Technology should not be the sole preserve of the CTO

In this digital marketing age, marketers must take a more active role in technology procurement, argues Dominic Mills, chief technology officer, digital agency Zone.

Technology: CMOs and CTOs need to work closer together
Technology: CMOs and CTOs need to work closer together

For those of us who work in digital, tech underpins everything we do. You don’t need a chief technology officer like me to sell you on the fact that good technology is more than just a work aid – it’s a strategic imperative.

It’s what facilitates the creation, distribution and, increasingly, performance of the content that lies behind every successful marketing opportunity, and that’s why the decisions behind its application, and its acquisition, should no longer be the sole preserve of the CTO.

Software has evolved from something that merely helps marketers achieve their objectives to something that enables the best outcomes

In fact, nowadays it’s often the chief marketing officer who is pulling the strings… including those attached to the purse.

Ten years ago, as the founder of a technical agency, I would often sit in pitch meetings about a prospective content management system with nary a marketer in sight. At the most they might be wheeled in at the end as a token gesture to the creatives, but I would typically be dealing with an IT director.

Sure, the marketing team might have set the agenda – we would like it to be able to do y, we need x number of secure accounts ­– but the purchasing decision would rest with the organisation’s tech lead.

They would present the creatives with the tech solution they believed was most appropriate for the situation – as they knew best.

The situation has been turned on its head

Increasingly, however, that situation has been turned on its head. As the best software has evolved from something that merely helps marketers achieve their objectives to something that positively enables the best outcomes, so it has become something that those responsible for these outcomes should take an interest in, and many of the CMOs I’m familiar with have stepped up to the plate.

And it’s not just those in marketing departments who have embraced that change; the solution developers have too. Take Adobe, which held its summit in London last week, turning Excel into a marketing mecca for UK digitals.

In an age where we continually tell clients how important content is, the people who create it have to work as a collaborative team with data specialists

I’ve taken the lead in strengthening my agency’s position regarding Adobe’s Marketing Cloud, and know from first-hand experience that the software giant’s offering, particularly regarding its Experience Manager content management solution, is focused almost exclusively on CMOs.

This essentially puts the decision-making over a substantial investment in a broad, technology solution – featuring the likes of enhanced analytics, media optimisation and campaign insight tools as well as a content management system – into the hands of CMOs… and the only surprise is that anyone might be surprised by this.

After all, in an age where we continually tell clients how important content is, the people who create it have to work increasingly as part of a fully integrated, collaborative team with data specialists and technologists, to ensure we most effectively deliver on the strategic vision.

The role of CTO and CMO is aligning 

So, will this remain the situation? On the one hand, as the integration and aggregation of data streams becomes so important in terms of adding value – getting the most out of the Single Customer Voice approach, for example ­– then the knowledge of a tech specialist will remain valuable.

However, this cuts both ways, with the increasing complexities of data integration being offset by tech providers integrating understandable analytics solutions into the software (often delivered through cloud platforms that also increasingly negate the need for extensive technical infrastructure knowledge), meaning the clued up CMO can become yet more engaged.

The roles of a CTO and CMO are definitely moving more in alignment. The question for the people in those positions now is: who occupies those roles? Because let’s face it, if a CMO can become more relevant to tech decisions through experience and effort, a CTO thinking the right way can just as easily cross the line the other way.


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