08 Feb Get to know the team — R. Craig Adams
We are proud of our team at Tracking First — collectively we have decades of experience in digital media and technology. I recently sat down with our Chief Information Officer, Craig Adams, to learn about what led him to Tracking First.
JR: Let’s start with a bit about your background. Tell us the story of your career.
CA: My degree is in Civil Engineering, but early on I was drawn into programming. Right out of college, I was a freelance contract programmer. I began to make business connections and eventually formed a corporation called Rhyse Development. Seven years later, we were on the Utah 100 (list of fastest-growing companies). We figured out how to make Rhyse grow, but in a competitive industry profit was a challenge. We eventually closed the doors, but it was a terrific learning experience.
After that I worked as CIO for Viewpoint, a 3D digital content software company. I was there for a five-year growth period, until we sold the company to Computer Associates. A colleague of mine started a new company called Freeport. I was employee No. 1, and nine months later it had grown to 150 employees. Then the 2001 tech bubble burst. Nine months after that, I was one of the last to walk out the door. Even so, it was another great experience building a big team and managing fast growth.
I left Freeport with a huge network. The tech world was still in chaos, so I started consulting — thinking it would be temporary, until I found my next full-time job. For 16 years now, I’ve been working as an independent contract CIO. I’ve been involved in a few startups like Tracking First, trying to bring business discipline, to help these organizations get to a place where they can scale up.
JR: How do you feel about the world of marketing technology and analytics?
CA: I came in green to the field of analytics and marketing technology. My only previous experience was in my role as CIO at Viewpoint. I was involved in marketing data and marketing data cleansing. Through that experience, I came to understand how important good, clean marketing data is. When I joined Viewpoint, we had zero confidence in the data coming out of our systems. I was graded on how well I could turn that around, and restore trust in the numbers. So even though I’m new to this aspect of marketing analytics, I’m familiar with data hygiene as a concept. I’m a big fan of data, slicing and dicing, so I get excited about what Tracking First is doing. I think our current product adds value, and I’m interested in leveraging our expertise into the larger world of data governance.
JR: In the marketing analytics world right now, one of the interesting questions is who should own the data?Some analytics groups report to the CIO, some to the CMO. Where do you think analytics should live?
CA: It’s not only an interesting question but a sensitive question in the world I live in. The last few years have seen a huge shift in budget dollars, a swing away from the CIO toward the CMO. Many perceive it as a sort of coup for the CMO. The typical CMO’s argument has been, “Look, these marketing technologies exist; we need them, and we’re going to go buy them.” From where I sit, I think the CIO needs to have a firm handle on the company’s full tech landscape. If the CIO isn’t informed, and Marketing goes off in its own direction, you’re just creating a silo problem. You might think you’re solving a problem, when really you’re creating new ones. When you see a shift like that, it means there’s been a failure somewhere. It often means the CIO has failed to understand and embrace a new and changing world. Marketers need data, and when they take full ownership of new marketing technologies, it usually means they couldn’t wait for the CIO to catch up.
Both those are my opinions. I’m curious about some new models, like having Analytics reside between Tech and Marketing. I think it’s temporary, and at some point they’ll figure out where they belong. But CIO’s need to up their game.