Perspectives

New Dimensions of the CMO Role!

The CXO roles are in a flux today as new dimensions of organization strategy, structure and management are emerging. I have discussed in one of my earlier articles the phenomenon of role fluidity and its negative implications if it is not understood and addressed by the CEO.

In this article, I want to specifically discuss the role of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). A new CMO is evolving and there are three important aspects to this evolution.  There is an interrelatedness between these aspects and they may vary in their relative saliency in individual organizations, each one of them needs to be addressed. The common genesis for each of the three aspects can be safely attributed to the increasing relevance of digital in marketing.

These three aspects are- the CMO- CIO alignment, new CMO organization and innovative digital platform and its exploitation. Let’s discuss each one of them in little detail here-

1. The CMO-CIO Alignment

Who will lead digital initiatives is a moot question today. Both CMO and the CIO have stakes in building and leveraging the digital. It requires a very different level of alignment between the CMO and the CIO at the personal, functional and the organizational levels. It is not an ‘either or’ question, as it’s playing out in many organizations, it is rather an ‘and’ paradigm. How the CMO and the CIO can work together is a very important dimension of today’s marketing function. I am not talking about the casual flirting with the digital like e-mail campaigns or simple social media presence or developing a web site with simple interactional functionalities. Evolving beyond the casual flirting into serious leverage of analytics, mobile and social requires CMO and CIO to work together. As discussed later, an adequate digital infrastructure platform cannot be built without the two working together.

The alignment needs to be developed at three levels- relational (between individuals), structural (between functions), processsual (across functions) and strategic (at the organizational).

2. The New CMO Organization

The alignment aspects (relational, structural, processual and strategic) have a direct bearing on the CMO organization. The new roles like CDO, CTO, Marketing Technologist etc. requires decisions around what these roles per se shall be, who shall they report into and what structural mechanisms (e.g. creating a separate digital centre of excellence cutting across products and brands versus embedding it within each product or brand group) are required to operationalize these roles.

The CMO organization may require newer processes like social media analytics and feeding into the appropriate function like sales, customer service or product fulfilment. The CMO organization may also need new skills like analytics, SEO, social media engagements in new or the existing members. It may require newer agencies, which have focus on digital marketing to support its processes. All in all there are new processes, roles, skills emerging for a CMO organization.

3. Digital Platform and its Exploitation

The foundation of digital marketing and the newer aspects of the CMO role is a digital foundation and the way it is exploited. It becomes more relevant when an organization moves beyond the casual flirting mode to smart performing mode. Focus needs to be given at all the three layers of a digital platform- the core technologies, the catalyst technologies and the SMAC technologies. The CMO- CIO alignment is a fundamental requirement for a well-integrated, optimized and managed digital platform. If the CMO and the CIO are not aligned in their digital focus, any meaningful digital foray may remain elusive.

Every organization and its leadership need to focus on these new aspects of a CMO role in particular and the CXO roles in general. Without resolving the moot issues and developing a context specific solutions, the effectiveness of roles and the organization may get impacted.

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