Episode 103: The CMO’s Role in Driving Digital Transformation with Kimberly Storin of IBM

Kimberly Storin, vice president of worldwide marketing at IBM Cognitive Systems, is front and center for the massive digital transformations now sweeping through companies. She’s seen how emerging tech like artificial intelligence is requiring companies to rethink the very way they do business. And her role at IBM has transformed Kimberly into a champion of CMOs who are leading the charge on digital transformation. 

“The more time I’ve spent with clients of ours, the more I realize how much more progress could be made, not only if the organization took a different lens to AI transformation, but also if the line of business and the marketing leadership had a much stronger leadership role in that AI transformation,” she says.

That’s not quite happening yet in many companies, as Kimberly sees things. “I think that ultimately what’s happening is that so many AI projects are happening in a vacuum,” she says. “You’re seeing rogue investments, servers under desks, or decisions made to try out new chatbots or applications without stepping back and figuring out, ‘How can this help our business moving forward?’”

AI and the Future of Business

To find out more, Kimberly and her team talked to 566 executives in the midst of their companies’ digital transformations and assessed their metrics and measurements. The results were intriguing: Companies are aware of how important AI is for the future of their business, and they’re increasingly using in-house resources to drive change. “What we saw from a correlation standpoint is that the companies that are building their capabilities in-house, close to the core and controlled, have a significantly higher probability of success than the companies that are outsourcing,” Kimberly says.

Like any new technology, AI will ask more from marketers on how to promote and share success. But much of AI is — and will continue to be — in flux. Kimberly advises marketers to take a future-conscious but cautious approach: “If your organization is really forward-thinking around AI, has a fully thought through Center of Excellence and has a thought leadership position around bias and ethics in AI, then I think it makes it a lot easier for marketers to go out and talk about the work they’re doing.”

At IBM, Kimberly is better defining stakeholder success concerning AI. She’s introduced new processes to ensure the company achieves its goals around marketing and digital transformation. “We’ve built cross-functional teams that are able to look at a campaign’s end to end and continue to optimize each piece of those campaigns. And they’re working truly in a lower case, agile fashion through the upper case, Agile process,” she says. “That’s really been a way to empower the teams to be able to make decisions based on the metrics that they’re seeing on a daily basis.”

For more of Kimberly’s work in AI and how B2B SaaS marketing leaders can prepare to champion digital transformation, listen to Episode 3 of SaaS Half Full.