CMOs face battle to retain control of digital and CX

work 2Marketing chiefs are being urged to fight their corner amid warnings they are being forced to cede complete control of disciplines that drive business growth – including digital media, ecommerce and customer experience – due to the rising influence of chief digital officers.

That is one of the key findings of a new Gartner report, entitled The Future of Marketing Organisations, designed to capture the state of the marketing function as it adapts to unprecedented change triggered by the long-term effects of the Covid pandemic.

The study details how increased business costs, tight marketing budgets and the continued repercussions of the so-called “great resignation” are among the key factors keeping chief marketing officers awake at night.

In response, three-fifths (60%) of businesses have centralised some or all of the marketing structure in a quest for operational efficiency.

But Covid has also forced many chief executives to reappraise their priorities and redefine organisational accountabilities, as customer-oriented digital activity becomes a business imperative.

A separate Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey recently revealed that bosses now see customer experience (CX) and digital commerce as a strategic priority for growth over the next few years.

As these initiatives move from being marketing priorities to business priorities, CMOs are ceding ownership to other roles in the company. The survey also showed marketing budgets are being cut in favour of investments in digital business programmes.

In response, CEOs are now looking to other roles, such as chief digital officers (CDOs), to lead programmes that were once the domain of CMOs. Once at the vanguard of business digitalisation, CMOs risk moving from a leading role to a contributing role in strategic initiatives, Gartner warns.

Part of the challenge is that, investments in marketing innovation programmes have failed to deliver the expected value, paving the way for other leaders to take a leading position in customer-orientated digital initiatives.

CMOs now report that their responsibilities have shifted, with some actually increasing, including areas such as marketing operations, marketing strategy, marketing-led innovation and traditional media. Gartner maintains these shifts are consequential, as previous surveys have identified these capabilities as being vital to the delivery of the marketing strategy.

However, areas such as creative development, martech management, resource management, and content tagging have decreased. Losses of sole responsibility were also reported across capabilities essential for digitally oriented growth, including digital media, digital commerce and customer experience.

The report states: “In the year ahead, CMOs must work to identify the responsibilities that marketing can afford to cede, and those they must fight to maintain to ensure that marketing plays an active role in future-forward enterprise value creation.”

It advises CMOs: “Evaluate your team’s responsibilities to determine which are considered a sole responsibility versus a ‘shared’ or ‘no’ responsibility within the marketing team.

“It is OK to lead where marketing should, but it is also OK to share or give up responsibilities if those are better served and led elsewhere. The caution would be to not give up responsibilities that marketing should control, but more so to perform resource allocating and capacity planning for the marketing team.

“Did you deliberately give up marketing ownership, or is ownership reduction an oversight? Or, are you changing ownership from ‘sole’ to ‘shared’ in marketing on purpose to improve collaboration across marketing and the enterprise? Sharing responsibilities is a difficult role and requires developed collaboration, leadership and project management skills.”

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