I’m normally not much of a Dr. Seuss guy. Frank Underwood, sometimes. I even have my Al Swearengen moments. But when I recently read that a new Dr. Seuss book had been discovered 24 years after his death, it reminded me: in the Golden Age of Data, CMOs are on a career journey that is epic. Fantastical. Even a little Seussical. Let me explain.

Partnering with the CIO

seussIt started in 2012, when Gartner boldly predicted that by 2017, CMOs will outspend CIOs on IT, the power shift is apparent. In late 2014, CIO reported: “More and more CIOs find themselves reporting to CMOs, as CIOs slide down the corporate ladder. Privately, CIOs admit they’ve been relegated to a supporting role, not a strategic one.” Ouch.

But from what we see at Birst, it’s not quite that glum for CIOs. Given the explosion of martech solutions, CMOs are partnering with CIOs to deliver connected omnichannel experiences that drive customer engagement, delight, and revenue. The incredibly fast proliferation of martech tools makes CIOs essential partners in devising enterprise marketing technology strategies, as well as directing implementation within the larger fabric of corporate IT. Simply acquiring silos of marketing technology capability may not necessarily be the ideal long term platform strategy for the business.

It’s the insights from big data, generated by today’s digital customer interaction, combined with traditional business data that is vaulting CMOs up through the executive ranks. CMOs who are adept at using that data are in the catbird seat.

Big data = big challenge

However, it doesn’t happen instantly. Marketers use an estimated 100 tools every day, each generating mountains of siloed data. Despite promises, there is no vendor whose integrated martech suite can capture it all.

As I recently discussed with MarTech Advisor, this disparate data contributes to many tactical challenges marketers face across their customer’s lifecycle, from simple campaign scorecards to more complex attribution analysis, brand engagement measurement, customer purchasing analysis, segmentation, or propensity-to-buy analytics.

Business intelligence solutions such as those from Birst let marketers bring a new type of universal marketing analytics platform into their companies. This is key: Birst provides a great universal platform that enables marketers to rapidly deploy a series of marketing analytics, and use cases, on a single platform, then use those insights to improve sell through, lower cost of acquisition, or increase loyalty and CLV.

Over time, this gives marketers a holistic look at customer buying and engagement across the entire lifecycle. This is the source of the CMO’s power: the ability to identify with pinpoint accuracywhat works (and what doesn’t) in creating the customer journeys and relationships that translate into revenue and longer term loyalty to a brand.

CFOs take notice

In the past, marketing was viewed as strictly a cost center. As EY phrases it, “CFOs and CMOs have not traditionally been close allies. This was, after all, a relationship that could be prone to mutual incomprehension or simmering conflict over budget allocations.”

No more. According to the 2014 study, “more demanding customers are requiring new skills for marketers, particularly when it comes to capturing and interpreting data — traditionally a finance-led or services-led domain.” Finding common ground in data, CFOs are now working more closely with CMOs. According to EY, a majority of CFOs (54%) reported increased collaboration with CMOs and 63% saw increased involvement in marketing.

Next stop for CMOs: The corner office

Working more closely with CIOs and CFOs is just the beginning for today’s data-driven CMO. As I blogged about earlier this week, with their lingua franca of analytics and BI, CMOs understand and anticipate customer needs better than anyone — which makes this role a natural stepping stone to the CEO’s chair. Now that’s an outcome that will make anybody happy — especially Dr. Seuss.

The preceding is a blog post originally published in CIO on September 10, 2015.