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The CMO-CIO partnership

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The CMO-CIO partnership
Common Goals, Unified Approach, Unique Capabilities

By Bask Iyer, CIO, VMware

There is a lot of chatter about tension and conflict between IT and Lines of Businesses (LOBs)for a variety of reasons. The discussion around bi-modal IT follows this narrative: Traditional IT is slow to respond to business needs; is not at the cutting edge of the latest technologies and creates many hurdles, usually under the guise of security concerns.  Shadow IT steps in to fill the gap and saves the day so that LOBs can move on to be successful. In this scenario, the IT org is the slow-moving villain, and everyone else is the swashbuckling hero or heroine.

The reality is not that black and white.

In many enterprises, the IT organization has actually kept up with the times and has become a trusted partner for the business. I believe in the power of “Can do attitude” in IT, and the key to success is relying on three principles:

  1. Customer First
  2. Lead with desired outcomes, not tools or technologies
  3. Capitalize on current opportunities – Lead with mobility

These principles apply to an important relationship— the one between IT and Marketing—and it starts at the top with a tight alignment between the CIO and the CMO. By applying the big three, leaders are able to unite around the customer experience and establish a vision enforced by a working partnership that helps teams succeed without conflict.

1) Customer First – (I am referrring to the external paying customer)
I see IT as becoming the voice of the customer within VMware. We must be the first to test our own products in our own production environments—in short, drink our own champagne.  We already have great programs in place that allow us to partner with engineering across our portfolio of products spanning infrastructure, cloud, and business mobility. Marketing has the same customer perspective and is focused on promoting our competitive differentiation and attracting more customers to our business. We are natural allies, when we align around the customer perspective.

2) Lead with desired outcomes, not tools or technologies
LOBs and functions such as Marketing want to adopt outside technologies, based on solid reasons that I can appreciate; however, what I like to focus on are desired business outcomes. We live in world of tool fatigue and app proliferation, which does not necessarily help us, whether in Marketing or IT, to achieve our business objectives. The CIO and the IT org know the technology and are best positioned to match the technology to the desired business outcome.  However, in at technology company everyone believes that they are the CIO because everyone has been involved in one part of technology or another.  But there is a difference between understanding technology and being the CIO of company.  I often use the analogy (tongue in cheek, of course) of the person that works in the music store. He might know all about guitars and the gear that make them sound good, but he is no Eric Clapton. You need professional IT staff who understand the bigger picture, the complexities involved, and the risks – this enables us to guide the company to right technology decisions. But it must be done with agility. IT also plays a key role by focusing on back-end integration so that Marketing can quickly pilot new tools without worrying about data integration and security.

3) Capitalize on current opportunities; lead with mobility
We should seize opportunities to gain mindshare and raise awareness, capitalizing on the latest trends. Today that is simply mobility. IT wants to enable Marketing to drive campaigns leading with a mobile-first strategy. Our digital marketing IT service teams can streamline the necessary capabilities and create a support structure by clearly delineating responsibilities between marketers and IT.

The CIO and CMO are both business leaders, share a common focus on the end-user customer and want to leverage technology to seize the advantage.  This provides us with a unique opportunity to double down on execution strategies, collaborating to test unique approaches to mutual goals.  There is no conflict; only unique approaches to common goals.


On Twitter: @baskiyer

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