Don’t become the next Ashley Madison, firms are warned amid ongoing CMO, CIO unease

DaneThe data breach crisis engulfing extramarital affairs website Ashley Madison is a stark lesson in the failure of a chief marketing officer and chief information officer to communicate, a conference has heard.

Senior Forrester Research executive, Dane Anderson, said too many CMOs and CIOs still have contrasting objectives when they should be working hand in hand.

The failure to collaborate risks undermining businesses as they strive to become more digitally astute.

Anderson cited Ashley Madison as having “slick marketing” but said the apparent absence of communication between the CMO and CIO ultimately led to the security breach which saw the site hacked and the details of 37m customers stolen.

“There was a focus on marketing, and they had slick marketing….but they have not maintained the privacy and security of customers and it is likely to sink them,” he told delegates. “It is an example of when the two sides don’t talk and an example of when marketing and strategy is not enough.”

Anderson said research has found 50 per cent of CMOs and CIOs still follow separate agendas, when they should be bringing their respective skills to developing what he descrbed as a “business technology strategy”.

“Unfortunately, for many organisations this relationship is strained,” he said.

Anderson described the CMO as the “brand champion” who should bring their customer expertise and knowledge to the table, while the CIO should bring their skills in generating growth and profit and their deep understanding of technology and data.

He told the conference that investment in technology should shift from internal IT systems to “business technology that will help the CMO and CIO succeed in the age of the customer”.

A business technology agenda was about “systems, processes and technology which help win, serve and retain the customer”, he said.

But Anderson, Forrester’s president, research director and regional manager, said too few firms have a digital business strategy – even though they think they do.

Neither do firms truly understand the customer, he said.

“Time and time again, with the research that we do, we’re finding companies are letting themselves off the hook too quickly,” he said.

“We are finding that many of them don’t really understand what we mean when we say the age of the customer and the degree of customer obsession that is required.

“They will say ‘we’ve always known the customer is always right and we’ve been focusing on this for years’. But they don’t really understand the full depth of what we are talking about,” Anderson said. “And they don’t understand fully when we talk about digital transformation.”

He said research found 73 per cent of companies believe they have a digital strategy. But scratch the surface and most do not, he told delegates.

“As you peel back the onion, you find the data is concerning and discouraging and we find this time and time again,” Anderson said.

“Companies are sure they have a digital business strategy, but when we went into the data in more depth we found some troubling indictators.”

Closer analysis of other divisions within the business revealed that only 21 per cent feel the executives set a clear digital vision, with only 15 per cent believing they posses the skills needed to execute such a strategy.


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