For CIOs, one thing is certain: the increasing interest in social media means IT leaders now have to spend more time with the marketing executive. Mark Samuels reports.
From Facebook pages to Twitter profiles, executives round the board table will be expecting someone in the organisation to establish the organisation's social-media strategy. While social media provides a means for the chief marketing officer (CMO) to engage with potential customers, it is the CIO who will be expected to provide the technical knowledge to make such digital marketing strategies a business reality.
"I spend more time now with the chief commercial officer, who is responsible to marketing, because of the criticality of social media," said easyJet CIO Trevor Didcock, when asked whether he has spent more time with the marketing department during the past 12 months.
Didcock recognises the web and social media are crucial, yet he also recognises the business could do more, suggesting that many of his company's activities - such as advertising on Facebook and recruitment through LinkedIn - are reactive rather than proactive. The answer is a confluence of CIO and CMO expertise.
CIO facilitates the marketing conversation
"In terms of that conversation, the aim is to understand what the customer wants and we need a social-media strategy," he said. "The responsibility for that strategy sits with marketing but the CIO needs to facilitate the conversation and say where technology is likely to go next. It is the marketing department that needs to make good on that advice."
The same principles apply in the IT industry, according to Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby. The firm's marketing team expects IT to be involved in the creation of a social-media strategy. The changing nature of marketing, particularly in view of the rise of digital collaboration and the importance of timely information, means the role of technology is crucial.
"Our IT department always has a heavy relationship with marketing," Jacoby said. "The pervasiveness of information and raw data has changed dramatically. There are whole business models based on data and that's changed the world of marketing. Marketing is now about being viral and that has made people in that department more interested in the power of technology."
Jacoby suggests the confluence of marketing and IT is at the core of modern collaborative technology, which represents a series of tools and applications that allow people to shrink space and work together in real time.
Access to knowledge through collaboration
Success in collaboration means key individuals can influence people. More importantly, the rest of the business can tap into their knowledge as they become an active part of the system.
"When the IT guy starts talking to the marketing specialist, a whole new language is created," said Jacoby. "You need to unlock the abilities of your people and make them part of your business system. Organisational transformation means you have to...
Mark Samuels is a business journalist and editor at IT leadership organisation CIO Connect. He has written for various organisations, including the Economist Intelligence Unit, Guardian Government Computing and Times Higher Education.