5 Tips for Working Collaboratively with IT on Digital Marketing Projects

Working Collaboratively with IT on Digital Marketing Projects

While creatives are generally adept at collaborating with fellow designers and marketers, it may be harder to adjust to a growing job demand: working collaboratively with IT. Learn how the lines between marketing and IT projects are blurring, and how your creative team can successfully partner with technology staff.

As digital projects become a bigger and bigger part of the corporate workload, there’s an ever-growing need for integration among creative and tech employees. Digital marketing professionals, in particular, are finding they’re increasingly being tasked with working collaboratively with IT staff.

But organizational issues may be getting in the way. According to research from The Creative Group and Robert Half Technology, 24 percent of advertising and marketing executives believe their company does not have the structure to support the seamless integration between marketing and IT for digital marketing projects; 42 percent of chief information officers (CIOs) feel the same.

To learn how creative and marketing teams are working collaboratively with IT, and what challenges they face, The Creative Group and Robert Half Technology tapped three industry leaders to share their thoughts. Here are five tips that emerged from the conversation:

1. Pick a creative point person

When it comes to digital marketing initiatives, teamwork-related challenges often stem from a lack of leadership. Providing good guidance requires understanding all the players involved with the project and what they bring to the table, delegating tasks as appropriate, and being willing to call shots and shepherd initiatives along. It’s best to have a high-level point person from both the creative and IT sides filling this role. These two people should strive to work in concert and reach shared decisions before relaying information to their respective teams.

2. Adopt a startup mentality

David Womack, a noted executive creative director, said startups have two things going for them when it comes to working collaboratively: Their teams are small and they have to move fast.

“One of the really exciting things about working with startups is they’re too busy to really focus on boundaries,” Womack said, adding that startups are especially good at coalescing around a focused message and a bigger sense of purpose and values. “Ideally, you should be moving so fast you’re glad when anyone says anything or has an insight that you haven’t had. There shouldn’t be time or slack in the system to quibble about discipline boundaries. Everyone should be laser focused on achieving the end result.”

3. Ramp up communication

From deciphering jargon to providing constructive feedback to simply getting people to follow up, communication can make or break a collaborative project. To help facilitate healthy working relationships, meet regularly, utilize project-management tools and clearly document to-dos to ensure that everyone is on the same page. And be patient: Trust and open communication go hand in hand, and they both take time to establish.

“Creatives and technologists are generally not speaking the same language,” said Jim Carlsen-Landy, a user experience architect. “They come at things with a different perspective.” He added that it’s crucial to give creative and IT departments time to get comfortable with each other. “As the teams work together more consistently, you build up mechanisms for lighter weight communication.”

4. Make sure your teams are in sync

Sometimes problems arise from duplicating efforts or failing to strive for a common goal. As such, don’t make assumptions about what the other team is thinking or doing.

Jim Bahr, a vice president of corporate systems, said that larger companies are particularly prone to working in silos, with one team taking the project and running with it if the other team isn’t responsive. The risk is that you end up with separate solutions to the problem. “You do need to sometimes formalize those conversations and say, ‘Hey, let’s work, let’s align, let’s make sure we’re talking, let’s make sure our objectives are one and the same,’” said Bahr. “Understand the business value, the business goals that you’re trying to achieve, and make sure that you’re not running in two different directions because there are all sorts of bad unforeseen consequences.”

5. Hire people with the right mindset

Working closely with IT is a fairly new concept for some creative and marketing professionals, spurred by the proliferation of digital projects. That’s why it’s important to not only help current employees learn to collaborate, but also hire new team members who are open to and experienced in working collaboratively.

Bahr noted that hard skills can be learned, but that soft skills such as a team-oriented attitude are essential because they’re not as easy to teach. “What I look for is really that mindset first,” he said. “Do they care about business? Are they asking good questions? Do they care about my customers? That’s the foundation you have to build upon.”

Looking for more information about managing and staffing digital marketing initiatives? Download our free Guide to Digital Marketing Strategies & Staffing now!