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Collaborate to innovate: Why departments need to combine to progress with digital

IT departments have often been the driving force for innovation and digital in the past; managing technology spend and maintaining IT across old systems is a core part of the department’s role, positioning them as tech champions within the business.

In contrast, the marketing function hasn’t always been synonymous with technology, with marketers focussing on the customer journey, pushing through creativity and supporting the sales teams to drive results and build relationships.

However, with the arrival of martech and adtech, new technologies have been built for CMOs looking to drive stronger results from campaigns and better manage their budgets. For example, Nissan is using Facebook Live to connect with its consumers in the lead up to the Olympics in Rio, using the live streaming platform to place fans at the centre of its campaign with video content that shows supporters training alongside Team GB.

As a result of technology innovations including new platforms and channels, the role of marketing is has changed and is encroaching on the role of IT in many ways. For example, in a recent study that we undertook, we found that 92 per cent of marketers are investing in marketing automation software, a dramatic increase on the year before.

In March, we commissioned Forrester to examine how organisations with a mature digital strategy define and manage their ‘digital business transformation’, and we found that almost half of businesses (43 per cent) with a mature digital strategy see competing departments, such as IT and marketing, as a signification threat to innovation within their business. This competition between departments to claim ownership over digital is not only causing a barrier to effective digital transformation, but preventing effective collaboration.

So why do companies find it so difficult to ensure a culture of collaboration within their companies?

Progression starts inside

In order for departments to achieve real change and advance in digital, it’s vital to secure the support and participation of key stakeholders across the organisation. Talented people exist across most businesses and collaboration is a part of almost every successful innovation - 54 per cent of respondents in our research with Forrester said that fostering a culture of innovation is a critical enabler of digital business.

Without this culture, the division of responsibility and core accountability is a major inhibitor to putting in place truly innovative processes, quickly fostering an environment of fiefdoms. In order to improve performance and achieve true digital transformation throughout your organisation, you have to break down the incentives that make these fiefdoms, and collaborate throughout the business.

We should be asking ourselves: ‘does the answer to my question exist elsewhere in the business?’ and ensure that departments look beyond their own teams for every project they work on.

Patching over holes is never a satisfactory fix – a CDO can’t do it all

Some businesses have tried to fix collaboration issues between IT and marketing by appointing a Chief Digital Officer to be the mediator between the two teams. However, you cannot do this and expect a business to become digital overnight.

The road to digital transformation needs to be a collaborative journey within a business, and requires active participation from all key stakeholders to be successfully adopted by the rest of the organisation.

There does, however, need to be an individual or group of champions for digital within the business that can present a vision that the whole company is working towards. Identifying the senior transformation champions is vital to making digital a long-term success - these are the people that are dedicated to seeing through the benefits that change will bring, as they understand that the process of transformation is equal to that of innovation within the business.

Learn from external influences

Our research showed that 89 per cent of big businesses plan to extend partnerships with external start-ups and accelerators in order to innovate and progress digitally.

Companies like Amazon, Airbnb, Netflix and Uber are demonstrating how slow-moving markets can be reshaped by collaborating with partners, both internally and externally. For example, Uber’s partnership with Facebook has enabled it to take its taxi service to a whole new audience and Amazon has recently partnered with Tyson Foods to launch its own delivery service. Amazon plans to expand the relationship by launching a new line of premium products for home delivery and thanks to this external collaboration, Amazon will be able to disrupt the conventional supermarket sector and further its own innovation and growth.

Collaboration must be a pillar of an organisation’s culture to enable digital progression, innovation and success. One person, or even one team, cannot be responsible for the advent of digital, and working together is the answer to overcome challenges and produce solutions.

By fostering a culture of collaboration, businesses can ensure that they tap into the existing skillsets whilst continually introducing new learnings from external sources – the recipe to success.

Stephen Morgan, Co-Founder of Squiz

Image Credit: Wichy / Shutterstock