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Will Increased IT Importance Cause A Decline In IT Influence?

With the increased business interest in social media, big data, analytics. legacy modernization and the like, IT is getting significantly more profile at the senior management and board level.  But is this rise in profile masking a decline in IT influence?

Marketing Rising

Let’s take Marketing, as an example.  As data driven marketing – including the use of social media and highly targeted marketing –  increases in importance,   the technical needs, and proficiency,  of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) rise in tandem.

Sometimes the CMOs and CIOs can find a synergistic relationship.  In a recent article in Insurance & Technology, Nathan Golia reports on an interview with Matt Jauchius, EVP and CMO of  Nationwide.  Jauchius notes that the CMO and CIO should concentrate on exploiting areas where they agree, because “If your CIO and CMO don’t have a good partnership, forget about it.”

According to Jauchius, IT and Marketing are almost always aligned “on advanced and emerging applications.”  where it breaks down is on “boring things like funding, swinging into the change process, and legacy systems.”

Where Does Boring Take Us?

And that’s the rub.  By default or by design, many IT leaders spend most of their time on ‘boring’ things, like core business applications.   Business is asking more of IT than ever before.  In order to respond, many organizations have undertaken ambitious, multi-year plans to replace legacy core  systems with modern technology.   These initiatives combined with keeping the legacy systems running consume a high percentage of IT resources.

At the recent Insurance-Canada.ca Technology Conference (ICTC2013), Kimberly Harris-Ferrante, VP and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner reported on a global survey of  insurance CIOs which asked  about priorities.  While there were several strategic areas (improving growth, product/service innovation) the majority were operational (reducing costs, improving applications,  delivering operational results, improving efficiency).

Like every department, IT is typically under expense constraints,  and some priorities are being deferred until the systems modernization projects are completed. But just because IT is fully occupied, doesn’t mean that all priorities will be deferred.

The Golden Rule

Marketers are not known for their patience.   Nationwide’s Jauchius notes that the appointment of a ‘marketing technologist’ as the single point of contact between IT and marketing has been critical to defining roles to support the relationship between the two departments.  Through this, Jauchius notes he directs “double digit millions of dollars” to projects meeting his marketing requirements.

And Marketing is not unique in wielding influence.  IBM’s David Dobrindt recently noted in this space:  “marketing executives are increasingly influencing the core insurance business function and are becoming as critical to driving the business as an actuary or product development executive.”

What Do You Think?

Is this enhancing or compromising the role of the senior IT leader.  If s/he only brings ‘boring’ technology to the table, is this enough to maintain an equal presence?  What other value can be added?

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