In today's digital world, companies have access to unprecedented volumes of customer data, from billing information and account behavior to how customers interact with social media and customer service channels. Use it right, and the benefits can be impressive. Management consultancy firm McKinsey estimates that data-driven companies are 5 percent more productive and 6 percent more profitable than others.
However, big data initiatives require a mix of skills and knowledge to deliver success. This comes at a time when there's a big shift happening when it comes to control of IT spend in many firms. Driven by the rise of areas such as digital and social media, as well as big data, the CMO has an increasing technology responsibility. In contrast, the CIOs' traditional budgets are being squeezed as they struggle to keep IT infrastructure running with fewer resources. It's no wonder then that Gartner (an IT industry analyst) predicts that CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs by 2017.
Despite their long-standing rivalry, the CIO and CMO need to work together and pool their talents if big data is going to deliver big profits. So what skills are needed and how can companies bring them together under the same roof?
Big data skills
The typical CMO is seen at the creative end of the spectrum. They are more likely to be hired for their ability to generate big ideas and a positive, can-do attitude. Of course there are exceptions, but rather than focusing on the details of processes, CMOs are more fixed on achieving the end goal.
In contrast, traditional CIOs have to be more focused on systems, processes, and structures that deliver within the budget. Skill-wise, they have to pay attention to detail, dependability, keep the existing IT infrastructure working, and focus on driving new innovation. While this means they are used to operating reactively -- managing transaction and batch processing -- they understand the complexity behind new initiatives, like big data, in a way that CMOs simply can't. An estimated 49 percent of CIOs complain that marketing pulls in new technology with no consideration for IT standards, which makes their job more complex.
When it comes to big data, it is vital that CMOs and CIOs marry their skills. CMOs should create the use cases and outline goals for initiatives. CIOs then evaluate this information to build requirements and feasibility studies. But the partnership shouldn't end there -- it has to be ongoing. Here are five areas to focus on:
Communicate at all levels
Bringing the CIO and CMO together isn't enough. There needs to be communication between marketers and IT staff at all levels. Some companies have moved the departments onto the same floor or even mixed staff into an open plan office. Either way, get people socializing to help develop a level of understanding and mutual respect.
Decision making needs to be clear. Responsibilities should be mapped out from the start with continuous transparent reporting so everyone can see progress. Goals need to be agreed upon and accepted by everyone involved in an open and honest manner.
Learn to translate
IT and marketing speak different languages, meaning you need to translate between the two. Look at bringing in people with a mix of both disciplines -- a technical staff with previous involvement in marketing campaigns -- to help bridge the gap between enterprise IT architecture and business strategy.
Build the right teams
Different parts of the big data project require different skills. Make sure you have the right people on your teams. Create a center of excellence that spans marketing and IT. Map out the stages of the project and assign a staff to fit the required roles.
Start small and build
Tempting as it is to launch straight into big data projects, you need to walk before you can run. Start with pilot projects to learn how to work together, develop best practices, and fail -- without the consequences being too great. Once the relationship has developed, you can move onto real big data projects with a greater chance of success.
Big data is a key weapon to ensuring business competitiveness for any organization, but projects are more likely to succeed if IT and marketing are working together.
Tom Schuster is CEO at Searchmetrics.
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