The CMO, the CIO’s New BFF


Tu dis dix et je dis dix

Tu es prompt et je suis prompt

Dix, dih, prompt, promp,

Ignorons ces différences


A tí te gusta la papa y a mí me gusta la patata

A tí te gusta el tomate y a mí me gusta el jitomate

Papa, patata, tomate, jitomate

¡No discutamos más!

انت تحب البطاطس و انا احب البطاطا

انت تحب الطماطم و انا احب البندوره

البطاطس البطاطا الطماطم البندوره

دعنا من الامر كله

You like potato and I like potahto

You like tomato and I like tomahto

Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto.

Let's call the whole thing off


Marketing and Technology? Working together? Seeking a common goal? We speak different languages…”we” talk in bits and bytes, “they” use crayons and scissors all day. How can we possibly get along?

Way back in the dark ages when I started my career as a programmer supporting the credit card business of a local bank, the standing joke was we could read the newspaper to know our next project. It seemed to happen time and time again, marketing would announce a new service or new functionality; we would look at each other say “that is a great idea, somebody ought to code that!”.

Many years later, as a brand new CIO, I got my first lessons in relationship building, communicating with empathy, and working with marketing. They had spent days uploading files to our FTP site for a project. It was “policy” to delete everything on the FTP site after 30 days. Day 29….day, gone. Marketing screamed! (Well, emailed WITH ALL CAPITAL LETTERS). My response? ”Sorry, it is our policy to remove all files left on the FTP server longer than 30 days”. Accurate? Yes! Correct? I thought so. Later as I sat in the principal’s office, er, I mean, my boss’ office, I learned a valuable lesson in communicating with empathy, understanding, and bridging relationships with Marketing (well, everyone, not just Marketing).

Today, in our company, like many others, I can’t think of many projects (if, any) that don’t involve BOTH Marketing and Technology. We are even having Marketing review our Service Desk Knowledge-base Articles, not for technical accuracy, but for how well they communicate to the end user.

Marketing is becoming (or has become) digital. Most communication is now through digital channels. The data that is gathered from this connected world would cause data centers of just a few years ago to explode at the seams. It is no longer necessary to market to the aggregate, we can market to the individual. We can know more about the “person on the street” than they know (or realize) about themselves. Predictions abound that the technology spend of the CMO will exceed that of the CIO in 2017. What does all this mean to the CIO?

I read an interview with a leading CMO a few weeks ago. In it, he stated, any CMO that doesn’t understand technology should find a new career. I say, the reverse of that is also true. Any CIO that doesn’t understand marketing and the technology needs of marketing, should go back to their climate-controlled data centers and watch the blinking lights, they will NOT be a player at the table in the very near future.

How do we do this? I’m going to use the same word here, I used in my previous post “relationship”. Someone asked me recently, “What is the difference between a CIO and a Director of IT?”. My answer was three words, “Strategy, vision, and relationship”.

To know marketing, you have to be with marketing, to understand their challenges, to understand things like market segmentation, voice of the customer, customer experience, brand, brand loyalty, and target rating points. In our world of 1’s and 0’s, we have a tendency to think in black or white, yes or no. In marketing, most of the time, it is not quite so clear. A loyal, engaged customer today, might be gone tomorrow. Understanding why, how to re-engage, or better yet to prevent them from leaving in the first place takes an understanding of human behavior, the competition, and, dare I say it? Feelings!

The technology roadmap for a top-notch Marketing team, can be very intimidating to those who may feel comfortable with using technology, but don’t understand technology. (I, for one, feel very comfortable driving a car, but beyond gas and wiper fluid, you really don’t want me working on your car). A quick Google search on “marketing technology” returns an astounding 2,240,000,000 results… that’s BILLION, with a B. We can help navigate through confusion and the noise. But, just as we did with banking in the 70’s, manufacturing in the 80’s, retailing in the 90’s, web in the 2000’s, we must first listen and seek to understand the challenges, the goals, and the issues.


"Friends" used by permission doriana_s

As a start, take your favorite CMO out for lunch or coffee, start building the bridge. Perhaps, replace one of the IT conferences you attend with a Marketing conference. You will be amazed to find we are more similar than you think!

This is a continuation of a series of posts that are looking at the confluence of changes impacting the CIO and IT leadership. Next up “Turning a Geek into a Butterfly...Social Butterfly, that is”.

Jeffrey Ton is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, providing vision and leadership in the continued development and implementation of the enterprise-wide information technology and marketing portfolios, including applications, information & data management, infrastructure, security and telecommunications.

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Jeff Ton

About Jeff Ton

Throughout his career in business, Jeffrey Ton has developed and fine tuned his leadership skills to become a business focused leader who drives results. Extending the role of the CIO to encompass a strategic view of the business, he identifies innovative approaches to achieve the business objectives by leveraging technology where and when appropriate. Adept at building and leading teams, both in-line and cross-organizational, he has been a catalyst for change across the businesses he has served. Ton has industry expertise in information technology, non-profits, commercial real estate development, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, supply chain, green/clean technologies, finance, insurance and consulting. Expertise: • Strategic Planning – Business & Technology • Organization & Management Reengineering • Merger & Acquisition Integration • Divestiture Decoupling • Business & IT Alignment • Enterprise Architecture Strategy • C-level Relationships • International Staff Management & Acquisition • Global Enterprise Implementations • Fiscal Management • Governance & Risk Management • Business Process Optimization • Vendor Relationship Management • Outsourcing(Offshore/Near-shore) & In-sourcing • Technology Portfolio Management • Regulatory and Compliance Management • P&L Management Specialties: Architecture, infrastructure, applications, application development, telecom, e-Business strategy, web development, knowledge management, integration, EDI, SAP, business intelligence, outsourcing, insourcing, contract negotiation, commercial real estate development, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, supply chain, green/clean technologies, finance, insurance and consulting, keynote speaker on leadership, green and other topics, LEED AP BD+C. Read his blog on, Intel's IT Peer Network and LinkedIn.