Powering creative collaboration: Stories about workplace change from Europe’s marketing leaders

by Jenny Gruening

Many marketers have been intrigued by the possibilities of digital transformation in recent years. From delivering extraordinary online experiences to pushing the boundaries of martech, driving a ‘change agenda’ often comes naturally to this group.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, ‘change’ was less about creating innovative experiences – and more about keeping the lights on with remote working and virtual communications.

And… it worked. Against the odds, businesses have people back round the table – even if those tables are in their homes. But as the dust settles and it no longer feels like a ‘new’ normal, it’s time for marketers to ensure they can keep doing their best work – whether that’s data-driven innovation, exceptional creative, or customer-focused experiences. 

At Smartsheet, we’ve interviewed senior marketing figures from around Europe to find out how they’re approaching this challenge, and what they’ve learned. We call them Smart Voices – here’s what they had to say about their plans for the future. 

See the full report for more of our Smart Voices’ thoughts on the future of digital transformation and work: European business leaders on what’s next for digital transformation

The challenge for marketers

Marketers are a creative, collaborative bunch – and they often need two settings to thrive: the buzz of a group ideation session, and the peace and quiet to create great work. For many, WFH offers neither, with many suffering from video fatigue and communication overload. And of course, people across business groups were working harder than ever and often felt the strain. 

With remote and hybrid work settings likely to be with us for the long haul, it’s time to invest some serious thought into how we can nurture relationships and creativity moving forward. 

As a marketing Voice in retail asked:

“How do you build a relationship when you're staring at people on a screen? How do you build trust to have honest conversations – those are the issues. How do you get creative on a screen where you can't interrupt people? 

“In a [face to face] meeting, you know when to interject, because you can see people's body language, and you can sense their tone, whereas it's all so much more stilted online.”

Creative collaboration: tools and strategies

If they’re going to thrive in 2021 and beyond, marketers need to be able to collaborate effectively – so they should ensure their voices are heard when businesses are considering the tools and strategies they’ll invest in.

Marketers need tools that facilitate great collaboration and help everyone across the team stay connected, while also providing clear visibility of what’s been achieved and what’s left to conquer. This will be especially crucial  in teams with both office-based and virtual members. 

When it comes to tools and tech, it’s vital to take user-friendliness into account, as marketers know all too well. Allow for the needs of teams from every department before planning any big rollouts.

Our marketing Voice in retail recommends:
“...listening from the bottom: what are the new things? Because these people [who] are using them, day-to-day, really know whether it's best. But not just changing reactively for anything that feels a little better... [and then] quarterly reviews… to evaluate what really needs to be changed or ... establish exactly what we need to use and what we don't.”

Of course, it’s also a matter of culture. There are many collaboration tools and solutions that can help, but a huge part of successful virtual collaboration is giving work management the time and consideration it deserves. Businesses that make a visible commitment to good work management (treating it as a priority like health and safety) will more likely see collaboration flourish. 

The future of marketing

None of us know what the future will look like – but whatever it holds, we have seen that disruption can damage our ability to do great, creative work. However, it’s also clear that organisations can thrive (and help individuals succeed, too) by prioritising collaboration and integrating good work management into your business culture. 

Whatever’s next, we also know the right technology solutions will make navigating change much easier. A specialist solution designed for real-time collaboration and/or work management can make a huge difference to your workflow, team efficiency and overall effectiveness. There’s no going back to the world of old – but making the new world better is certainly within our power. 

Ready for more thoughts from marketing business leaders about the future of digital transformation and work? View our latest report: European business leaders on what’s next for digital transformation