

The X:ED series, which is organised by recruitment company Xpand and discusses topics in digital, technology, media and communications, discussed the need for the CMO and CIO to work closely together in a panel entitled 'The rise of the chief marketing technologist', hosted by Twitter’s Frederique Covington. Guests included Damien Cummings, chief marketing officer ASEAN and Pacific for Philips; Adam Neat, partner at PWC; and Zaheer Nooruddin, Waggener Edstrom’s digital lead.

Conversations around the two titles are closely aligned, but it is the CIO who seems to be generating the bulk of the conversation on Twitter, Covington said, kicking off the informal discussion.

Neat said that 20 years ago there was no CIO function; that it has become deeply ingrained in organisations, informing everything from corporate strategy to mergers and acquisitions. “Today’s CIO has a lot more power because they’re coming with strategy skills,” he added. “Those are the kind of individuals who should be running the function.”

Cummings had a different opinion about the CIO position. “I don’t see CIOs reporting to CEOs,” he said. “They’re critical to the business, but in the same way procurement is: a support function.”

Spicing up the debate, Cummings added that the days of the CIO have passed, and argued that the reason the role got elevated was because CIOs tend to spend a lot more money. “Executives value sales, and in that context CIOs tend not to be in the same conversation," he said.

One of the key dynamics of this conversation is the fact that CMOs haven’t adapted, Nooruddin said. “The bulk of CMOs are analogue people. Their influence over IT will only come when the function matures.”

"I see a divorce," Nooruddin joked, when asked about his vision for the two roles. More seriously, he said, the relationship has never worked because the two report to two different people. “One is a cost centre and the other is about revenue. There’s a huge split right there.”

Cummings agreed that CIOs and CMOs have two very different agendas. “CIOs solve internal problems, while CMOs solve external ones.”

Nooruddin said CMOs are already getting the message to the right people at the right time without IT expertise.

Cummings opted for a more measured response. It is pure laziness when you hire a head of digital, because your CMO should be the head of digital, he noted. "They exist because there’s a capability and knowledge gap. CMOs need to be social at the core and digital and mobile first.”

Campaign’s view: The informal panel style kept the conversation engaging and controversial. But after a certain point, the debate became too one-sided. So we’re forced to say that this round goes to the CMO. 


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