Divergent opinions about chief marketing technologists

Opinions on Chief Marketing Technologist Roles

Last month, the adtech/martech company DataXu released a great report called The New Marketer: How Data and Technology are Driving the Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist. The research was conducted by Redshift Research among 250 marketing decision makers in the UK.

There’s a lot of fascinating data in the report, but the thing that I found most remarkable was the chart which I’ve included at the top of this post, revealing the divergent opinions on the evolution of marketing technology management out there today:

  • 70% believe that more companies will begin hiring chief marketing technologists (CMTs) or other tech-focused marketers in the next five years. This marks a huge step forward in the recognition of the marketing technologist profession. We don’t have an apples-to-apples longitudinal study to compare this against, but my opinion is that this is the inverse of what the ratio would have been even a year ago.
  • On the other side of the spectrum, 26% believe that the trend of hiring tech-focused marketers will diminish. Really? Is this wishful thinking of folks who long for a simpler era? Is it a belief that some other group, either IT, a digital business team led by a CDO, or an external provider will take on this work? Or is the hope that the technology will become so push-button simple that we can be blissfully ignorant of it? Only the middle explanation, sandwiched between the distant past and the distant future, seems even remotely plausible to me.
  • 35% believe that CMTs will replace CMOs as heads of marketing — and that organizations would benefit from the added insight delivered by such a coup d’état. Wow, those are some fervent believers of the power of the CMT role. The fact that more than 1/3 of the study’s participants hold this belief is really astonishing, even to me.
  • I’m more aligned with the 53% who believe most organizations should have both a CMO and a CMT/tech-focused marketer. I think all CMOs should be tech-savvy, but I also believe that marketing technology strategy and operations benefits from being run by someone with greater technical depth and a dedicated focus on that aspect of the organization, who reports to the CMO.
  • Note that 43% don’t think organizations need to create new positions, e.g., hire CMTs to deal with the abundance of data and new technology. This clearly overlaps with what would seem like contradictory data above. But my impression is that this is more of a superficial backlash against the explosion of proposed “chief” titles — CMTs, chief digital officers, chief data officers, chief analytics officers, chief experience officers, chief innovation officers, etc. As far as I’m concerned, the title doesn’t matter; but the organizational capability does.
  • Finally, 51% — the majority, by a narrow margin — think CMOs should have control of the marketing technology in their organization. That’s an impressive stepping up of CMO responsibility. However, the 49% who don’t agree with that again seem a bit at odds with the other data points. My suspicion is that a number of those disbelievers would agree with a slightly more modest statement that CMOs and CIOs should be jointly reponsible for marketing technology. (And if we frame IT’s responsibility as technology governance for the firm overall, I agree wholeheartedly.)

We’re obviously in a time of transition — the great digital transformation of business, not just marketing — so it’s not surprising that opinions vary tremendously at this point. But the center of gravity has clearly moved towards integrated marketing technology management as a fundamental part of the modern marketing organization.

Given the relatively short time frame in which that shift has occurred, that’s impressive.

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5 thoughts on “Divergent opinions about chief marketing technologists”

  1. Scott, to me the 26% sit in two camps. The first camp believes that this is all a fad and will blow away over time. They also probably believe that this ‘interwebby’ thing will never replace the Encyclopedia Britannica. The second probably owns parts of their MarTech space now and feel like they will own it forever because it is working so well and will never need a centralized org/leader to manage it, in essence maintaining the status quo. As CMTO time accelerates forward, I see this number diminishing further.

  2. Curious to know how everyone else’s organization is handling this need? I imagine most companies don’t have budget for a dedicated CMT or don’t quite see the value of having one since it’s still a growing trend.

  3. Scott, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on whether you think that companies will outsource the role of Marketing Operations.

    The marketing agency world is evolving rapidly as well and wanted to know your thoughts on the idea of Marketing Operations agencies/consultants and the role they might play in the digital transformation?

    1. I think we see a lot of marketing operations outsourcing today — certainly on a project basis, and for initial “transformation” engagements.

      The question is does it make sense for marketing operations to be a continuously outsourced function? Unfortunately, my answer is the extremely lame, “Maybe.”

      A slightly less lame answer would be: I tend to believe that marketing operations and marketing technology are becoming more intertwined with customer experience and the core competencies of businesses in a digital world. While some pieces of that may make sense to be sourced from an external specialist, I suspect that outsourcing those capabilities wholesale will be harder to do and remain competitive.

      That being said, there’s a big gulf in the development of those capabilities internally today in most organizations, so at least on the immediate horizon, there would seem to be a lot of opportunity for service providers to give people a “fast” solution to a challenging problem.

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