A new pneumonia virus first infected a few people in China in November 2002. A scant seven months later, the virus known as SARS had infected more than 8,000 people in 26 countries and caused 774 deaths. The international medical community mobilized: Within one short month, it discovered the virus that caused SARS, completed its genetic sequencing, outlined its modes of transmission, and communicated guidance for managing the outbreak.

How did this happen so fast? The power of collaboration. A network of 11 laboratories in nine countries came together and collaborated to identify the cause of SARS and how best to combat it. They shared research in near real time, empowering each lab to build on the work of the others. Compare the success of this collaborative effort to the three years it took to discover that HIV led to AIDS as well as the slow movement to solve our current Ebola crisis. Clearly, collaboration when mobilized can have a huge, positive impact on the world in which we live, work, and play.

Now, just because CMOs and CIOs are not curing world hunger or an infectious disease, that does not mean they can choose to ignore the power of collaboration. In fact, as CMOs and CIOs, you too need to be collaboration superstars in order to prosper in the age of the customer

That’s where our new report, CMOs And CIOs Must Turn Collaboration Into Action, will help. Forrester and Forbes Insights conducted a survey of 308 marketing and tech management leaders this year, just as we did in 2011 and 2013. The survey provides insights into collaboration across four core dimensions: people, process, technology, and data. The results show that despite their recognition of the need to collaborate, most CMOs and CIOs still struggle to turn collaboration into action.

This challenge may be starting to sound like a broken record – so how can you finally move forward and build your own plan to turn collaboration into action?  One place you can start is right here with our survey results, highlighting how CMOs and CIOs are learning to build a shared business technology agenda (BT) agenda squarely focused on the customer.   

To win, serve, and retain customers effectively, CMOs and CIOs must:

  • Nurture mutual trust and respect to pursue strategic priorities. An improvement of 20 points in the ability of marketing and tech management leaders to recognize each other’s strategic priorities was one bright spot in our 2014 survey. Build on this momentum by setting a joint vision that your organization can follow.
  • Jump on customer insights opportunities now. On the other side of the coin, one of the disappointments in this year’s survey has been virtually no progress in solving the problems that CMOs and CIOs face in turning large amounts of data into actionable customer insights. It’s time to seize the opportunity to gain access to and drive even deeper insights and connections around data and customer intelligence. Create a data center of excellence (COE), tasking marketing with defining the questions to ask and tech management with ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place to answer those questions.
  • Create a shared to-do list. This should address: 1) strong leadership to get the team on the same page with clear, complementary roles and responsibilities; 2) a customer-centric agile planning process; 3) joint digital business transformation, starting with mobile moments; and 4) opportunities to gain deeper insights and connections from customer data.

This week, at Forrester’s Forum For CMOs And CIOs in beautiful Napa ValleySharyn Leaver and I hosted more than 100 of the world’s leading CMOs and CIOs for two days of industry- and peer-led sessions and workshops that explore how to respond to enterprise challenges and opportunities resulting from the dramatic changes in today’s customer behavior. To capture these opportunities, CMOs and CIOs explored the key aspects of their critical partnership that are required to jointly lead their organizations to build the customer-obsessed enterprise. We look forward to sharing some of the insights gleaned from the conference in the coming weeks. Stay Tuned.

What are you doing to learn from these lessons? Are you going it alone or working with your CIO? I’d love to hear your comments and perspectives about this topic. Please reach out to me at via email, on my blog, or on my Twitter account with your thoughts, or request an inquiry with me here.

This post originally appeared at Forrester Research.

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