How The CMO Can Use Crowdsourcing To Access IT Resources

April 22, 2014 Clinton Bonner


We have likely all read the varied Gartner and Forrester reports and blogs citing that the seismic shift in enterprise budgeting has delivered both the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) and the CDO (Chief Digital Officer) newly found prowess through substantially larger budgets, often at the expense of the CIO and IT in general. Yet, even with increased budget, many CMOs and CDOs still lack the power to fully execute on their digital vision; not because they lack vision, but rather because they lack the technical capability or access to technological skill-sets they need in order to create, test, and rapidly bring to market the types of neo-user interfaces that will drive top-line growth for their enterprise.

Many CMOs and CDOs are facing this issue and most believe they currently only have 3, maybe 4, arrows in the proverbial quiver to turn to in order to bridge this technical talent gap. Let’s quickly review the well-known options:

  1. Ingratiate yourself with the CIO & IT – Many modern CIOs understand they must provide the business units with world-class digital solutions, and do so in a proactive manner. So, ‘cozying’ up with the CIO is likely a smart move. However, it leaves you, the CMO or CDO, in a position to politick for influence rather than execute on vision and strategy. Keep in mind this assumes you are working with a modern CIO who understands the new role IT must satisfy for the business and that the CIO has the needed internal talent on-hand to deliver for you consistently. Unfortunately for most, this is just not the case.
  2. Over Reliance on 3rd Party Applications and “Off the Shelf” Solutions – Often CMOs and CDOs remain frustrated with what their IT teams consistently deliver (or under-deliver) to the business units. Common gripes include a lack of innovative solutions resulting in non-existent user adoption and of course, the time to market simply being too long. A consequence of non-satisfied internal customers is the rush to adopt pre-existing 3rd party solutions and applications. While an ‘off the shelf’ solution can make sense in certain circumstances, likely you are leaving much to be desired in terms of creating a truly custom interface that connects with your users, citizens, or subscribers.

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  1. Playing the Agency ‘Dating Game’ – Understanding IT can often under-deliver and grasping that “off the shelf” apps may likely result in non-customized solutions, CMOs and CDOs turn in droves to agencies to fill in both the design and technology gaps they are facing. However, the agency solution has two fundamental challenges. First, agencies are traditionally very expensive. As hours tick by, your newfound budget may suddenly seem less and less formidable. Second, agencies, or rather clients of agencies, can suffer from “A to C” syndrome. This happens when A-Team agency players are brought in to win the business only to exit stage left the moment the deal is won; replaced with what is best described as C-Team individuals who fail to execute on the vision that was sold.
  2. CDO & CMO as the New CTO? – A 4th option I will mention quickly is the idea that you as the CDO or CMO might be asked to emerge as the new Chief Technology Officer. Some recent articles make the argument that a modern CMO should possess a CS (Computer Science) degree. I disagree. Today’s CMO & CDO should be on the path to emerge as CEO heading towards strategy, innovation, and growth, and running away from the burdens of having to understand each and every technology stack in order to succeed with technology. The CTO plays an incredibly vital role, especially considering the transformational aspects of bringing a legacy enterprise to cloud; this is not the job of the CMO or the CDO.

Using Crowdsourcing to Fully Execute The Digital Vision

Understanding that the above listed challenges persist for the new CMO or CDO, let’s focus on what can now be achieved through alternative delivery and innovation management methods powered by crowdsourcing. What can be achieved is dependent on two bridges being erected, communicated “on”, and supported.

Bridge #1 – Bringing Your IT Leaders to Your Vision for Crowdsourcing

Envision a conversation where in which you lay out in detail to your IT team how you plan on using crowdsourcing to speed up delivery of digital assets. What will IT truly care about and likely ask about?

  • How can a ‘crowd’ successfully build assets on our technology stack?
  • What are the risks to IP, security, and governance?
  • How can environments be shared or created so the outputs delivered are truly enterprise quality and easy to integrate?
  • What kind of quality assurances does crowdsourcing bring or leave desired?

Your ability to communicate that through crowdsourcing you will be able to create innovative assets built to their exacting standards will go a long way. Stop politicking for influence and favor, and instead show IT that you understand and validate their legitimate concerns by inviting them in to be a partner with you on this journey to transform your enterprise.

Bridge #2 – Bringing Crowdsourcing to Your Business Units to Amplify Your Digital Vision

Imagine being able to answer and deliver on your business units most pressing questions and desires.

  • How can we go faster? The landscape moves so quickly, we need to be digitally nimble.
  • Can we access A-Team type design and tech talent all the time?
  • How can we change how we approach innovation and how we try new solutions?
  • What are you doing to help me accelerate my career? I want to emerge as a strategic leader who creates value.

Delivering and ramping up an internal team on a crowdsourcing platform can liberate their creativity, amplify their domain, and help your teams produce innovative assets like never before. They will gain a sense of self-determination and rapidly understand they now have a place to create new solutions in a low-risk environment where experimentation is encouraged and innate to the innovative process.

Truly Owning Digital Innovation

Whether you are CMO, CDO or positioning yourself to earn one of those key roles, it’s imperative you understand that being an “ideas” person will not cut it. Both roles now have extraordinary amounts of budget and with budget come scrutiny to deliver. Considering the very real technological & talent hurdles you will face to create digital solutions that actually matter, we encourage you to look more closely at crowdsourcing. Fundamentally, it allows you to create a digital vision for your enterprise, and then execute on that vision without the need for you yourself to become a technological guru.

When you deliver for your business units, satisfy your IT team’s legitimate governance concerns, and move the top-line needle for your CFO through innovative assets, then you will truly own digital innovation for your enterprise.

Good luck on your journey.


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