digital transformation

The CMO and CIO are No Longer Strange Bedfellows

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to digital transformation. Each enterprise or organization must become acquainted with each of its customers as a 1:1-level relationship, which ensures differences in approach.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to digital transformation. Each enterprise or organization must become acquainted with each of its customers as a 1:1-level relationship, which ensures differences in approach.

Let’s do some role profiling here.

Aligning people and issues with solutions, creating clarity and action, persuading buy-in, and bringing the disparate elements together for business outcomes. Which of the two – CIO or CMO – does that describe?

The answer is both, of course, especially when the link is the enterprise undertaking digital transformation. “Digital transformation” is a term thrown around too much, and that is because it lacks a foundational definition – but since communicating digital transformation is actually my job, I find it more compelling to take a business context, not a technology context. I describe it as “the opportunity to bridge the gap between the traditional physical world and new digital ambition, in order to create new value streams.”

This is why the role profile above is common to both. The CIO and CMO must team up to be mutually effective, benefiting from transformed systems, intelligence, and workflows that deliver meaningful customer experiences, and for competitive reasons more compelling than they were before. OK, so that’s a writer, whose job is marketing, saying that. Not enough? Well, here’s an extract from the World Economic Forum’s manifesto:

“Never have we been so aware of our dependence on digital models, and we are not going back. With the power of digital technology so very visible, leading companies must now use technology to transform business itself to deliver for a broader set of stakeholders.”

Here’s more for you….Companies that lead in customer experience outperform laggards by nearly 80%. Tie that in with an August 2020 KPMG survey which states 60% of CEOs said they are “more confident” in the growth trajectories of their companies over the next three years than they were at the beginning of the year. So, proven outcomes from improving the customer experience, tied-in with confidence in business growth. It strongly suggests that CMOs and CIOs should become comfortable bedfellows.

Let’s go back to the profiling…

The CIO’s mandate is all systems, both customer-facing and internal. We know that more and more this involves capturing and interpreting market and customer data through artificial intelligence derived from data sensors. In turn, IT leaders supply the capabilities needed to meet Line of Business demands for agility and speed. The CMO’s mandate is to apply the derived customer intelligence, needs, and habits, and profile customers down to the individual level, to create an experience that meets the customer wherever, whenever, and on any device. Understanding the customer is therefore central to both mandates. The CIO needs to connect technology capabilities all the way from the customer interaction back to the workload related to the customer, sitting on the chosen infrastructure platform. The CMO needs an entire profile of the customer, and the CIO builds the systems in order to create the profile.

In the current climate, businesses who fail to understand the importance of the digital customer experience will undoubtedly fall behind. Embracing the customer as a digital experience is essential for business competitiveness and even survival.

One of my favorite examples of the power of the digital customer experience should be familiar to most of us… online grocery shopping. During the pandemic, grocery stores of all sizes were immediately hit, globally, by their customers’ inability to shop traditionally. Now, through an incredible speed of development of online shopping, the physical customer experience is rapidly giving way to the new digital experience.

In mid-September 2020 Kroger (KR) posted an impressive 127% second quarter surge in its digital sales. Sales associates, synonymous with check-out and shelf-stocking, now collect online orders and deliver them to car trunks. So much is this the case Kroger hired 40,000 more operatives to handle it. Similar stories abound at Target and Walmart.

There is no doubt people are shopping differently. Behaviour is changing, now more rapidly on the basis of our 2020 experiences and limitations, but it has translated into an imperative for enterprises. If we can track our pizza order to the extent we know when the cheese is being sprinkled onto the base, then our banks and other preferred brands better provide similar depths of experience, otherwise we are lost to them.

How does this translate into digital transformation approaches?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to digital transformation. Each enterprise or organization must become acquainted with each of its customers as a 1:1-level relationship, which ensures differences in approach. The answer will guide how digital transformation needs to proceed in the organisation. It is likely nothing, be it a marketing campaign, a workflow process, a personal role, or a function will remain untouched. This is because the journey from the digital customer experience all the way to enterprise architecture touches everything in between – edge sensors, data and data science, security, application development, enterprise software, and IT infrastructure platforms.

That journey requires mapping to capture, collaboratively, what is needed as technology capabilities, as well as the respective capabilities of people and processes. In other words, there’s a new operating model, and the CMO and CIO are at the center of it in a highly mutual way. The entire thing disrupts established norms, and as such, requires high-level vision, with perspectives, formed by the enterprise’s circumstances and resources, that are supported by technology but delivered by people.

It is best, then, to view digital transformation in journey-orchestration terms rather than technology terms. It is no coincidence that most corporate-wide digital transformation attempts fail, but they fail because of people and process issues versus technology. I recently built a visual to illustrate this point, reproduced below, that captures the top 10 reasons for stalled transformation (according to the Harvard Business Review). It makes the point well.

digital transformation

Digital transformation journeys require that the C-suite unites. It also requires the organization chain to change the individual mind-set that is inside-out to a collective mind-set that is outside-in. Back to my role profiling at the top of the article – aligning people and issues with solutions together for business outcomes in practice means preparing for those future business outcomes, while delivering better customer value today.

That means a CIO-CMO partnership along the entire customer experience value chain, the visibility of that being a clear indicator of the mutual success of these two individuals. They may have started out as strange bedfellows, but their advantage is to get acquainted, fast.

For more information on HPE’s remote working solutions, visit

ian jagger - digital transformationIan Jagger is the creator and writer of HPE Pointnext Services narrative, focused on digital transformation, linking technology capabilities expertise with business goals. A Chartered Marketer, his experience spans strategic development and planning for Start-ups through to content creation, thought leadership, AR/PR, campaign program building and execution for Enterprise. Successful solution launches include HPE Digital Next Advisory, HPE Right Mix Advisor, and HPE Micro Datacenter.

This article originally appeared in Photo by Womanizer WOW Tech on Unsplash.

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