Blame the CMO, But Pharma Needs Its CIO-CMO Relationship Set Right

The significance of the CIO - CMO relationship has been the most pronounced ever with the convergence of these two roles becoming essential to meeting new age customer expectations in the digital world. However, steeped as they are in the traditional processes, the disconnect between the two is also as pronounced and seen as an accepted norm marking early stages of digital adoption.


Understanding market realities, while most industries are sweating hard and putting their might behind bolstering the CIO and CMO alignment, the pharmaceutical sector has emerged as an exception of sorts. While its very much possible for certain industries to be unusually more fraught with fissures between these two roles, pharma companies seem to have taken the misalignment to an altogether different level, with the CMOs to be largely blamed for this.

According to a 2014 survey conducted by Accenture, the CIO - CMO alignment is among the lowest in pharma companies when compared to other industries.

Further analysis of the survey throws a very interesting insight. Among all industries, CMOs from pharma companies were the least bit inclined in collaborating with the CIO. On the other hand, pharma sector CIOs felt the strongest need for alignment and interaction with the CMO among all industries.

This presents quite a unique picture of two extreme ends of the CIO - CMO alignment spectrum existing within a single vertical. Does that somehow uncannily remind you of the proverbial phrase - "Men are from Mars and women from Venus"? If it doesn't yet, then consider some more key findings from the survey.

-        The gap in agreement between CIO and CMO on how to become more unified is more pronounced in pharma than other industries.

-        Analytics, IT spend and Big Data are the three largest gap areas in alignment between the two in pharma companies.

-        CIOs and CMOs in the industry have very different perspectives on the role of IT in marketing.

While there is no one answer to why this profound gap, it won't be too wild a guess to assume that a highly regulated environment has rendered pharma marketers comparatively more conservative, with the fear of running afoul with the regulator being one of their biggest nightmares. And, therefore, less likely to be inclined towards partnering with the CIO on innovative digital initiatives.

There isn't much of a legacy of the two working together to draw upon. According to Jitendra Mishra, Vice President - Information Technology (CIO), Wanbury Ltd, "Current trend shows that in industries like e-commerce, BFSI, FMCG, etc. CMOs are very active in stepping into the boundaries of the CIO and adopting digital owing to the disruptive nature which directly impacts the business model. Whereas in pharma, we have typically seen the CMO following the legacy way, not giving much importance to IT as a strategic partnership."

But, are CMOs the only ones to be blamed for this huge disconnect? According to Radhakrishnan G, Associate Vice President - Systems, Biocon points out, the kind of initial investments that the CMO is required to make in some of the projects like eDetailing, analytics, etc. is huge. Further compounding the situation are unusually high data security apprehensions that the CMOs are burdened with, belonging as they are to a highly regulated environment.

While they are not the only ones to be blamed, Radhakrishnan points out that these pharma company CMOs have to change their fundamental approach - from the mindset of medicines being sold through outlets to the one focusing on more and more interactions with the patients. In other words, a move towards better customer centricity.

With the gross misalignment between the two hindering industry's adoption of digital, Radhakrishnan shares his recommendation for both the CIO and CMO on how they can connect better and bridge the gap.

Recommendation for the CIO:

If the CIO goes with a huge budget item which may fail or not work out in the first phase, it shakes the CMO's confidence. So, the first piece of advice would be to initially go with small budget items to help build the CMO confidence. The CIO also needs to understand the business need of the CMO and keep that in mind while showcasing the value. He/she should be presenting the value proposition in such a way that gives CMO enough confidence that technology need not be replaced every year or two and that they have the control with incorporating advancements.

Recommendation for the CMO:

The CMO should not see the investment into IT as a short-term investment. The need to accept that the value of the investment will come in the long run.

Categories: Management

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