If you were able to sit in on one of the meetings held at International Speedway Corporation, you might think you had landed on another planet.
You'd hear marketing folks using IT verbiage, while IT folks would be talking about innovative marketing and customer relationship ideas. We're betting this doesn't happen very often at your enterprise.
International Speedway Corporation (ISC) owns and operates some 30 Nascar speedways around the US, along with a number of Nascar-related businesses, including the Motor Racing Network, which distributes live radio coverage of races via satellite to 650 stations nationwide; a food services company; and a sophisticated product licensing and merchandising operation.
The company's SVP/chief marketing officer, Darryl Wolfe and the company's CIO and VP of multichannel marketing, Craig Neeb, shared this inside view of their unique working relationship during a session Oct. 23 at Gartner Symposium/ITXpo in Orlando, Fla.
Many of the observations and experiences shared by Wolfe and Neeb are closely aligned with Marketing's 4 P's for CIOs, posted yesterday by E2's David Wagner. ISC's CIO-CMO partnership resulted from a 2008 operational reorganization that gave Neeb the marketing title in addition to his CIO role and had him and Wolfe both reporting to the COO. Both executives say the changes formalized a working relationship that had started between them years earlier. How did this change IT at ISC? Neeb explains:
What we've done is created an organization that thinks about the company first. How do our unique positions and functions within the IT organization ultimately drive the greater value for the enterprise? It's mapping those activities back to the overall goals of business that gets people to think innovatively and gets people engaged in what they're doing.
And about those meetings, says Wolfe:
To hear traditionally trained marketers really use IT verbiage and language and talk about execution, or when you hear Craig's team talk about an innovative marketing campaign or customer relationship solution, to me that's the greatest validation you can have.
As a group, the IT and marketing teams work from the same base of questions, says Neeb:
How do we collectively understand what it takes to put in an IT project? What does it take to understand marketing goals and objectives? We have to do it collectively. You have to have that alignment to that common cause.
As leaders, Neeb says he and Wolfe convey a unified front "that trickles down through rest of organization and any competitiveness that might be there in traditional organizations just evaporates."
So, what's the secret to their success? In some ways, a good CIO-CMO partnership is much like a healthy marriage. "It's putting egos aside," says Neeb. Adds Wolfe: "If you fail, you fail together. If you succeed, you succeed together."
In the process, over the past six years, IT spending at ISC has gone from the dreaded 80:20 ratio (80 percent for maintenance, the rest on innovation) to a 50:50 ratio, says Neeb. "Part of that [has come from] stabilizing our core environment, and delivering a consistent level of service that allows you to redeploy the services you would have spent on traditional IT into more strategic functions."
On the business side, the numbers speak for themselves. In its fiscal 2011, ISC generated $630 million in revenue.
The experiences of Wolfe and Neeb illustrate how it really is possible for the CMO and the CIO to put aside their differences and form a mutually beneficial partnership. Can this work in your organization?