Are CMOs Poised To Take Over Technology Purchasing?

03/10/2015 04:38 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2015

Today, most tech purchase decisions are still being made in the CIO/CTO suite. There is nothing new about that. With certain initiatives being handed down from leadership, buying and implementation has always been done in the tech department. However, as the debate around CIO-CMO fusion continues, and as data-centric and customer-centric businesses seek to work faster, issues like shadow IT, marketing-led tech, Big Data boom, predictive analytics, etc. have become hot topics in the corporate space. There is also a brewing suspicion that soon CMOs and other revenue focused execs may be driving more tech buying, app implementation, and adoption than ever before. What will that mean going forward?

CMOs Step into Tech Purchases with Increasing Responsibilities

As tech-focused businesses grow in number, tech-spending is no longer confined within the walls of the IT department. Rather, the trend is shifting towards Line of Business (LoB) executives making tech purchase decisions. According to IDC's predictions last year, CMOs will hold up to 10% of the total tech budget by the end of 2015. Impressive, but this power increases the responsibilities of the CMO. Not only will they be juggling new ways of reaching customers, new data streams, social media, wearables, mobile access and more. Now, they will add making tech purchase decisions to the list. It is not difficult to see the full plate we've placed before them. Begging the question...Are CMOs ready to take such a big bite?

Whether they are ready or not, technology is fast becoming an inextricable part of the CMO's functions, and they need to participate in making tech decisions in order to determine the ROI for purchases. Moreover, it is practically impossible to manage the wide range of customer touch points across all channels throughout the customer's purchase journey, extract customer behavior from data-based insights, send effective marketing messages, and finally measure the ROI of all of these actions without technology.

CMO and CIO vs. CMO or CIO

With CMOs exalted to such great heights, even overshadowing the CIO, will CMOs still need CIOs to assist them in making the tech decisions? Or will the CMO manage to take on the responsibility alone?

While some extreme assumptions predict that CIOs might be soon replaced by the CMO, it isn't the reality that we are currently seeing. A Forrester Research Study says that marketing executives who make technology decisions without the CIO are taking a gamble. Technology rarely works without hiccups, calculating the real cost of a technology is a CIO specialty, and signing a contract without the knowledge of proper SLAs could lead the company to a tech nightmare. For those reasons, it is risky business for CIOs to go it alone.

I feel this whole CMO-CIO discussion should lead to a closer collaboration between the two departments, rather than the scenario where one is feeling more empowered and superior at the expense of the other. In fact, many experts think there is no need for the CIO to be threatened by the growing tech-savvy of the CMO. It should rather be viewed as common ground for forging a powerful partnership between the two.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your take on the shifting role of the CMO as it relates to tech buying and the role of the CIO.