Mayur Gupta Growth @ Spotify. Dreamer + Doer + Connecting Dots.. Angel Investor. Blogger. Cricket, Tennis & Nichiren Buddhism. My 3 girls. All views re my own.

The Uncanny CMO – CIO Big Data Fixation | Time to Look Beyond

6 min read

I think if the year 2012 started with everything and everyone talking about Big Data, 2013 has started with everyone riding on the bandwagon of the CMO – CIO tug-of-war which interestingly has now completely drifted into one BIG corner – WHO OWNS BIG DATA?. Obviously there have been a lot of speculations and some rather bold announcements proclaiming dramatic shifts, for instance:

On one hand I agree with the sentiments around the need for an evolution in the Marketing & IT Organization, it is a natural shift that breaks the conventional barriers and limitation of both the extremes however, I do see a few fallacies in this fixation. I want to use this blog to highlight a few:

Why the Uncanny Fixation with BIG DATA? What about the broader Marketing Technology Landscape?

It would be foolish to question the “VALUE” of tackling the 4 Vs or the 5 Vs (add Veracity to it) of Big Data, it is the need of the hour and even though the data isn’t new (it has always been there), we now have the capability to capture it, extract it and hopefully understand it to create possible “INFORMATION POINTS” and finally a percentage of actionable “INSIGHTS”. But like Scott Brinker says in his recent blog The Big Data Bubble in Marketing – but a bigger future – it does not end there, you need Big Testing that will hopefully lead to Big Experience.

Even with all that greatness and possibilities, I strongly think Big Data has suddenly become that shiny and colorful Disco Ball that every “C” level executive wants an answer for even if its merely a weapon for showcase in a shelf. 2 parts to that fallacy:

Firstly, this has lead to a tendency to be blind sighted by “JUST DATA” which by itself cannot give or get anything. The bigger challenge and the need for marketers, the CIOs and the CMOs is to create a culture and a framework to handle the innovating and ever evolving MARKETING TECHNOLOGY where BIG DATA is like one cog in the wheel. Big Data is not a separate object that lies elsewhere or outside of this broader landscape – it resides underneath every single one of these capabilities as depicted in the marketing technology infographic:

Marketing Technology Landscape
Marketing Technology Landscape [Inforgraphic] –
So I see the CMO – CIO collaboration rather not lose sight of the bigger landscape and bring Big Data as part of that overall strategy.

Secondly, this fixation and almost “INFATUATION” is leading organizations into the ocean without being prepared for it. Leveraging Big Data is beyond hiring 3 data scientists and procuring a platform that will gather and present all sorts of structured and unstructured data from all possibly data sources. It is a “behavior” that needs to be instilled in how you think of “digital” as an organization. For instance, are you going to be a data focused organization or a “data driven” organization that uses data to drive the strategic thinking instead of coming up with strategies will drive and produce data. Do you use data is a reactive analysis, optimization and predictive tool OR are you maturing your thinking to use data to even evolve, learn and plan your digital strategies?

Is it Really a CMO – CIO challenge or are we getting too carried away with it?

Not that the two were ever friends in the true sense but the last 24 months has definitely brought the warriors on the battlefield with the best weapons in their possession – it’s literally like the COLD WAR of the 1970s which is not transitioning into a full blown conflict.

BUT have we taken it too far? I think the debates and the thinking requires a pretty immediate and dramatic shift, a shift from looking at this as COLLABORATION & not COMPETITION between each other’s technology footprint. Instead of looking at the challenge as a win or lose opportunity for either the CMO or the CIO, it’s time we realized that both organizations are IRREPLACABLE. That’s where Marketing Technology plays a key role, in tandem with Information Technology, a simple illustration of how a broader technology set up may look like for an organization:

Marketing Technology
Marketing Technology with IT

A few facts that need to be acknowledged and recognized by everyone about the required evolution in TECHNOLOGY and the related behavior:

1. We have seen unprecedented shift in the digital space in the last 7-8 years, an expansion from mainframes, SAP & ERP solutions towards more agile, light weight tactical solutions
2. The need for speed is superseding the desire for perfection
3. Not only the digital landscape has completely evolved, the consumer today is far more advanced and technology savvy that he/she has ever been, it’s a demanding consumer who will only give you a split second to respond to or perish
4. From owned, hosted to more robust SaaS solutions
5. On the go technology for the ever moving consumer
6. Technology is NO longer a commodity, it is as creative and strategic as brand strategy itself
7. A shift is needed to be more RESULT & EXPERIENCE oriented than just being cost driven or being a cost center itself
8. Marketers need to use technology as a tool during inception and not just as a means to delivery
9. There is a need for stronger collaboration across creative, strategy and technology from the get go than its ever been.
10. Lastly, there is a need to be able to take RISKs even with technology, an openness to FAIL but FAIL FAST

All these shifts are bound to bring an evolution in the 2 rather distinct worlds of Information Technology & Marketing (digital or otherwise) however without losing the core “essence” of what the organizations are meant for. For the IT world, while there are challenges and nuisances that come with the governance, process oriented mindset and a boxed mentality of IT – it at the same time adds a tremendous amount of value to keep a check on chaos and in keeping things under control especially if the scale goes beyond certain limits. There is immense value in this discipline and rigor.

On the other hand, you try to take the creativity, freedom and nimbleness of marketing & advertising too close to technology, you would lose the very foundation of why organizations established a creative & marketing team often unleashed and unrestricted

In essence, you don’t want to replace one with the other, you also don’t want to go too far on the other side — you just cannot. Unfortunately neither marketing nor technology is a 6 month driving course that anyone can take and get on the road. So the big question – how do you plan ahead and solve for this shift?

Build a Framework for Evolution & Innovation – MARKETING TECHNOLOGY OFFICE

Here comes the breed of Marketing Technologists & Marketing Technology Office or Group – something I had shared on my blog post Investing in Marketing Technology Future – Marketing Technology Office. Instead of rebooting the mother ships and moving them around, connect them through a pipe which acts like an ADAPTER that converts 220 V to 110V and vice-versa. You know why an adapter can do it, because it happens to have 2 ends, an understanding of both worlds, something like the PI SHAPED technologist in the post The New Marketer – From T Shaped to Pi Shaped

Few guidelines for establishment of the MTO and how it could position itself to solve the CMO – CIO gulf:

  • Think beyond organizational boundaries – DO NOT sweat over where it sits, the real value is when its connected to both worlds and the fact that you have the Marketing Technology Culture & Function. Yes it needs a home, decide based on where you deem fit
Marketing Technology Office
Marketing Technology Office – Org View
  • Marketing Technologists are NOT and do not have to be typical Information Technologists, not for better or worse but it is a different breed. So don’t just take bodies from the IT world and give them a different name, FIND MARKETING TECHNOLOGISTS. Few traits that you can read up: What Makes a Marketing Technologist – Just Technology? Scott Brinker has quite a few great write ups on Marketing Technologists and what makes them, like the Rise of the Marketing Technologist
  • Key is to get the right people and the right leader. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that neither of your existing IT leader or Marketing Leader can lead this group, not because they are not capable but these are separate RACE TRACKS and you cannot expect a Formula 1 winner just land on a NASCAR track and expect to win. He trained on a Formula 1 circuit, on a different machine & toolset, this is a different world and a VERY DIFFERENT problem and you need different talent and skills
  • MTG DOES NOT replace IT but COMPLIMENTS it. It is a strategic layer that drives the vision, roadmaps and creates the blue prints but lacks the scale and size of IT for good reasons. I compare them to the NAVY SEALS – leaner, more strategic, at times tactical but lethal.
Marketing Technology Strategy
The Marketing Technology Role
  • Having said that, don’t expect the MTG to solve world hunger. The success of this model will depend on maturity of an organization’s leadership and a belief and respect for different roles and disciplines, its an acknowledgment of the value add from these different schools of thoughts.

Before I end, just want to bring home the perspective on Big Data that in many ways is highlighting the broader need for handling the nuisances of Marketing Technology and the chaotic digital world we fortunately or unfortunately live in today. Penning it down to a single bubble of Big Data is being short sighted and reactive. It is time for organizations and its leaders to understand the need for tighter collaboration across disciplines and look beyond the visible boundaries. Sow the seeds of behavioral changes and mindset shifts that will give way to far-reaching and compelling consumer experiences that demand a technology and organizational agnostic approach since both of these will continue to evolve.

Mayur Gupta Growth @ Spotify. Dreamer + Doer + Connecting Dots.. Angel Investor. Blogger. Cricket, Tennis & Nichiren Buddhism. My 3 girls. All views re my own.