While digital marketing is recognised by CMOs (chief marketing officers) in Asia as a vital tool, there are challenges that these executives need to overcome, according to an Accenture study.

The report, Turbulence for the CMO, rank the following issues-a lack of critical technology/tools, inefficient business practices and poor integration with other business functions. Accenture announced a fortnight ago that it's buying interactive design specialists Fjord.

"It is not a surprise that CMOs are facing challenges in the digital space. There is a clear performance gap between the demands of the marketplace and the ability of marketing organisations to apply the digital technology talent required to be more effective," said Marco Ryan, managing director, ASEAN, Accenture Interactive.

To close the gap, CMOs in Asia Pacific have to complete their marketing transformation and streamline their partner mix in order to drive improved marketing performance. CMOs will need to hire, reskill and redeploy people to improve efficiency, agility and responsiveness and enable them to stay relevant and engage with customers through the most convenient channel and with the most relevant offer.

"The growing investment in digital capabilities will help marketing executives improve their understanding of changing consumer needs and manage multiple channels," said Ryan. "However, improved performance will require more than new digital and analytics talent. The challenge of digital transformation is how to implement beyond marketing and across the entire enterprise."

More than 400 senior marketing executives across 10 countries including Singapore and China were surveyed for the report.

Survey data indicates that marketing budgets are expected to grow significantly next year and the CMOs already aggressively allocated budgets to digital marketing - a sign that they believe that digital is critical to their future.

Forty-one percent of AP marketers are confident that their marketing budget will grow significantly - an increase of nine points from 2011. In Asia Pacific, 62 percent of CMOs have allocated over a quarter of their marketing budget to digital marketing this year compared to the global figure of 47 percent.

Meanwhile, CMOs in AP rely heavily on external partners to support the explosion of channels. The results showed that between 41 percent and 76 percent of marketing activities are managed by external agencies to execute their marketing initiatives, which creates an extremely fragmented environment.

CMOs in AP are at an overall level satisfied with their agencies. When it comes to managing the marketing budget, CMOs in the region are more satisfied (23 percent higher than the global average) with the performance of partner agencies in managing marketing budget. They also have much higher levels of satisfaction with agencies' abilities to provide an integrated view of marketing effectiveness and business processes around briefs and decision making.

The study indicates that partners and agencies have to continue to help CMOs make sense of the complexity in the marketplace by improving their levels of execution and delivery and by providing a broader set of capabilities and deeper integration across the agency ecosystem.