Ways CMOs Can Excel at Cross-Departmental Collaboration

By January 29, 2018Marketing Strategy
Ways CMOs Can Excel at Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Cross-departmental collaboration leads to a collective culture of accountability and continuous improvement within an organization, yet most attempts at these collaborations fail. In this installment of our “Challenges CMOs Face” blog series, we discuss the role CMOs play in helping to lead successful cross-departmental collaborations within their organization.

When a business develops a collaborative culture, every department will benefit. Aligning goals and priorities across your entire organization helps define a common purpose and eliminates siloed thinking. The marketing department is particularly well-positioned to lead cross-departmental collaborative efforts because it’s a natural place to find forward thinkers who are willing to break down the hierarchical roadblocks of business cultures past.

What is cross-departmental collaboration?

In essence, a cross-departmental collaboration is a group of people with a diverse array of expertise working toward a common purpose that serves the entire organization. This group solves problems and makes improvements that boost morale, gain industry attention, improve reputation and help their company grow.

As a CMO, you are in a unique position to serve as the catalyst for successful cross-departmental collaboration. When it succeeds, these collaborative efforts can change your own department’s work for the better by giving you the creative inspiration you need to continue producing impactful campaigns.

Unfortunately, most cross-functional teams are anything but functional. Before you can help your business facilitate successful cross-functional efforts, you first need to understand why the teams assembled to affect change often fail.

Why cross-departmental collaborations fail

When cross-departmental collaboration fails, it can kill morale and negatively impact your marketing initiatives. After all, if these collaborations fail to improve the organization or solve key problems, that means it’s that much harder to market its services.

Perhaps some of these reasons will sound familiar because they often feed into one another:

  • Unclear governance. When departments come together on behalf of the entire organization, a clear governance structure is essential. Not only does the overall effort need an accountable leader, but so does each individual function that helps to achieve the end goal. When it is unclear who is in charge, the end result is likely a failure.
  • Lack of accountability. Perhaps you’ve served on a cross-functional team where tasks weren’t completed on time, meetings are often canceled or tabled, and when meetings do occur, people arrive unprepared. If team members are not held accountable for their share of the work, the collaborative effort will stall and enthusiasm will wane. If there’s no leader, there’s no accountability, and vice versa.
  • Imprecise goals. Multiple departments working together toward a common goal sounds like “the right thing to say,” but if there are no defined goals and objectives, it’s all just lip service and no action is taken. Again, failure. Goals need to be actionable and measurable.
  • Failure to prioritize cross-functional collaboration. It’s easy to become engrossed in the day-to-day of your own team, but the downside is that your department may unknowingly become a bottleneck for other departments that you work with regularly, such as Sales, Accounting, and IT. While it’s natural to want your department to be recognized for its good work, it shouldn’t come at the expense of other departments. Remember: you’re all on the same team!

How to help cross-departmental collaborations succeed

As the CMO, having a successful effort will set the tone for the organization and send a signal to employees that their employer owns its problems and wants each department’s collective talent to play a special part in crafting solutions. Furthermore, teamwork, commitment, and communication will help ensure the long-term continuity of the positive change brought about by a successful project.

Here’s how a CMO can help to rudder the ship during cross-departmental efforts:

  • Re-evaluate current processes. Step back and fully assess the way your team works with other departments. What problems are you all collectively trying to solve? Are you successful at solving those problems or should something change? Identify existing or potential bottlenecks, and then work on a plan to improve the way in which your departments interact.
  • Share information about your department. Regularly communicate with other departments about what your team is doing and how those departments can help. Request similar information from other departments. Ask to attend their department team meetings, or ask for a regular meeting with department leadership to communicate key findings from your marketing data.
  • Don’t assume everyone knows what you’re talking about. Stay away from using jargon or getting too deep into the weeds of your day to day. First, learn all you can about the function of each department, and then use your marketing data and campaigns to help that department understand how you can help them and more importantly, how their work helps your marketing efforts and your organization overall.
  • Set goals together. Meet regularly with the departments to brainstorm and establish common goals. When departments that routinely collaborate are all working toward the same set of common goals, competing priorities disappear, and so do some common bottlenecks.
  • Prioritize deadlines. Make sure you understand when other departments might need things from you, and vice versa. Having mutual respect for each other’s deadlines and staying accountable to them will foster positive collaboration.
  • Make data-driven decisions. With a state-of-the-art system for collecting customer data, you can demonstrate how meaningful data impacts your daily decisions and marketing efforts. Perform a comprehensive marketing automation analysis, determine what you need to collect and analyze better data, and develop a roadmap for success that ensures you stay on track for at least the next year or more.

Tegrita provides the services and expertise you need to help improve communication and collaboration across the various departments within your organization.

Working collaboratively with you and your team, we can help you analyze your current marketing performance, identify the gaps in your digital marketing program and develop a strategic plan that is both forward thinking and agile to encourage innovation.

To get you started, we’ve put tougher a Strategic Roadmapping Playbook to outline the process and provide some of the templates that we use when we work with clients like you. Click here to get your own Roadmap Toolkit.

Learn more and contact us today to talk about how Tegrita can help you take your business’ collaborative efforts to the next level.

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Brandi Starr

Chief Operating Officer | Managing Consultant at Tegrita Consulting Group
Brandi Starr is a true Modern Marketing Maven. She believes marketing magic happens at the intersection of strategy, creativity, and technology. Brandi's 15 year career has spanned a variety of industries and marketing disciplines. Brandi is an Eloqua power user turned consultant with almost 10 years of experience maximizing the power of Eloqua. Her expertise include demand generation and nurture strategy, business process transformation, controlling email frequency, custom security and she is the SME for the Higher Education vertical.