One of the more interesting trends I’m seeing these days is that the marketing department is acquiring its own IT capability. By the time I came across my third person with the title of “CIO of Marketing” in the same number of months recently, it was evident that the fragmentation of IT delivery was well under way like rarely before. Why is a new CIO role forming under the marketing group of some companies today? Because marketing has become so relentlessly and fundamentally digital in recent years, and that means the smart and timely application of a veritable blizzard of emerging new technologies, the most formidable and important ones these days being related to social media and smart mobility. These include social analytics, business intelligence, large scale customer experiences, and so on.
In other words, gone are the days of bulk e-mail, static micro-sites, lead capture pages, push media campaigns, and ad buys as the mainstay of digital customer communication. While those will still be significant for a little while yet, there is a huge channel shift taking place that is also as intrinsically different from traditional marketing as the printing press was different from the Internet. The change is this: The marketing department — along with sales, support, and product development — are all becoming one virtual customer engagement department. Combine this with a vast array of new tech including social apps, customer communities, Social CRM, crowdsourcing, and a whole host of other disruptive new entrants into the space, you have a situation ripe for a major change in the way enterprises are organized. It now seems more likely that the transformation to social business is going to significantly rewire the org chart.
In fact, I think that the CIO of Marketing is really just the proverbial canary in a coal mine; the urgency and tech-centricity of digital engagement is creating an irresistible need for strong technical and implementation leadership under not just within marketing, but other key business functions as well. Just not in the faraway centralized support group represented by traditional IT. Different business functions all need a great deal of new social, mobile, cloud-based, and customer-centric business solutions right now, not tomorrow. They have come to realize the only way to get it is to have a mature management capability of their own that understands long term technology, portfolio, project, and vendor management. In practice, it will further dilute the role and responsibilities of already challenged global CIOs in the organization. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it the only way to get there.
So, to my mind, this is the coming decentralization of IT that I’ve been predicted will be the inevitable consequence of 1) nearly everything becoming digital, social, mobile, etc. and 2) much savvier workers that can and will feel more comfortable locally enabling new IT that works best for their part of the business. This trend, sometimes dubbed #CoIT, has been evident for a couple of years now. I’m currently seeing a lot of discussion about the need for marketing and CIOs to close ranks and start working together much more rapidly and effectively, while at the same time, different parts of the organization are building their own local capabilities.
How this struggle will play out industry-wide is going to be on the more intriguing and potentially disruptive trends to watch this year.
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