Digital resilience: 3 essential attributes marketing teams need to succeed

A person works from home using Workfront scenario planner to strategically plan

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Now that marketing teams have navigated seven months of a giant, involuntary, global experiment, the lessons we’re learning are becoming clearer. The first is: we can do this. We’ve already proven to be more resilient than we thought. The second: the experiment isn’t ending anytime soon.

Uncertainty will persist, as markets and economies continue to fluctuate in response to these truly unprecedented challenges.

I believe the best way to weather this unpredictable age is to continue building digital resilience, as individuals and as organizations. This will take continuous planning, aligning work to strategy, and the ability to collaborate on the right work—from anywhere.

With that in mind, here are three essential attributes today’s marketing teams need to cultivate so we can rapidly accelerate out of crisis mode and turn our focus to creating and sustaining a competitive advantage in the new world that’s unfolding as we speak.

1) Expansive creativity

Market teams have always been known for our creativity. And I’m not just talking about art, messaging, and design. We’re also skilled at thinking about how to do things differently and solving our organizations’ most pressing business issues.

We’re often so focused on the artistic side of creativity that we forget to value the contributions we can make in creatively implementing tech to support the business—whether in the realm of analytics and reporting, design and implementation, or the work management life cycle.

Part of the reason marketing and IT have historically worked so closely together is because marketers realize technology is an enabler of innovation. According to Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey, CMO spending on technology rivals CIO spending on the same.

But are we making the most of our aptitude for innovation? If we can take a more expansive view of our creative abilities, I’m convinced we can help build digital resilience—including the ability to build and maintain productivity, make data-driven decisions, and pivot in response to rising challenges and changing priorities—in our own teams and across the enterprise.

A good illustration of this phenomenon is the rise of marketing executives who are sitting on boards of directors. Boards have traditionally been dominated by CEOs and CFOs.

Thanks to an expanding appreciation for the creative, diversified thinking CMOs, Chief Customer Officers, CHROs, GTM executives, and other leaders naturally bring to problem solving, I’ve seen vastly increased opportunities to expand the roles on executive teams and in boardrooms.

2) Visibility and agility

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of business agility during volatile times. But you can’t have agility without visibility. How can you adapt what you can’t see? Visibility allows us to see priorities clearly, understand how work is progressing, and remain aligned as a team around the work that matters most.

But how is this visibility achieved when team members are Zooming in from home offices all over the county—or across the country? An integrated martech stack is essential, even better when it’s all connected through a work management platform that serves as your single source of truth.

When you can communicate and collaborate in the context of the work you’re doing—with data seamlessly flowing in from Marketo, Adobe, Salesforce, and more—you have the visibility you need to check status in real time so you can react and respond with true agility.

3) Strategic alignment

While visibility is the foundation of agility, it’s also a pretty essential ingredient in strategic alignment. There’s a phrase we say a lot at Workfront, but only because it’s a core, foundational truth: everyone on your team must understand not only how they contribute to the company’s strategic vision but also why their work matters.

This has never been more important than it is right now, when teams are navigating remote work in a whole new way.

I am in the midst of practicing what I preach on this topic, as my team has worked tirelessly to establish unified content themes each quarter that drive the messaging throughout the organization, in big and small ways.

Our digital collaboration has taken place from home bases all over the world. That’s what alignment looks like for me. It takes time, and it takes continuous effort, but it results in a sense of departmental unity, individual empowerment, clarity, and camaraderie that are truly transformative.

As much as we marketers may excel at the marketing tactics we produce and execute, our strategic planning process needs to be as good or better if alignment is our goal. And that requires devoting a commensurate amount of time, attention, and iterative improvement to both how we work and what we’re producing.

The experiment continues

Nobody volunteered for this experiment in digital resiliency, but here we are, making the best of some pretty fundamental shifts in the way modern work gets done. They say hindsight is 20/20. When we look back on 2020 itself, what will we see?

I think we’ll see the beginnings of globally dispersed marketing teams, who learned to build unity across distance, apply creativity in expansive new ways, and harness visibility in pursuit of both agility and strategic alignment.

While I’m sure we can all agree that 2021 can’t come soon enough, I’m also certain that the hard-fought lessons of 2020 will remain with us for years and years to come.