Collaboration exists in many forms. As a tool that manifests organically out of human interaction, it’s subject to the push-pull of partnerships and the dangers of imbalanced approach. That’s especially true in business, when two or more department heads fail to communicate their expectations of each other, but still use them as measures for success.

One of the more historically contentious relationships is that between the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) and CIO (Chief Information Officer). This alliance depends primarily on healthy communication and consistency, but unfortunately, misaligned goals often get lost in translation.

Not Quite on the Same Page

Collaboration is a fundamentally simple concept. At the roots, it’s about a team of people who agree to work together towards a shared set of goals. Easy enough — until misaligned objectives transform equal partnerships into lopsided, love-hate relationships.

Before the internet took over the world, the marketing department typically housed the highly-creative-but-less-strategic kids, and its tangible impact on the bottom line wasn’t so evident. CIOs didn’t find it necessary to prioritize marketing initiatives because they couldn’t be easily translated into profit. Conversely, CMOs banked on the data governed by the IT department, asking what they could do for marketing and how quickly they could do it, rather than working with them to analyze and vet information. As a result, they considered CIOs to be in a subservient position. The dismissal on both ends caused tension and discord, with each department reluctantly dependent on the other.

Data analytics and social media changed that. Marketing suddenly had palpable numbers to point to, and learned to speak IT’s language — but now, after years of feeling burdened by an obligatory relationship, they wanted to do it on their own. CMOs started implementing technology as they saw fit, deploying new methods, collecting data, and driving results independently. While this may have seemed like an acceptable solution (or threat to IT, depending on your perspective), it lead to increased costs, security risks, and a company culture disturbed by controversy.

Coming to Terms with Teamwork: It’s All About Agile

Says Adam Gartenberg of The Atlantic: “Closing the gap between marketing requirements and IT capabilities requires a culture of collaboration in which the CMO and CIO work towards a set of agreed-upon goals that factor in both marketing and IT interests.” Agreed. And when the CIO and the CMO work well together, they’re a powerful team that actually shares a lot of commonalities. For one, both have to be big-picture thinkers that understand the necessary interdependence of all departments in an organization. Both are responsible for executing business strategies, increasing revenue through data and testing, and disseminating information throughout the company. And both should be able to make use of tools and platforms that put data within reach of end-users and customers without falling prey to the many liabilities of social business.

To accomplish this, the CMO and CIO need to be empathetic when outlining product requirements, determining time frames, allocating resources, and mapping ROI. They need to develop a shared language, be conversant about technology demands, and accept that disparate expectations don’t have to be a roadblock — instead, they should be fuel for innovation.

Agile businesses have a leg up on this. An agile approach, which strives for innovation while minimizing the risks of traditional all-or-nothing strategies, makes it both practical and logical to introduce CIOs into backlog management and make them part of the decision-making process. Investments become about looking at the impact on ROI, working together to create proposals, and developing clear expectations. It becomes about framing the context of market data — which is already complex — and making sure that self-sufficiency in analytics is a part of everyone’s skill set, rather than being exclusive to a single role or department. That’s what true collaboration is all about.

Want to learn more? Check out the latest piece in the Agile Marketing Series by Mindjet’s CMO, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff: A Deep History of Business Management, Part 1.