With technology increasingly fundamental to the practice of marketing, is it time to rethink the nature of the CMO role, and consider that ‘chief marketing technologist’ could be a more accurate title? Gartner predicts that next year chief marketing officers will be spending more on technology than chief information officers.
It’s time to adjust the expectations and job description for lead marketers to acknowledge the key role technology plays in their working lives.
Now that marketing relies on digital technology for everything from getting leads and managing business data to liaising with customers, the people that choose and manage that technology is playing an increasingly fundamental role in how a business operates.
The budget for tech is tending to increase over time, and businesses are beginning to understand how fundamental the application of technology is to their futures.
All these factors combine to explain why marketing technology should really be managed at more senior and strategic level rather than relegated to a more junior position.
Enter the role of the CMT or Chief Marketing Technologist. It’s a position that recognises that IT and marketing need to work together as seamlessly as possible, rather than as two separate functions. With technology now a vital tool to help businesses achieve their strategic objectives, the person in charge of this needs to be carefully positioned within the organisation.
Their role may encompass driving digital transformation as well as creating and executing a technology vision for the entire organisation.
The complexity of the task ahead of lead marketers is not an insignificant one, whatever their job title. One of the most challenging aspects of the role is simply choosing from the array of tech on offer.
With a huge abundance of software, services and systems available (it’s thought there are more than 1,000 marketing software providers worldwide) marketing directors need to know what they are doing to understand how to make the right choices and integrate them into business operations.
The Chief Marketing Technologist job description
So what would the role of Chief Marketing Technologist look like beyond 2017? It’s likely that a high strategic ability will be a vital component of the skills mix, in order to understand how technology can be used to achieve key business objectives. They’ll need to lead teams and work with people right across the business in order to drive digital transformation.
But CMTs will also need to be creative, visionary and technically minded (obviously). They’ll need to manage their landscape of suppliers and service providers, recruit effectively, train people internally, manage budgets and create and explain data. And any decent CMT will need to stay informed, identifying new technological opportunities as they emerge.
We’ve reached a stage in the digital era where functions are increasingly professional and specialised. Not all that long ago, whoever was already in charge of marketing was expected to pick up digital and probably any related tech functions regardless of their aptitude to this area.
Print marketers ended up creating websites, IT professionals ended up writing them. Sometimes they got away with it.
The recruitment challenge
There are now a greater number of people with relevant qualifications working in these areas. But it’s still tough to recruit people with the appropriate skill set for any tech or digital orientated role.
The CMT role is one that attempts to bridge hard tech skills with more business-orientated skills that come with a marketing background. Typically, organisations might look for someone with an IT degree and marketing experience or possibly an MBA.
As individuals, they could fall somewhere along the spectrum between IT/software and marketing in terms of interest, experience and abilities.
Finding a candidate in the sweet spot for any organisation is going to be a tough proposition. It may mean compromising on industry background or making similar leaps of faith when recruiting.
According to Econsultancy figures from 2014, businesses that have appointed a CMT spend a greater proportion of their revenue on marketing technology, compared to those with no CMT, and also spend a greater proportion of their marketing budget on digital marketing.
This may indicate that companies that take tech seriously appoint a CMT so they get it right but it may also indicate that companies with such as figure feel emboldened to invest in technology. Such figures are of little use: it’s easy to spend money on technology. What really matters is how these tech investments paid off.
With many businesses now making huge investments into marketing-related technology, can any business afford to be without a figure making informed decisions that straddle both marketing and tech functions?
As companies increasingly invest in technology, and marketing teams shift budget towards digital tech, we increasingly see that top performing firms tend to be the ones investing heavily in tech.
With companies facing high-tech bills just to compete and stay in their game, getting the tech right becomes increasingly vital. This is why having a dedicated skill set on board that understands the issues at stake is so critical.
Whether your organisation employs a CMT or relies on a more traditional marketing figure, it’s increasingly important that someone on the team understands the marketing technology issues at stake.
Senior level buy-in on technology matters is vital for any organisation to remain competitive. If you’re lucky enough to be able to find a single figure that can straddle tech and marketing disciplines, that’s likely to be beneficial to your organisational decision-making in these critical areas.