Career Advice

Do all CMOs have to be data geeks now?

Written by me in the The Economist Group today

Few would argue against data’s importance in marketing today. Data is
essential to every marketing decision now, and the techniques used to
transform that data into actionable market insight can make or break a

this, some data-intensive companies now require their CMOs to have a
background in data science—but will we get to a point where all CMOs and
senior marketing leaders have to have a background in data science? Or
will tools continue to emerge that will help marketing leaders better
interact with big data and enable them to make strategic decisions?

As the Internet and sheer amount of available data expand, companies
are rushing to take advantage of it—but they are finding themselves
overwhelmed, and many marketing organizations are reacting by hiring
data scientists. In fact, data scientists are in such high demand that a recent McKinsey study found that there would be a deficit of up to 190,000 data scientists in the U.S. alone by 2018.

Because so many marketing decisions are data-driven these days,
having someone adept at finding relationships, identifying anomalies and
making predictions based on data can be key to an effective
go-to-market strategy.  CMOs absolutely need to understand how to
interpret data. To quote a column by Computerworld Executive Editor Julia King, “Data science is all about predicting the future.”

The particular responsibility of choosing and driving strategy based
on where the market is headed lies with the CMO. But if the CMO arms
herself and her team with the right tools, she doesn’t need to be a data
scientist—and she doesn’t have to fill her bench with data scientists,

Senior leaders will find more and more that cloud-based apps—like
emerging personal business analytics and marketing automation
solutions—will become their go-to tools to solve their big data overload
problems. These solutions will allow the business user to make better
real-time decisions, helping them to embrace not just analysis, but also
synthesis of the data.

Solutions whose analytics are easily embeddable into existing
platforms and apps, and which provide clear visualization and
collaboration tools, will ultimately help leaders strategically grow
their businesses without requiring a team of onsite data scientists.  By
choosing the right solutions, CMOs can save themselves the headache of
searching for a team of data scientists, but reap the same benefits
quickly and economically.