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Inside the Minds (and Personalities) of CIOs and CMOs

By Tom Kaneshige, CIO
January 29, 2014 02:54 PM ET

CIO - Tired of waiting for lengthy approval processes, CMOs have been doing end-runs around the IT department for years. In turn, scorned CIOs would rip out the marketing department's rogue tech.

CMOs responded in kind by running to their buddy in the corner office -- the CMO and CEO are often cut from the same personality cloth -- and complain that those techies are at it again, slowing down business decisions they don't understand and letting competitors beat them to the punch.

"I can tell you horror stories," says Kevin Cochrane, a tech industry veteran who has held top marketing positions since the mid-1990s and is currently CMO at OpenText, an enterprise information management software company.

For years, the CIO and CMO have faced off in one of the rockiest executive relationships. As the two odd stepchildren in the C-level suite, they constantly must prove their worth, which often pits them against each other as they try to curry favor among their peers. Both need new technology to be successful and they must compete for scarce dollars. Making matters worse, their jobs tend to reward opposite personality traits; clashes can get ugly.

The Frenemies of the Corporate World

Now, in the age of the digital customer, the CIO and CMO must work together closer than ever.

Given the antagonistic history between these two executives, it sounds like an impossible situation. At times, the CIO and CMO appear to be playing a zero-sum game. That is, one does well only at the expense of the other.

During the financial crisis, for instance, the CIO was a highly valued cost-efficiency expert who kept the company running by delivering concrete returns on investment. The CMO, on the other hand, was a "black magic" brand enhancer who wasted precious dollars in advertising campaigns with no clear return on investment. The CMO almost didn't survive and had to turn to technology to get closer to the revenue pipeline.

Today, as the economy recovers and competition heats up, the roles have reversed. The CMO's ability to show real sales flowing from technology investments in social, mobile and data analytics puts him in a prestigious position. Meanwhile, the CIO's operational role means he no longer sits at the strategic table; his C-level status is under assault. Underscoring this power shift, Gartner predicts CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs by 2017.

In truth, CMOs and CIOs need each other to reach the digital customer and achieve the holy grail of marketing. "The only way marketing can get a holistic view of who is the customer, what they've done, and what they're most likely [to do] is by partnering with IT for true multi-channel customer analytics," Cochrane says.

But how are they going to work together?

Are CIOs and CMOs Really That Different?

For CIOs and CMOs to work well together, perhaps the first step is to understand how the other side thinks. It will also help if these C-level executives look inside themselves. One of the foundational ideas behind the Myers-Briggs personality system is to help individuals better understand their own personality tendencies and potential differences with co-workers and, ultimately, find common ground. The 16 personality types in the Myers-Briggs system are not stereotypes nor written in stone, rather they are merely natural inclinations toward particular preferences.

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