Less than a quarter of CMOs are directly responsible for their organisation’s digital transformation, according to Forrester, which argues marketing chiefs are too preoccupied with short term ROI initiatives and competing priorities to lead long term strategic change.

However they are usually not employed long enough anyway, according to the Forrester report, CMOs: Define Your Role In Digital Transformation, which found CMOs have the shortest tenure and highest turnover in the c-suite.

According to the report the average tenure for a CMO between 2.5 and 4 years, while CEOs average 8 years and CFOs 5 years.

“This volatility is primarily due to the CMO’s poorly designed, unclear role and the high mismatch between the CMO’s authority and the CEO’s expectations,” the authors write.

The short lifespan puts CMOs in a tough spot, the report says, forced to balance short term customer satisfaction with long term digital transformation, ultimately struggling with both.

“My first question to the CEO was how much ice can I break,” an anonymous CMO from a B2B publishing company is quoted as saying in the report.

“I thought [that by] having a clear mandate, I could act on the digital transformation, but the reality is that two years later, I am still mostly tasked with lead generation, field marketing, and email campaigns.”

The research firm polled over 2,000 global service decision makers involved in digital transformation, finding it was largely the remit of CIOs/CTOs, CEOs and IT managers. Only 23 per cent of CMOs are or will be responsible for leading digital transformation strategy. Just 16 per cent involved in the execution.

Source: Forrester poll of 2,391 global services decision makers who are involved in their company’s digital transformation, from the report: CMOs: Define Your Role In Digital Transformation

The prominence of IT and the relatively low levels of involvement from CMOs and chief customer officers suggest many organisations see digital transformation as predominantly a technology strategy rather than a customer one.

The report authors also argue new digital and customer roles are limiting the impact of CMOs on transformation.

“Too many new roles have emerged in the c-suite — think growth, digital, experience, and customer officers — that prevent the CMO from acting as the voice of the customer and the conductor of the brand experience across the organisation.”

Struggling with data and technology

The lack of input on digital change may also be stemming from a lack of resources, or at least access to resources, for CMOs. The report found the demand for digital skills is frustrating marketing departments. In a survey of global CMOs, employee recruiting and retention was the second greatest challenge for marketers over the next year (competing priorities was slightly higher).

B2C marketing decision makers said technology skills was the biggest challenge with marketing programs.

Forrester advises CMOs looking to play a greater role in digital transformation strategies to first transform their own operations and become customer ambassadors.

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