If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that I love to write about sports analogies to help marketers get a new perspective on the issues they deal with. But, although we’re in the midst of what most likely will be our world champion Miami Heat’s march to its second NBA championship in 2013, I’m going to turn left and mix things up a bit in this post.

I’ve been married to an architect for 25 years (as of this May 29th), so it probably won’t surprise you that I also often think of things in terms of designing and building. Considering what goes into creating a building, it provides a fitting analogy to think about how you should approach building your relationship with your chief information officer (CIO); similar to the way architects needs to work with their clients.

Of course, one can’t construct a solid and sustainable building alone or with just anyone. It requires the unique contribution of a diverse group of professionals with specific areas of expertise — the creative vision of the architect; the construction team’s ability to execute; and the specialized skills of concrete workers, carpenters, roofers, and plasterers.  And let’s not forget the importance throughout the process of interior design experts as well as the technical insights from  structural engineers to ensure that the building is and remains hurricane- and/or quake-resistant.

So how does constructing a strong, yet flexible, building apply to CMOs and the relationship you should have with your CIO?

Marketing and technology have become so intertwined that technology should now be thought of as the foundation of marketing. Effective customer engagement across the ever-growing touchpoints of the digital age requires technology to support your marketing objectives.

Like designing a building, it is key to have the vision of what that future infrastructure would look like shared by the owner and the architect – in this case the CMO and the CIO. That teamwork ensures that the blueprint for the marketing technology platform will be strong, resilient, and flexible, working to withstand the toughest business stressors while being able to capitalize on new customer engagement opportunities to drive business growth.  

Here’s my guide to how to manage that resilient working relationship with your CIO, so that a strong blueprint emerges:

  • Understand where your CIO is coming from. Your CIO is concerned about controlling technology costs and reducing access risk. At the same time, you’re chartered with growth and improving the overall customer experiences, with technology playing a big role. An impossible dilemma? Not by a long shot. Come to the table with an open mind, and work through how you can meet each other’s needs. It can be easier than you think, and you might come away with a new empathy and appreciation for each other.
  • Agree to focus on understanding customers and their experiences first. CMOs and CIO need each other’s perspectives to create a unified view of customer data that drives business growth. CMOs often have a vision of what they want but need the CIO to define how to make it a reality. By getting it right, you both can win, strengthen your relationship, and make the business better.
  • Establish shared goals and rewards. Make sure that you and your team are invested in the CIO’s success. Set up shared success metrics for marketing technology projects to ensure that both the marketing and the technology teams are working toward the same goals. A solid foundation of teamwork will go a long way to making it easier for you and your CIO to work together.
  • Cross-pollinate your team. One of the quickest ways to build understanding is to walk in someone else's shoes. Help that process along by embedding some of your resources into the technology team and bringing some technology resources onto your team. The understanding and insights gained will provide a strong foundation for a more collaborative relationship.
  • Help your CIOs learn to say more than just “no.” While they might not be able to say “yes” to every request you make, help them learn to say more than just “no.” If they can't support a project, ask them to come back with alternative ways to meet your objective. Work with the IT team members to help them learn the importance of explaining that while they can't do exactly what you want, they can offer other ways to solve the problem and meet your needs. Showing your CIO that you understand and lend your support in addressing their challenges is half the battle. You'll find that the give and take develops into mutual respect and understanding.

What are you doing to learn from these lessons? Do you have a marketing technology strategy? Are you making the right technology decisions? Are you going it alone or working with your CIO?

I’m putting the final touches on a new report that examines the role of CMOs in technology purchase decisions (subscription required) that will help you examine and respond to these issues — and more effectively. Stay tuned for more details coming soon.

If you’re in New York on Monday, May 20th, please join me at Internet Week. I’ll be partnering with a distinguished group of corporate leaders at the Ad Age Marketing And Technology Summit to discuss “Marketing Technology: The Rise Of CMO-CIO Alignment.”

I’d love to hear your comments and perspectives about this topic. Please reach out to me at via email, on my blog, or on my Twitter account with your thoughts.