It's difficult to pinpoint what point in my career prepared me for success. When I was in the Navy, while I was formally an Electrician, as an engineer I was also an advanced firefighter. I was also designated ESWS, an enlisted surface warfare specialist certification that provided me with an overview of virtually every job and system on my ship. That cross-functional knowledge and experience was the foundation of my young leadership experience.
After the Navy, I worked at a newspaper as an industrial electrician. My ability to learn and work cross-functionally led to my early promotion. Once I was in charge of others, the company invested heavily in my development, putting me through corporate training from human resource training, corporate budgeting, coaching, continuous development, and a number of other management and leadership programs. I was able to easily shift into a controller and analyst position, then into database marketing.
For two decades I've worked in marketing leadership positions and with executives around the country. Twenty years ago, the scope of my work was typically within the marketing department, but now I meet with senior leadership more than ever before. The reason for this is that digital marketing has become a reliable indicator and predictor of corporate performance.
Twenty years ago, marketing was largely a one-way strategy that deployed branding and campaigns and then measured response over the course of years. Now, real-time marketing research and data reveals the performance of every key performance indicator of an organization – whether it's employee satisfaction, customer retention, competitive positioning, etc. For this reason, more and more companies are hiring senior leadership and implementing cross-functional leadership roles that incorporate marketing efforts.
A growing number of organizational management experts are promoting the use of cross-functional integration within corporations. Although choosing to adopt this form of hierarchy would require reorganizing and redistributing responsibilities, implementing cross-functional integration is an appropriate response to the increasing prevalence of big data and other recent trends.
Core to cross-functional integration is the break-down of silos and empire-building within the organization. Within a healthy boardroom, leaders are selfless – recognizing that sacrifices made in their own department can lead to the overall improvement of corporate health. I've had frank discussions with companies and talked them into lowering the digital marketing expenditures when we realized other sales resources were performing better. This was often done at my own agency's loss – but it was the right thing to do for the health of the client.
In a dysfunctional boardroom, each leader is fighting to grow their headcount, increase budget expenditures, and they view their department as the core of the organization. This is at their own demise since every department must survive and thrive. Cut product development and innovation die, damaging future sales and retention. Cut sales and marketing efforts don't perform to their full potential. Cut customer service and your online reputation eat away at the marketing gains of your organization. Cut benefits and your core talent leaves the company.
Statistics Support Cross-Functional Integration:
- Companies that conduct an analysis of their customer data grow faster
- Organizations that distribute marketing responsibilities across teams tend to have a marketing strategy that is more unified with overall the overall business strategy
- Cross-functional integration allows for a task-force structured model that can be agile when assigned to projects
In other words, your marketing improves with insight and impact from throughout the organization, and your other departments improve with insight into your overall marketing performance. This isn't about marketing taking the lead, it's about marketing being integrated throughout the organization.
Cross-functional integration is difficult, though, and the statistics also show that there's also a high failure rate associated with poor implementation. To learn more, check out the infographic below created by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online Master of Business Administration degree program.