Summary:

With IT giants including IBM now actively targeting CMOs as primary buyers of IT solutions, you have to wonder if this is really a great idea.

Targeted advertising / Behavioral targeting
photo: Shutterstock / Inq

It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the CIO.

Every tech vendor on the planet is now officially targeting the Chief Marketing Officer with IT products and otherwise doing everything in its power to make it easy for marketing departments to buy its stuff. That must be kind of hard for the person who was the traditional gatekeeper for the IT strategy and budget.

Now IBM is getting in on the act, offering a new marketplace of 100 SaaS applications divvied up into categories for different cadres of IT buyers. And (IBM being IBM) that list is extensive, leading off with the CMO but also including sales and eCommerce leaders; customer care and support executives; Chief Procurement Officers; Chief Supply Chain Officers; General Counsel; Chief Financial Officers; Chief Human Resource Officers. Oh yes, and then Chief Information Officers.

This list speaks to a certain amount of title inflation: I was surprised not to see Chief Innovation Officer, one of the newer C-level buzzword bingo titles on that list, but give it time.

IBM Marketing Center

Target: Chief Marketing Officer

IBM’s move to make its SaaS apps more easily found and purchased by CMOs comes a few weeks after Salesforce.com dropped a cool $2.5 billion on ExactTarget, an email marketing company that also focuses on marketing execs. Just this morning, SendGrid, which traditionally sells to developers of web applications, launched an email tool for marketing pros that will compete with MailChimp. Marketo  last week launched its first product since its IPO, which uses machine learning to tailor email pitches according to customer activity.

And don’t forget that Oracle bought Eloqua, a marketing automation company, for nearly $900 million in December. NetSuite got into marketing automation early, having purchased a couple professional services companies, Retail Anywhere, Order Motion, and Element Fusion over the past few years and is now touting a big customer win with Williams Sonoma. Clearly there’s a trend here.

Is the CMO really in charge of IT? Should he or she be?

But all this “buying-power-goes-to-the-CMO” talk, which we covered back in September, still smacks of a fad to me. Someone at the customer organization needs to have a holistic picture of what’s being bought and deployed if only to make sure that the company gets the best volume discount for any SaaS service used.  That person may not be the CIO but it better be someone with a firm grasp not only of technology per se, but a working knowledge of service level agreements and compliance issues. I doubt that most CMOs want to take that on, but I could be wrong and I’m sure you’ll let me know.

At the MIT CIO Symposium last month, Michael Relich, EVP and CIO of Guess Inc., said that in a perfect universe “CMOs and CIOs should be best friends,” because CMOs need data and to get it they need point-of-sale and e-commerce systems that are all about IT. But when asked if CMOs will get more IT budget than CIOs, Relich said: “Over my dead body.”

And that brings me to Structure this week where GigaOM will host a panel by CIOs on their role in the modern IT organization. I’ll be sure to ask them what they think of this marketing automation extravaganza and the purported rise of the CMO.

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