This content has been written by Faye Eldridge, director of FYAMI. You must not copy this information without permission. You can share for insight purposes with references to this post. This content forms part of doctorate (Doctor of business, Phd equivalent) studies by the director of FYAMI.COM
It is to be used for educational purposes.
COPYRIGHT (C) FAYE ELDRIDGE, JANUARY 2020.
JANUARY 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
We are in a digital era. The world is fast changing because of technology. How people work together,
how consumers engage with brands and how people buy products and services is changing rapidly
because of this.
Accenture, says, ‘every business is a digital business.’ According to Forbes, ‘as technology becomes a
growing part of marketing and the customer experience, it is becoming vitally important for a CMO to
be educated on all aspects of technology and not rely on the CTO to make decisions.’ Again, this
highlights the changing role of the CMO and how technology in embedded into their role.
According to a Technation report (2018), findings have conducted that, ‘currently UK tech businesses
are growing 2x faster than non-digital businesses,’ and that the ‘UK’s digital tech sector grew 50%
faster than the wider economy in 2015.’ This highlights a business need for digital technology
solutions and services whether part outsourced or inhouse. It also suggests the importance of
businesses requiring digital talent, whether this is through a tech person, a marketing person, or a
On the collaboration point, one of the topics we have often heard of, is the importance of cyber
security. Cyber security is one aspect of digital transformation which requires collaboration between
tech and marketing that didn’t exist before.
Key questions that arise from this are, who is driving and influencing this change to achieve
competitive advantage? What are the roles in the business that enable this to be done successfully? Is
there evidence to suggest roles, collaboration and leadership styles have greater influence on the
success of this transformation.
In a study by, Peter C.Verhoef & Peter S.H. Leeflang, titled, ‘understanding the Marketing
Department’s Influence Within the Firm, they concluded that ‘as internet usage continues to explode
across the world, digital is becoming an increasingly important source of competitive advantage.’ The
normal roles of the CTO and CMO in any business would suggest that they are the 2 key leaders in
driving change to enable businesses to achieve competitive advantage during this evolution.
This purpose of the review is to establish whether this is the case and more importantly if there is any
evidence that their collaboration (between the CTO and CMO) has a greater impact on business
performance (growth) during digital change, over them working alone.
I am keen to find the extent to which the collaboration of these 2 players exist and how it affects the
performance of B2B service led, SMEs/mid market businesses in the UK. The key here is to
understand how they work together to influence business performance during a time where the world
is fast changing due to technology.
Due to the nature of this review and the relevance to the business world I have taken business studies
as well as academic studies as the business researchers and analysts are currently dealing with the ‘hot
topics,’ in business now and releasing their studies faster, whereas I would argue that the academic
journal reviews are somewhat behind because of the fast pace of change.
The digital economy – Business, Today and tomorrow
It is clear that to be a successful business today, the business must embrace digital, as confirmed by
business analysts and academics. (Gregg Pessin , John-David Lovelock , Barry Runyon , Jeff Cribbs ,
Mark E. Gilbert , Susan Hull , Laura Craft 2018)
‘Eighty-seven percent of senior business leaders say digitalization is a company priority and 79% of
corporate strategists say it is reinventing their business — creating new revenue streams in new
ways.’ (2019, Jackie Wiles, Gartner) Despite this, Gartner believe some C-levels feel that digital
uptake has been slow.
The general belief and debates as to why this may be the case, despite knowing its importance in
business growth, surrounds on ideas such as;
1. Traditional business models (and organisational design) hold businesses back, preventing any
modern growth (Henry Chesbrough,2016)
2. C-level power struggles, accountability and Influence – who influences who? (Peter C.Verhoef &
Peter S.H. Leeflang, 2009 the Marketing Science Institute, an American practitioner organisation, and
the American Marketing Association, 2015)
3. Those in senior roles in the business (such as the CTO of CTO) might be both risk averse and not
liking change, and yet during digital transformation change is a necessity. There are also suggestions
of a ‘change-resisting culture,’ (Gartner 2018) which may or may not relate to the C-level leadership
4. The costs of implementing digital change, may not be within ‘reach,’ of some SMEs and again the
costs of change, can cause conflict of interests between departments. For example, the CFO may not
agree with the CTO and CTO on a cost relating to digital change.
5. The increasing talent gap, specifically relating to in analytical capabilities.(Peter S.H.Leeflang,
Peter C.Verhoef, PeterDahlström,2014)
A topic discussed in research is the ability for leaders to learn from their failures and how trust can
affect strategic decision quality. (Abraham Carmeli and Asher Tishler, Amy C. Edmondson) However
this study is related more to the CEO and not the CMO or CTO but I believe this evidence could be
useful in understanding CMO and CTO relationships.
Mckinsey, the consulting firm, measured approx. 200 B2C and B2B companies globally and they
evaluated different management practices related to digital management, strategy and culture that
correlate with growth and profitability.
According to Jorge Lopez, research VP at Gartner, digital businesses have been, ‘driven by the rise of
the Internet of Things, which is forecast to have a trillion things (machines, tools, automobiles,
drones, etcetera) connected to the Internet by 2050.’ This would suggest that businesses that ignore
this trend will find themselves way behind the curve.
The CTO role
The role of the CTO used to be more about infrastructure, software and IT support. Now it’s about
compliance GDPR, Cyber security, strategy and how they can work with others in the business to
Research has been done that suggest tech ‘know how,’ is more influential than marketing ‘know
how,’ implying that those in high level tech positions have more influence on business growth,
however this was based on a data sample of 625 Chinese manufacturing firms. This may not mean the
same findings would apply to the UK SME market and the service sector. This study in China does
agree with other UK research which suggests that the tech leader has more influence than the
marketing leader (Joseph Taylor, Joseph Vithayathil 2018) but the research doesn’t measure their
collaboration as a duo.
The CMO role & Marketing & Tech then and now
The role of the CMO is also changing.
It was predicted by Gartner, in 2017 that data driven chief marketing officers will be ‘spending a
greater percentage of their budget on technology than chief technology officers.’ This also suggests
that CMOs are gaining more responsibilities and ending up with more decision-making power than
they had previously.
There are suggestions of talent gaps, in the literature implying that some marketing people do not
have the skills required to embrace digital properly. (Peter C.Verhoef & Peter S.H. Leeflang). What
has become clear is that an understanding of technology, is now required.
We know that marketing is becoming one of the most technology dependent functions in business
today. There is no research that doubts this. This has apparently opened up a new job role, ‘the chief
marketing technologist.’ (Scott Brinker Laura McLellan, 2014.) This suggests again, that marketing
people are now also tech people – or at least they need to be. The idea is that there are two roles in
one and that they take on multiple activities and tasks and not just the traditional tasks that marketing
and tech used to pre the digital age.
That being said, in SMEs I rarely come across this term/job title and usually it’s the CMO and CTO
who form a type of chief marketing technologist role together, based on the activities they participate
in. In research conducted by, ‘Data-Driven Marketing: The 15 Metrics Everyone in Marketing Should
Know (Mark Jeffery),’ the evidence showed that ‘marketers struggled with data driven marketing,’
which, is likely to be a major problem for businesses, when we know how important being data driven
is today, hence we need to understand the best ways of a working partnership between the CMO and
CTO. Can they help each other? How?
One of the issues facing marketing is a lack of common knowledge on what marketing people
‘actually’ do. What is their role for example? How does this influence on performance? There has
been quite a lot of research into what marketing activities marketing people do, including ideas and
research on ‘strategy as practice,’ and studies that aim to measure the level of marketing influence on
performance. The overall argument in most of the academic literature, tries to conclude that the more
innovative and accountable the marketing department are the more influence they will have.
‘The role of marketing has to be to drive profitable growth.’ (Scott M. Davis, Philip Kotler 2009). We
have seen in other studies the importance of accountability for business growth and in this book,
‘Today’s Marketers Into Tomorrow’s Growth Leaders,’ (Scott M. Davis, Philip Kotler 2009), they
discuss real life business examples which agree with my theory. It has also been suggested that
marketing need a, ‘new way of thinking to rejuvenate vital business functions.’ (N. Sheth and
Rajendra S.Sisodia 2014). This new way of thinking today, could be a CMO and CTO collaboration.
The rise of the CMO and CTO partnership – Collaboration
Collaboration is important if a business wants to be productive. “People solve problems they wouldn’t
otherwise have solved, get work done quicker than ever before, and feel connected because they are
working together toward a common goal… when people are collaborating, profits increase and things
get done.” (Ray Schwemmer, Rick Havrilla 2011) I would tend to agree.
Pre the digital age a scholar wrote that there are ‘enablers and inhibitors of business-IT alignment.’
(Jerry Luftman Stevens, Raymond Papp, Tom Brier 1999). This is still relevant today.. Their
argument is that in order to achieve business alignment (focus) they suggested in maximising the
enablers and minimising the inhibitors. They found that only half of the firms ‘believe they have a
synergistic, cooperative business-IT relationship. Consistently, over the five years of this research, the
respondents indicated that certain activities assist in achieving alignment while others are clearly
barriers. Would 50% of businesses today show to be weak in this area of synergy?
Future advances in marketing are likely to build from advances in technology (Roland T.Rust
Francine Espinoza 2006). This resonates as again it implies the need for marketing and tech people to
be more aligned because of tech changes, however it doesn’t show how they do this – or the impact of
their collaboration so whilst it highlights an important point, it is missing a large part of the question,
that I’d like to answer.
Most of the research I have found has been on the collaboration with marketing and sales, research &
development (R&D) or finance teams with the general idea that more collaboration should just lead to
better performance. There has been research into the collaboration between the sales and marketing
teams and whether their collaboration affects business performance. Studies would suggest ‘yes,’ but
only if they manage conflict, improve communication. (Ken Le Meunier-FitzHugh & Nigel F. Piercy
There is not a research paper that focuses on purely B2B data and purely SME professional service
companies, in the UK with a focus on these two people – the CMO and CTO and yet we know how
paramount it is today to understand these job roles as a pair. Yes, there is ‘department’ research.
Research on departments is not the same as on specific c-level individuals. There is a gap here.
There has however been research into the CMO and CIO with the following question being asked,
‘Who delivers the bigger bang for the buck: CMO or CIO?’ (Joseph Taylo, JosephVithayathil 2018).
This research was done in 2018 which is recent and this shows the relevance of the topic. Their study
used the foundation of executive power and influence to find their answers. They conclude that the
CIO is more influential on business output (performance for example) than the marketing leader.
Their study shows the relevance of a CIO in today’s economy. If the marketing and the tech people
collaborate at a high level then they could be in a leading edge best performing business? This needs
further investigation. Also the CIO is not the CTO despite the fact that they are both c-level technical
people. This again is therefore missing a gap in the research as my focus is on the CTO, rather than
the CIO, even though the CTO role may often overlap.
With a CMO and CTO being more collaborative does this mean they have shared accountability? Are
they now perceived as jointly accountable?
Collaboration – gone wrong
Marketers and technology people are often known to speak different languages. This can cause
conflict and uncertainty. There isn’t just a potential language challenge around these two (the CMO
and CTO). Some studies imply that collaborating doesn’t work if those who are collaborating are on
‘different pages,’ or perhaps lacking in people or management skills or their communication and
language style may not work together. Collaborating may not go well during cross-border data
exchange,’ (Yanko-Hombach, Valentina 2016). Data exchange is a part of the CTO and CMO
collaboration. The scholar here has highlighted that collaboration does have its problems and I may
find this in my research. Another scholar used the term, ‘collaboration overload,’ and they state that,
‘high-performing employees are especially vulnerable because they already shoulder a
disproportionate collaboration burden.’ (Rob Cross Peter Gray 2013). This view could be eye opening
in my research.
Business performance & challenges – Strategy, Accountability, Influence and innovation.
There is research to suggest that a certain strategy influences performance as again proven by, the
study titled, ‘impact of aligning business, IT, and marketing strategies on firm performance
(Abdulrahman Al-Surmi, Guangming Cao, Yanqing Duan 2019). They found that if you are more
‘aligned’ (with other relevant teams) as part of your marketing strategy it will impact on performance.
The majority of the research in this field has been that of a more explorative nature where interviews,
and surveys have taken place. Studies on marketing delve into collaboration, however less specific to
the c-levels in marketing and tech.
We have learnt from previous literature that the level of influence, impacts on performance levels and
business growth as also stated by a study from Peter C.Verhoef & Peter S.H. Leeflang. In the study,
‘Understanding the Marketing Department’s Influence Within the Firm,’ the results show ‘that the
accountability and innovativeness of the marketing department represent the two major drivers of its
influence. However, the results do not indicate that the customer-connecting role of the marketing
department increases its influence, though this role is important for shaping the firm’s market
This study was done in 2009 therefore this is not ideal research depicting a vision of today. Also in
contrast to their view, in a book titled, ‘The Shift : The Transformation of Today’s Marketers Into
Tomorrow’s Growth Leaders,’ (Scott M. Davis, Philip Kotler 2009) They concluded that ‘ the role of
marketing has to be to drive profitable growth by unlocking customer insights.’ In the book are
working business examples, ‘of how leading marketers are getting it done.’ This book has real
business examples which do not show that the marketing team are losing influence, but they do agree
that ‘accountability,’ is key in pushing for business growth and high performance.
A key implication of this Dutch study (Peter C.Verhoef & Peter S.H. Leeflang 2009) was that
marketers should become ‘more accountable and innovative to gain more influence in order to
perform better.’ This may mean that a CTO and CMO partnership may increase innovation, and
accountability and therefore their power to influence and impact on business growth, however there
are also studies to suggest that collaboration with specific variables or circumstances can affect
performance negatively (Yanko-Hombach, Valentina 2016).
Collaboration of the tech and marketing team when done well, can improve business performance –
yet there is not enough research into this. I believe the CMO and CTO will perform better as a duo.
Whilst the research highlights the need for tech and marketing alignment it doesn’t highlight the
impact of a specific CMO and CTO collaboration in the UK or how they influence together as a duo
and what would one be without the other in today’s modern world for example.
The relationship and the collaboration between the Marketing experts and the technology decision
makers (CMOs & CTOs) are a topic of interest among entrepreneurs, investors, CEOs, researchers
and scholars. There’s academic evidence suggesting that the tech leader has more influence and
impact on business growth over the CMO. The current literature research is focused on different
departments or different job titles and not as a collaboration between these two key roles in the digital
age which we know is important to research. Much of the research was when the digital age was in
the earlier stages of development.
Further research is needed to understand how these two roles work as a duo. In particular there is a
need to better understand the nature of their relationship in the digital age and how different levels of
collaboration affect the ability of businesses to capitalise on the opportunities it brings. This research
needs to focus on the working relationship and collaboration of the CMO and CTO in UK businesses
(SME/mid market) and how they lead and influence as a partnership and how this impacts business
performance and growth.