Are Technologists Cramping the C-Suite’s Style?
- As the number of available technology solutions increases, marketing and sales leaders face more complex purchasing and stewardship decisions
- Some (but not all) orgs find value in assigning a role that is responsible for maintaining an overall understanding of marketing/sales technologies
- A chief technologist may be instrumental in helping reach a series of milestones with the goal of getting the organization technologically caught up
Most people are likely to think of the head coach as the leader of a football team. But the truth is, coordinating a complex strategy that needs to adapt and change in near real time requires a team effort. Enter the offensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator and the special teams coach. In short, professional football has become too complicated for a single head coach to handle.
CMOs and CSOs, like head coaches, are running organizations with multiple moving parts. One of those parts requires staying up-to-date on the technological advancements in marketing and sales and maintaining the organizations’ technology infrastructure and architecture. However, in larger, more complex organizations or organizations that seek to use technology as a strategic pivot point, the management of technology and data (e.g. vendor relationships, technology budgeting, road mapping/architecture, integrations) is quickly becoming a full time job.
What is it? Similar to the CTO (chief technology officer) role within IT, a chief technologist can provide breathing room for the CMO/CSO. The concept of a role with a cross-functional view across marketing and sales technologies is compelling for many organizations. In the past several years, titles like chief digital officer and chief marketing technology officer have been catchall terms for a technologically savvy change agent brought into an enterprise to usher it into a brave new world. Regardless of the title, I don’t view this role as a C-suite peer of the CMO/CSO. However, it can play a vital role by influencing and setting the technological direction of the marketing and sales organizations.
Who owns it? Management of a growing technology footprint is no small task and, at the end of the day, somebody has to do it. The question remains: Who? Someone ultimately will take responsibility. In some enterprises, IT is making a land grab for control of marketing and sales technology. To keep technology expertise and ownership within marketing or sales, it behooves the CMO/CSO to establish a role that is responsible for technology selection and overall direction and is also the liaison with other technology-focused groups, such as IT, that still have valuable roles in enterprise wide systems and architecture, data management and analytics.
Do I need it? It depends. The role differs in large vs. small organizations. The role of the technologist seems logical for larger, regionally distributed marketing/sales organizations with highly complex technology requirements. Enterprises with a focus on driving technological standardization and efficiency across the enterprise can also benefit. Smaller companies still require someone to fulfill the duties of this role, but the role need not be a full-time position. In this scenario, ownership of the technology strategy and knowledge of the technology ecosystem may well fall on the shoulders of the CMO/CSO. It may not make sense to delineate a separate role dedicated solely to marketing and/or sales technology.
So, what now? Take a look at your marketing or sales organization and find out where the technology decision making sits. You may already have someone (or more than one person) acting in this capacity. Are they effective at understanding business needs and procuring appropriate technology? Or are they simply rolling the dice on your technological future? If you don’t have someone fulfilling these duties, you’d better find someone fast if you want to maintain control of your technology budget.