Let’s start with understanding the problem. It’s not that CMOs and CIOs speak different languages, it’s that they fundamentally approach problem solving differently. Most CMOs come out of the advertising and creative world of the “big idea.” At the end of the day, they are dealing with abstraction, creating emotional ties to an ephemeral concept, known as the brand. While they can measure success from outcomes, they can never conduct QA testing to see if the solution works or not. Whereas most CIOs come from an IT background where at there is ultimately a “right” answer or solution to a given problem and it is easily measured b whether it works or not. And the outcome of working is out of scope.
At our company, Blab, I’m lucky that our CTO Joseph and I have a strong working partnership. It comes mutual respect (very common at C level), shared goals (common if business focused) and most importantly, because we spend a lot of time together talking through ways to solve problems.
I’ve learned some of the lingo of technology. I have a rudimentary understanding of database schema and at least don’t cringe when I hear the terms php, ruby on rails and lamp stack. I recognize they are development languages. But what is more important is that I understand that they are critical to my being able to effectively and efficient communicate with my customers across multiple channels.
Joseph, on the other hand, has not spent his entire career managing IT infrastructure. He can write code himself, actually thinking its fun and is excited about solving challenging problems. He’s learned something about frequency and reach and the abbreviations, cpc, seo, sem and crm don’t make his eyes glaze either.
But the real key to our mutual success is sitting down together in front of a whiteboard and sometimes over a beer, talking about the big picture issues we both face. Are we keeping up with our customers? Do we understand the problems they have? Are we equipped with the ability to listen to our customers, analyze what they’re saying and acting on the insight before it’s too late.
Joseph’s mind certainly works differently than mine. He often comes up with a completely different perspective on the issue and as often as not, his logical rational mind is as perceptive as the most gifted and creative brain. And then he tells me how he can build whatever it takes to bring the idea to life.