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IT Masters News

The Marriage of CIO and CMO
11 June 2015


Every marriage has its ups and downs, even the really long lasting, stable unions, if a marriage doesn’t have highs and lows, perhaps the couple just don’t really care.  So if, as many suggest, the CIO and CMO don’t see eye to eye all the time is that really a bad thing?  It could be they do care a great deal about their role and its effect on the business.

A study by CIO.com, EPAM Systems and the CMO Club, “The CIO-CMO Omnichannel” surveyed more than 400 CIOs and CMOs in one-on-one interviews to get an understanding of how they work together.  Among the findings are – they don’t speak the same language, disagree about the technology budget and a struggle over who has ownership of mobile apps.


Communication without any communication you have a disaster, without effective communication you can also have a disaster, so the key is effective communication, a worthwhile exchange and the ability to listen as well as speak.

Listening is probably the most important aspect.  Don’t just hear a conversation, really tune in.

One of the problems identified in the Omnichannel study was the difference in some words used by either the CIO or CMO such as platform – to the CIO this is a preconfigured set of software tools with the ability to interface with enterprise systems, to the CMO it is a complete system for supporting a particular need, which may or may not interface with enterprise systems.  There is some synergy there.

Agile is another word which can be misconstrued, a CIO uses this to mean a development methodology which is flexible.  Actually agile can even be misunderstood amongst the technology minded.  For the CMO being agile is the ability to change direction and move rapidly along with market changes.  For most mere mortals, agile means lively and well-coordinated, so it isn’t just a misunderstanding between CIO and CMO.

Regardless of the words and who hears what, the important issue here is leaving the jargon behind, think of who you are speaking with and use “common” language.

The battle of the budget is not just confined to CIO and CMO, it must be across the board – no pun intended – everyone competes for the available dollars to achieve their targets and goals.  Given the presence of technology in all parts of a business, all divisions must have to include a technology component, not just marketing, so why isn’t there a big issue between the CIO and others in the C-Suite?  Many marriages don’t survive financial problems but those which do survive learn to work together, talk over the issues, tighten the purse when required and don’t hide those exotic purchases from their partners.

Ownership of mobile apps?  The marketing department may have had the ideas and the IT department developed it – what is wrong with sharing and acknowledging the input of all parties.  In the end it is the business which owns the app and the business which will, hopefully, benefit from it.

Hurtful words – there is a very old saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, it is in a children’s nursery rhyme.  Get over the war of words, turn the other cheek, get on with the business of being in business.  Life is too short and so could your career if you can’t rise above this issue.

It has been noted there is a gender difference at play as well, with most CIOs being male and most CMOs female.  In this day and age, in a very competitive economy, surely this is irrelevant.  A person’s ability, skills and knowledge are what counts and how they actually do their job.

Most senior managers would be aware of the Myers-Briggs personality system, whether you espouse the system or not, it has been around a long time and is used by many organisations in their employment process.  Myers-Briggs suggests CIOs and CMOs share very similar traits such as leadership skills, able to make decisions, efficient, organised, well informed, results oriented and forceful in their own way.

Let’s embrace difference – “vive la différence” – how boring if we all thought and acted the same.  Instead recognise your weaknesses and someone else’s strengths and work together for a much stronger outcome.