Racing on the Same Team

Susan Nunziata, Director of Editorial | 10/25/2012 | 29 comments

Susan Nunziata
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?

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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kicheko   Racing on the Same Team   10/30/2012 8:21:56 PM
Re: cross training
IT as a field has become so multifaceted and accomodates even the most non-IT of people. Its so true that today marketing guys throw the IT verbiage around like they are trained engineers or something. Its not like its a bad thing though, it just goes to show how adaptible IT has become to all sections of the workforce. ironically though, IT huys are finding they rarely will fit in anywhere without learning that extra skill be it Accounting, banking, some medical labs stuff etcetera.
David Wagner   Racing on the Same Team   10/30/2012 6:42:32 PM
Re: cross training
@Taimoor- Call me naive, but I do. Don't we all have parts of our job we don't like? When i went into writing, i did so because I never had any interest in working with money. But I still occasionally have to work with budgets or invoices or what not. I just put up with it because I know no job is going to be 100% what i want it to be. And then when that doesn't work, I try to play dumb and get Curt, Sara, or Susan to do it when possible. :)

Taimoor Zubair   Racing on the Same Team   10/30/2012 6:11:44 PM
Re: cross training
"On the other hand, sometimes an IT pro is going to need to learn stuff they don't want to learn to do ther job better."

@David: Do you think at professional level a person would really be interested in learning something he/she doesn't want to? He/She may try to finish the training and get a decent score but unless he/she really has learnt what had been assigned.
David Wagner   Racing on the Same Team   10/29/2012 3:14:32 PM
Re: cross training
@Taimor- I guess i'm of two minds on that. On one level, it seems like good people management requires that you put people in position to do what they are most interested in so that they can succeed.

On the other hand, sometimes an IT pro is going to need to learn stuff they don't want to learn to do ther job better.

That's tough. Ideally, we'd have to make fewer of these decisions as we built better teams.
Taimoor Zubair   Racing on the Same Team   10/29/2012 3:11:47 AM
Re: cross training
@David: I think this points out at one of the weak processes in many organizations where trainings are forced upon people and they normally don't have a choice of which trainings they should opt for. Happened to me a lot of time where my boss or the learning department would simply send me to a training which they felt would be helpful without asking me if I was interested in the area.
Susan Nunziata   Racing on the Same Team   10/26/2012 4:33:17 PM
Re: Its time to upgrade
@nimanthad: IMHO IT execs can probably eke out an existence for at least another five years without forcing themselves to explore these new areas of communication and growth. But anyone who is on an ambitious career path and wants to keep themelves from becoming obsolete would be wise to position themselves at the forefront of this kind of partnership and open-mindedness.
Susan Nunziata   Racing on the Same Team   10/26/2012 4:31:26 PM
Re: Just need to stay in the lanes
@Umair: I think you're onto something. In fact this was a topic of discussion at Gartner, whetner there is a need for a new function known as the Chief Digital Officer. I'm not convinced of the title per se but I think the concept is an important one. E2's Curt Franklin explores the concept in his article Your Broken Business Thinking.
Susan Nunziata   Racing on the Same Team   10/26/2012 4:28:29 PM
Re: Left only, no rights
@Lufu: LOL. All that + no texting while driving 200 mph!
LuFu   Racing on the Same Team   10/26/2012 1:38:01 PM
Left only, no rights
Great example how to get the CIO and CMO on the same page to work as a partnership. I would think this type of functional structure is rare but more prevalent in small and medium-sized companies. As a general statement, the larger the company, the more bureaucracy, insularity, and turf/budget disputes.

The key for the ISC folks is that their bottom line is that they "created an organization that thinks about the company first." That, and they always remember that only left hand turns are allowed.
nimanthad   Racing on the Same Team   10/26/2012 4:23:35 AM
Re: Its time to upgrade
umair: I dont think it will affect their business completely but definitely will not be able to match up with its competitors at their pace.
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