Blurred Lines: Digital Marketing and the Making of the Modern CIO

by Adrian Daniels, Senior Digital Director, West Cary Group

Until recently, a Chief Information Officer (CIO) was defined as an individual responsible for IT and computer systems that support enterprise goals. Today, this somewhat open-ended job description is proving less and less sufficient.

 Why? Most significantly, four events are happening almost simultaneously:

  1. The modern age has given rise to a population ravenous for digital devices like tablets, smartphones and computers.
  2. Marketing has followed suit and focused its energies where the people are: in the digital space. In fact, a recent Gartner study showed that 67 percent of marketing departments intend to increase technology budgets by 2016.
  3. In an interesting phenomenon known as the “consumerization of technology,” the consumer now dictates and drives product and service design.
  4. There is substantial growth in the “Internet of Things.” Look to devices like NestFitbit and Electric ImpEmbedded within these objects are sensors that essentially change the physical world into a pathway for information. Everything connects as large volumes of data are churned out, extracted and analyzed.

What does this all mean for the modern CIO? To remain competitive, it’s up to the organization to ascertain how best to market its content and reach its target market through smart, savvy software and programs that take advantage of this digital tech. And it’s up to the organization’s CIO to make the interaction and user experience as seamless and lucrative as possible. Simply put: CIO + Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)  = Return on Investment (ROI).

Years ago, WCG anticipated the upcoming digital trend. In fact, soon after joining our team as the senior digital director, I outlined a strategy that introduced the concept of “levels.” It was a way for WCG to establish our journey in the digital space and set high-level milestones for our company. 

Once we reached Level 10 – dubbed WCGD 2.0 — I envisioned we’d attain a new era of operation in which our strategic mission and objectives would evolve. Enter our partnership with MediaMath to become the largest black-owned trading desk in the U.S. 

Further, we use Radian6 to manage social media campaigns, the cloud platform Heroku, the mobile platform Appcelerator and the cloud payment platform StripeIn so doing, we can design and develop at a higher level of innovation and abstraction than we could years ago. 

As a modern communications agency with a digital focus, we’re not only altering the way we work –  we’re altering the way we use digital channels to work for our clients. Now at Level 12, we’ve clarified and identified a few key traits required for the modern CIO to operate successfully. Today’s CIO must be:

  1. Progressive. Digital marketing trends evolve at a feverish pace that demands laser focus. Google certainly thinks so. This year they introduced a digital school for marketing agencies called SquaredForward-thinking agencies like Leo Burnett, Ogilvy & Mather, and Carat count themselves as participants. CIOs need to keep equally in tune so they can stay ahead of the curve.
  2. Relatable. Talk strategy and real-world applications, not just PABX and TCP/IP. Gone are the days when CIOs kept to themselves in the back room. Now that that they have a seat at the table, CIOs need to get their point across in ways that resonate with the team and encourage other leaders to think strategically, as well.
  3. Creative. Stop thinking infrastructure (that is, if a sound infrastructure is already in place!). Start thinking innovation. Today’s IT solutions should be developed to enhance consumer engagement, increase lead generation and create a superior user experience (UX). Operating at a higher level of abstraction often enables CIOs to focus on hidden challenges.
  4. Collaborative. Today’s IT needs to be about benefiting teams as well as business overall. Talk to team members, recognize pain points, listen to ideas about how to create better processes, and then work together on delivery.
  5. Agile. Today, there’s a proliferation of digital touch points. CIOs need to make sure that their business is ready to operate in every one of them. The sheer immediacy of data calls for swift movement among multiple digital channels and meaningful ways to extract value from that data.   

In short, the roles of CMO and CIO have merged. It’s no longer simply about increasing business efficiencies. The most successful CIO in the modern world will be the one who wields innovative tech to increase business opportunities, improve the company’s bottom line and ensure consumer expectations are met.


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