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Should CMOs own big data?

The data explosion is forcing a new partnership of the CMO and CIO. But these are proving strange bedfellows.

While organisations are growing increasingly conscious of the need to be data-driven (According to a McKinsey, companies that are more data driven are 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than other companies.)

However, this union comes with its own tensions.

Another Accenture study which surveyed both IT and marketing directors globally revealed that CMOs felt that IT directors don’t move quickly enough to respond to the market demand and on the other hand, CIOs think that marketing directors change their requirements too often and IT cannot keep up.

“Typically, in big data projects, CMOs think that they are the natural owners, mostly because the new cases that these projects encompass are usually marketing cases. On the other hand, CIOs think they are the owners. Both of these roles in reality have their own deficiencies,” said George Chua, head of commercial analytics at Celcom Axiata Berhad at Advertising + Marketing’s Big Data conference last week.

(Other stories from Big Data 2014 in KL: Case Study: How Tesco brought loyalty back to its stores
Case Study: How F&N used data to turn the business around)

CMOs are not in best position to implement, maintain and scale solutions. Also, in a rush, the marketing director can miss potential issues, such as whether the solution is secure, safeguarding customers’ data and privacy and more. “CMOs are ideas people – so they entertain a stream of vendors, they mirror the vendors to IT, and they mess up the IT architecture. As a result, IT has a great problem stitching together these unrelated solutions,” said Chua.

As for CIOs, IT professionals need to learn to be internal consultants and think in terms of growth, adds Chua. “They must understand the profit model of the company. They need to understand the broad business objectives, such as marketing strategy – they must also think two-three years ahead to build something that can last. Most CIOs are reactive people – they spend their time on keeping the lights on.”

Chua believes that there are a few things that could be done to bridge this clash of minds.

For CMOs, these need to understand more about technology and analytics and understand how they can drive revenue and growth.

As for the CIO, “he needs to stop becoming a call centre – he is the enabler of business innovation,” suggests Chua.

But this all needs to be tied together by the CEO, who should play the important role demarcating the relationship between two parties – the marketing director drives vision and strategy and IT is the enabler, he opined.

Tan Mei Sian, director of AFMS Solutions, adds that listing out the different roles and responsibilities that each department has is important. Next, a company needs complete buy-in from top stakeholders as well as each of the divisions for a smooth joint effort.

How many vendors is too much?

The next thing a firm would want to be careful of is vendor proliferation. “Managing them is going to be costly,” said Chua, talking about the company’s efforts to minimise this.

“This is especially true for big data – it’s a new area. A lot of vendors are very small – they’re going to go bankrupt, be acquired by other vendors, they’re going to merge, etc. It will create a lot of contract management headache if we have too many vendors,” he said.

Because of this, there is a current trend of in-sourcing, of building capabilities inhouse. “Use open-source technology, hire highly competent data scientists and build the whole thing yourself,” advised Chua.

George Chua and Tan Mei Sian were part of the speaking line-up at last Friday’s Big Data 2014 conference at The Westin Kuala Lumpur, which also includes speakers from Citibank, Genting, F&N Dairies and more.

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