A few years ago CMOs and CTOs were seen as separate roles in the organization. Now, after each of them battled the digital transformation alone in their departments, CMOs have taken over the innovative role of CTOs. How can CTOs and CMOs use this shift to build cooperation?

The chief technology officer (CTO) used to be the one responsible for all innovations in the organization. When technology became crucial for the business, they led the IT department through the whole digital transformation. CTOs faced challenges such as adapting the company to mobile, the cloud, and external security threats with very little understanding from other departments.

At the same time, chief marketing officers (CMO) observed a revolution in the internet, media, and users massively moving between channels. They had to adapt to this new landscape by learning new customer behavior, addressing new media and managing the increasing number of touchpoints.

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The CMO’s innovation playground

When CMOs had to explore new, innovative tools for data-driven marketing and sales, CTOs turned out to be the guardians of the software, processes and safety in the whole organization. The innovative impact of the CTO somehow disappeared in the daily routines of keeping operations safe.

The CMOs took over the role of the transformative mobilizer of eCommerce and they will not resign from this role easily. With rising marketing budgets, CMOs feel the pressure to improve analytics and prove ROI. To do so, they must engage users more and adapt cutting-edge solutions. According to a McKinsey survey, 75% of chief marketing officers agreed that the skills CMOs need are becoming so specialized that marketing teams will have to operate quite differently in the future.

CMOs have gained extensive experience in the digital transformation. How? Because for years he could play with new and transformative technologies alone in the marketing department.

What’s more, CMOs usually had to act on their own because of the lack of IT resources and support. They have built their own IT structures inside of the marketing department and oftentimes used external resources that also bring a lot of innovation on tech and organizational level. Such shadowing can have a negative impact on safety and stability of the company’s IT systems but, on the other hand, it could also be called agile innovation and have a super positive impact.

These experiments weren’t treated seriously by the IT department but now it occurs that the time has come, and technologies tested in the marketing playground are really needed to grow the business.

Tools for CMOs and CTOs

Although the shift of roles might be seen as a conflict between CMOs and CTOs, in fact, it is a great opportunity for organizations. Chief marketing officers and chief technology officers led key roles in the digital transformation. This process taught them how to be agile and to swiftly adjust to the changing market landscape. Working together, they are in a favorable position to advise chief executive officers and guide their organizations in the future.

The good news is that time has also brought a change of approach and the evolution of IT tools. Today we all know tools that can keep CTOs happy and allow CMOs to innovate on technology.


Many large organizations changed their approach from monolithic to microservices-driven. This concept allows the marketing team to build a small, separate app and then connect these apps with other systems in the organization in a safe and simple way.

Design systems

Creating a design system allows for designing alternative user interfaces in different departments across the organization. Every department can adjust it to their needs while the company can keep the UX consistent.

Headless approach

The IT department can decouple frontend apps from backend apps to allow the marketing department to innovate on the frontend side, keeping the backend safe and stable.

The Headless approach and microservices comprise a set of extremely powerful tool for CTOs.

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These tools empower organizations to be flexible and easily adopt new solutions within the mobile-first approach. Using microservices, like our Vue Storefront, allows marketers to add new sales channels and experiment with different UX ideas without engaging the IT department. It also keeps them happy and calm about the freedom of creating a positive outcome, without worrying about the whole IT structure and the safety of the business.

Tomasz Karwatka

Supervisory Board Member at Divante. Leading industry voice who believes eCommerce can improve our world. Co-founder of Vue Storefront and Open Loyalty, angel investor, and founder of Tech To The Rescue. CEO at Divante eCommerce Technology Company | LinkedIn | Twitter

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