Integrate people, not processes

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Marketing, especially in large organizations, can be an unwieldy machine with a lot of moving parts. CMOs shepherd a dizzying number of projects, which are managed and produced by dozens of departments and agencies, and distributed through dozens of channels. To execute projects, you need social media experts, data analysts, designers, market managers…and the list goes on. Getting people on the same page can be a tall order.

Now, some leaders have realized that the way to move forward is not to integrate processes, it’s to integrate people. Instead of coordinating processes across different functions, they bring together people from multiple areas into one function. And, most importantly, they bring together all the strategic partners right from the outset.

Sometimes this means simply putting people in the same room, which can be difficult with everyone working more globally than ever. But while collaboration technologies, such as videoconferencing, Web meetings and instant messaging, can lower the obstacles to collaborating at a distance, leaders are finding that sometimes there’s no substitute for co-location. A field study of six software development teams found co-location doubled productivity.1 Another study found that distributed work tasks take two and a half times longer to complete than similar items where work is co-located.2 Of course, co-location is not for every time and place—the benefits of bringing people together physically can be offset by the efficiency of globally integrating (locating processes and services wherever they can be most cost effectively conducted).

Regardless of whether the integration is physical or virtual, leaders are having success by integrating people, not processes.

Seth Farbman
Gap, Inc.

“We sat marketing next to our design team because in our business design is product development…I’ve been very, very deliberate in creating a department of global citizens, people from around the world who represent our customer globally.”

Edward Boches

“The more you can force people from different backgrounds, different disciplines and different departments to bump into each other, the more you end up creating natural experimentation.”

Samir Mahir
Tennis Australia

“You’ve got to spend time with colleagues and learn what other people in the business do or you can’t serve them well and you can’t contribute to the organization.”

João Ciaco

“A year ago, we put all of the agencies together into one new structure…which puts everybody together in one building and lets them work together. This way, we’re not talking about integrating projects after they’re already developed, but rather integrating these processes from the start—so we’re not wasting as much time.”

Terry Jones

“We moved our data analysts over to learn marketing..And the guy who ran marketing and the people under him really had to understand what they could get out of the system or what level of personalization they could then engender both on the site and in the communications to build the customer relationship. As they all sat together and worked together, they learned through a sort of osmosis.”

Laurie Tucker
FedEx Services

“The way our innovation team works here at FedEx is that we have technology and marketing teams co-located. We don’t have a separate IT lab and a marketing lab. The two do everything together.”

Teddy Goff

President Obama’s 2012 campaign

“Large corporations that have a marketing department and a sales department and a PR department and a communications department and maybe a brand department…that’s not a process conducive to firing off a tweet out during the Super Bowl blackout…I guess the point is that certain structures and incentive systems prevent agility.”

John Foreman

“I’ve met a group of semi-analytics people…I’ve found them in customer support, in marketing, in design, in finance…the most obvious benefit is just having everybody training each other and sharing knowledge.”

Peter Hinssen
London Business School

“Trying to bridge the gaps between silos won’t work…You need to blend those cultures by taking people out of their domains and getting them to work together.”


1Stephanie Teasley et al.,
How Does Radical Collocation Help a Team Succeed?, CSCW ’00 Proceedings of the ACM conference on computer-supported cooperative work (2000), 339-346.

2James D. Herbsleb and Audris Mockus,
An empirical study of speed and communication in globally distributed software development, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering (June 2003), 481-494.

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