Friday, 25 July 2014

CIOs should top CMOs on digital strategy

One feature of the conversation about CIOs in recent months has been about where they stand in regard to chief marketing officers (CMOs). It’s an acknowledgement that one of prime functions of an organisation’s information strategy is to support its marketing, and there have been suggestions that the CIO should be regarded primarily as part of the CMO’s team.
Accenture has thrown its voice into the debate with the publication of a report, Cutting across the CMO-CIO divide, which it says reflects a sea change as more CIOs put marketing at the top of their agendas. It’s core message is that, while they understand the need to collaborate, they don’t get on over a number of issues.
For example, a lot of CMOs think that IT teams don’t get the need for urgency in integrating new data sources into campaigns as required, and that technology development is too slow for digital marketing. CIOs complain about shifting goalposts and marketing’s lack of vision in anticipating new digital channels.
All this is no big surprise. Conflicting agendas are part of daily life in the boardroom, and it becomes more fraught when technology is involved as it advances so quickly and the two sides have a different focus. It can also be complicated by issues around data regulation; marketing teams see the opportunities in acquiring and squeezing customer data, while CIOs are aware of the legal limitations and know any transgressions will place them in the firing line.
It shouldn’t be impossible to overcome these tensions; after all, the teams are led by highly paid people who are all meant to have an understanding of the whole business. But it might need a stronger consensus over who is in overall charge of digital issues: who has the final say and is ultimately responsible for any failures.
The CIO is the obvious choice, as information is the foundation of a digital strategy and the focus of his or her responsibility. They spend more of their time and think more deeply about the digital aspects of the business, and should be the prime source of expertise.
But in plenty of organisations that is going to stir up fresh tensions. You cannot stop CMOs and their teams from keeping a sharp eye on the digital opportunities in marketing and making a noise over wanting to grab them, even if they are unproved or could bring unwelcome consequences.
A merger between the two departments – an idea that is occasionally floated – could only come to grief. You’re looking at two groups of people with different mindsets: marketers who want to excite the customer, and information specialists with a more methodical outlook on making sure it all flows as it should. It’s right that, as Accenture suggests, there should be an organisational digital vision to underpin collaboration, but they will remain separate entities.
Solutions won’t come easily and this tension is likely to rumble on for some time. But if CIOs don’t obtain the ultimate authority over digital strategies it will seriously undermine what their role is all about.
Mark Say is a UK based writer who covers the role of information management and technology in business. See

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A commercial opportunity in the copyright minefield

Copyright has always been a minefield, and it’s been made more hazardous by the way that sentiment over its place in the digital world has become more confused.

The rise of digital technology stoked up protectionist fears by making it too easy to copy, share or illegally re-sell content. But we’re now in an era when the ability to make something new out of existing content – moving from data mash-ups to app creation – is making copyright more of a hindrance in some eyes. Public authorities with an eye on the economic potential of the latter are feeling increasingly torn between protecting the original creators and giving the next wave the chance to show what they can do.

Neelie Krose, the EU commissioner with the digital brief, has acknowledged the conundrum with a speech crying out for copyright reform. Her language leaned towards worries that copyright is getting in the way of progress; she said the 2001 EU Copyright Directive isn’t fit for the 2010s and that there’s a risk of copyright becoming an irrelevance.

So there has to be reform. Fair enough, but what type of reform, and how is the EU going to make it all fit a landscape that keeps on changing? There are a hell a lot of details to resolve and devils in all of them. Providing a legal framework that protects the original content creators yet still gives the re-use innovators a chance to succeed is going to be a difficult and highly contentious job.

The most obvious recent precedent, the EU Data Protection Regulation, has prompted plenty of observers to claim it is unworkable and could yet be mangled by the Council of Ministers. I suspect that copyright, an issue even closer to the lawyers’ hearts, is going to create even more dissent.

This doesn’t mean that the EU shouldn’t try to deal with the issue, but this is going to be a drawn out process with a lot of grey areas. Those innovators are going to feel increasingly impatient, but also scared at the thought of being financially clobbered if they break the law.

I expect there will be some enterprising legal minds, or even non-legal entrepreneurs, ready to take advantage of this with services that promise a quick and easy way to clarify the legality of using specific content. If they offer a reliable service in checking the origins and licensing terms of specific content they can provide the reassurance that the innovators are looking for – at a price.

These services shouldn’t be particularly complicated, and will probably involve steps that a lot of people could take for themselves. But legal matters always seem very complicated to most of us, and they’ll find plenty of takers among the digital entrepreneurs who don’t want to get burned.

There’s money in that minefield.

Mark Say is a UK based writer who covers the role of information management and technology in business. See