We don’t need CIO’s anymore.
Feel free to hashtag that, let’s just refrain from falling into #gamergate.
Sounds arrogant coming from a marketer so, for that matter, we don’t need CMO’s either. So in one fell swoop I have removed two of the newest C-suite positions. This idea isn’t exactly new either. Many articles have been written over the last few years regarding realignment of the CMO and CIO to better serve the organisation and its customers as well as the changing role of the former.
I say let’s skip the holding hands and go straight to the chopping block. Don’t be fooled, this is exactly what it’ll take. Chances that your CMO is highly adept in security protocols and knows the various SDC’s (software development cycles) off by heart are slim. Yes, she might be aware of trends in technology and software platforms that increase engagement and provide metrics on conversions, but that’s not the same as intimately understanding the difference between content marketing and the CMS (content management system) that drives it.
In my experience, it is very difficult to find a technical CIO that also understands the sales cycle, product development process or CRM requirements of the modern organisation. Conversely, I suspect that most CMO’s have very little knowledge about SDN’s (software-defined networking), how to secure your company from Heartbleed and Shellshock or facilitating the integration of a payment gateway for your e-commerce site with your accounting software. I would wager that most of the current CIO’s in the S&P 500 have qualifications in IT, completely understandable. It also stands to reason that the most CMO’s have qualifications in marketing. Most would argue that these are entirely different disciplines and should resort under specialists in those fields. I could not disagree more.
Specialists we do need, but we need new ones to replace the old. A specialist that understands the intricacies of the modern SaaS environment, can address a sales team and get support for a CRM system (if you’ve never done this, you won’t know why I list it here!), reinvisage the HR software to be more user-friendly and intuitive, identify the best platform to launch the company website on or integrate a social media listening tool. These elements may all not seem to fit under one person. Enter the CBO.
Chief Brand Officer
Is this not a CMO in different form? Nope. What does brand have to do with hardware and software? Everything. How do enterprise software platforms and social media channels integrate? Like Facebook and Occulus.
The brand of an organization encompasses everything about the business. From the ease of applying for leave that leads to satisfied staff to the SEO that helps generate traffic to the website, from invoicing and payment processing to the grand TV ad campaign. All of these things contribute to the brand in some way, because even if the system or activity is not client facing, it affects the clients’ experience. In the modern business environment, brand is everything. Hygiene factors determine staff motivation and your staff are your best brand ambassadors. Having a flexible leave structure and multiple pension and medical aid funds, all manageable from an app makes Joe Salesman your best asset. Does your store allow for multiple payment options and loyalty programs all accessible through a POS app and your online store with rewards earned or redeemed via an app in-store or online? If it does, your customers will love you for it and keep coming back. How about CRM? Can your sales teams collaborate through an app, update the progress of a deal, request and upload forms and marketing materials while mobile and invoice on the spot? Making it easy to do business leads to more business. This is where the CBO comes in, knowing the business strategy, budgets, processes and requirements as well as the technology needed to make it happen efficiently and cost effectively. Doing it right builds your brand and enables the business to leverage these tools to exploit opportunities.
Recent developments in cloud based services (or Software as a Service) and SDN’s have negated the need for costly and complicated network infrastructure and locally hosted business applications. These services reduce cost and risk to the business and require C-suite executives to focus on their strategy and how these kind of services provide solutions that will contribute to the bottom line.
Therefore the CBO must have an innate understanding of the way the business generates revenue, the cost of sales, the market expectations and the product and service mix. Together with that a fundamental grasp of SaaS vendors and their technology, the strategic fit of software platforms both internally and externally as well as the legal environment (think POPI, CPA) is required. More complex projects, specifically of an IT nature, can be outsourced, again reducing cost and risk, as long as the CBO is well versed in SDC’s, project management and the chosen technology platform and programming language and leads the BRS (business requirement specification) discussion.
So where does a business find a unicorn such as described above? Well, in my opinion there aren’t many of them around yet, not in the current workforce anyway. Maybe 5 to 10 years down the line we’ll see more of them as the technology-savvy and brand conscious generations to follow enter the labour market. That’s a topic for another day though. In most cases you couldn’t upskill the CIO or CMO to adopt the new thinking. In some cases the CMO would be the best bet for the role of CBO due to the changing nature of marketing and its inherent dependancy on technology in the modern economy, the additional knowledge and skills required to have a deep understanding of the technology and infrastructure might be beyond most though.
Would love to hear your ideas on the topic, sound off in the comments below.