Friday, June 30, 2017

How Microsoft’s New Customer Engagement Alliance (CEA) Benefits Today’s CMO

Innovation / Technology

Yesterday, we announced that we joined the Microsoft Customer Engagement Alliance, a new strategic collaboration between Microsoft and five leading Microsoft National Gold Partner digital consulting firms that include InfusionPerficientQuisitiveRightpoint, and SapientRazorfish. The Customer Engagement Alliance was formed to accelerate digitally-enhanced business for customers through best practice sharing, thought leadership and solution innovation built on Microsoft’s cloud platform.

As the Customer Engagement Alliance has been working together, we have noticed common themes arise for the marketing side of Microsoft’s clients. Below you will find my take on some of the questions we address.

What are the major challenges for the CMO today as it relates to technology? 

Simply put, it is the massive ecosystem of options.  My colleague Chris Crombie noted in the press release:  

“There are more than 5,000 marketing technology products that exist on the market today, all with similar features and functions to parse through, which is near impossible at the speed and movement CMOs need. Working with the Microsoft Customer Engagement Alliance, we look forward to honing solutions that offer CMOs the agility they need today and in the future.” 

And I couldn’t agree with him more.

Marketing strategies are being modified quarterly, if not monthly, and standing up/integrating the new platforms with one another compound human resource issues. Many CMO’s will say their technology is outdated, or the IT group won’t relinquish the ownership – which are challenges as well – but the next serious question will be, ‘what do we upgrade to and how is it integrated with our business in a meaningful way?” 

What is the technology gap for the CMO today? 

I think first, for the purpose of brands understanding how critical the technology is to their business, we need to stop calling it marketing technology.  Marketing retains a feel of soft or fluffy processes and metrics.  These systems are managing the experiences the customers and employees are having with one another – they make up the experience ecosystem and are positioned inside and outside of the firewall.  If brands need to keep calling that part of their business ‘marketing’ so be it, but the ‘marketing technology’ is about to infiltrate every aspect of their business and become the bloodline of experience.

How does this evolution and blurring of lines between IT and marketing affect organizations? 

Incredibly.  But to continue on an earlier point, this new grey area isn’t marketing and it isn’t IT.  It is in fact, the business itself.  The interactions that the brand creates or manages with the technologies in question, is the product itself.  There are historic skill sets and resources that have skill sets that are transferable into new technology; and there are legacy parts of many businesses that can be modified rather than reinvented.  But the truth is that if brands want to leverage the full scope of the technologies they are buying, they must match the sophistication of the platform with a sophisticated strategy and resources to execute it.  Often brands think they will grow into a technology, which is logical, but often times the challenge of simply administrating it in the intended manner is the molasses on the vision.

What do CMOs and marketing organizations need to do to prepare and plan? 

Simply put, they need to force themselves to not let the urgent crowd out the important.  Often times simply making a decision on technology feels like the achievement for organizations who consider themselves ‘behind the eight ball’ – when in actuality, when we look at the brands doing it well, they are highly aspirational for most other brands.  Simply put, the urgency being felt within the organization is often times self-inflicted.  The single most important tool a CMO should focus on creating and leveraging is a holistic set of customer journey and experience maps.  From there, virtually any question can be framed up and an answer gotten to.  And that isn’t to say that only the customer matters, the business matters a great deal too and should be reflected in those tools as well.  And of course, rather than a CMO, if a CXO exists, those tools should be shared openly. 


This Alliance is critical for Microsoft, it's customers and it's partners. We all believe great things will come out of it and ultimately our shared customers will win.