CMO = Career May be Over?

In recent years there has been cruel (and mostly unfounded) interpretation of the abbreviation CIO – Career Is Over. My work in recent months looking at the advertising and marketing industry, and the complex ecosystem of agencies that exist in that world, has lead me to think that another cruel, probably unfounded, and yet drawn from similar challenges abbreviation corruption might be that CMO stands for Career May be Over. (Yeah, I know. Not a perfect fit, but it’s not like I work in marketing or anything…)

Why have I come to this conclusion? Well, because I see similar parallels between the two C-level roles in that both are coming under increasing pressure as a result of comprehensive disruption in their fields of specialism at the hands of technology.

For the CIO, there are two predominant forces at play: consumerisation and commoditisation through the Cloud. Computing devices increasingly are things that can be bought “off the shelf”, need little or no configuration to be able to operate in a totally functional way, and that through the internet it is possible to select and consume services that give equivalent or better function than those traditionally supplied at great capital and operating cost by the IT department in an organisation. The net result? Everyone becomes the procurer of IT services and the value model associated with the CIO and his or her domain becomes increasingly difficult to define.

In the marketing space, I see the same forces leading to a similar potential outcome: consumerisation and commoditisation of technology mean that anyone can run a marketing survey (with free tools like Survey Monkey or Survey Gizmo); anyone can set up a social media account; anyone can set up a website or commission an App.

In this anarchized world, the traditional models of centralisation and control through a monolithic department structure becomes difficult if not impossible. Reacting to a diminishing ability to control by trying to exert even more control is doomed to failure.

My take on the CIO space has been to reposition the departmental function from one of controlling and delivering technology, to one of being expert in how the organisation uses technology, and moving from delivery of services to counsel to the business. For the CMO, the follow strike me as potential strategies:

Understand the complexities of your internal client base, and refine your service offering appropriately; consumerisation and commoditisation means that the marketing department has lost its monopoly supplier status, and so you need to compete with the external service providers who are trying to get the rest of your organisations’ business.

Focus on the thing that you are in a unique position to deliver – knowledge of your organisation, its products, services, structures and culture. From there, look to offer good counsel to people within the organisation who are looking to marketing and marketing engines to improve their lot. If they then choose to use your services to execute, then great – but don’t expect it.

Understand that in a world where every member of staff has become a marketer, that marketing to the internal audience is a critical way to reach the external audience. Internal marketing, though, needs to be able to encapsulate the customer story, the employee story, and the overall company story: too often only one of those messages may be getting across.

5 thoughts on “CMO = Career May be Over?

  1. Interesting viewpoint 🙂 I understand where you’re coming from but I think both functions will always continue to exist (albeit it a different shape) just as HR and Finance always will. If for no other reason to facilitate, moderate and share best practice across the enterprise. With perhaps the occasional bit of control as well!

    1. I guess that I just see quite a lot of commentary that seems to imply that the world of the CIO is disrupted and in decline, and that CMO alignment offers some sort of life raft – assuming that any functional role is static today is a recipe for disaster!

      The future, I agree, though lies in facilitation, moderation and collaboration…

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