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Practical Thoughts on the CIO Shift

The role of the CIO is changing, and everyone is talking about it — a lot.

Technology executives are under pressure to adapt and grow. Develop deeper business savvy; transition systems to the cloud; and then there’s the “CIO-CMO imperative” — identify ways to best collaborate with marketing.

This month I had the opportunity to catch up with someone on the other side of that imperative. Alex Green is the VP of marketing at Canada’s leading casual dining chain, Boston Pizza. Alex and I talked about how that tech-marketing collaboration is playing out for marketing executives. You might be relieved to hear that it’s just as pressing, and at times intimidating, for marketing leaders to embrace technology — especially as CMOs are given greater responsibility over IT spending. But Alex brought up an important point: although influence over how technology dollars are spent might be shifting, the skill-set required to execute those projects is still co-owned by technology and marketing. Neither side can manage the shift alone.

Change isn’t easy, but if there’s one thing IT leaders do well, it’s project management. Apply those skills to managing this shift in your own careers. Here are some practical suggestions that may help you through this evolution:
Be willing to embrace risk. IT leaders have historically been risk-averse to protect costly technology infrastructures and ensure consistency. Moving forward, IT leaders will be expected to be innovative thinkers and experiment. Don’t be hampered by narrow approaches for measuring ROI. Look for new ways to evaluate success, and let your marketing peers be your allies here.
Be willing to learn. Share articles and attend seminars on negotiation skills and business strategy. Lobby for technology to become a part of the company’s shared language. Consider updating your organization’s mission statement, and form a technology steering committee (results from HT’s research show this is an under-used but growing practice). You might even consider changing the IT department’s name or titles. Most of all, remember that you’re not going through this shift alone. Embrace it as a co-owned transition with your marketing peers and lend each other support through the process.

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