Ascribing roles and responsibilities has never been trickier for businesses. Siloes are (quite rightly) being removed, teams are adopting and developing new skills, blurring the boundaries between traditionally separate departments, while technology continues to be deeply embedded across operations. Jamie Matthews breaks down the key issues, but not into silos.

No matter the size, industry or culture, the greatest challenge uniting all businesses today is change. Whether it’s an FMCG brand’s product portfolio or an agency’s strategic offering, businesses are having to adapt to meet the evolving and increasing demands of the connected customer. Customers want more, they want it now, and they want it in every size and colour. This is something we experience daily at Initials, as we seek to create richer, all-encompassing solutions for brands. How do we create incredible consumer campaigns that work across more channels? How do we incorporate cutting-edge technology to make those experiences even better? Who else do we need to have on board to make it happen? Like all businesses, we need to challenge ourselves every single day to ensure we remain effective, relevant and at the forefront of innovation.

To navigate this rapidly changing consumer landscape, senior decision makers need to evolve. They need to be agile, they need to be technologically-minded, they need to be able to see things holistically. For no one is this truer than the chief marketing officer (CMO).

CMOs are facing unprecedented existential challenges. The most notable shift is that their role now encompasses two complementary and essential strands: innovation and growth. Historically, these were the remits of the technology and new business teams, respectively. Today, they are so intertwined that an entirely new model for the marketing function is needed. Consider Coca-Cola’s recent restructure, which divides marketing responsibilities between the newly-created position of Chief Growth Office, with a separate spot for Chief Innovation Officer. For Coca-Cola to keep up with the pace of change, it had to recognise that the responsibilities that would normally befall a traditional CMO are too vast and complicated to be managed by one individual.

For many businesses, however, new hires would not be an option. But how to cope? As well as a growing number of channels – from traditional print and TV, to online, social media, AR and VR – the modern CMO must now manage vast databases. What we are seeing is that CMOs are leveraging this data, becoming more growth-orientated and analysis-led (something of a necessity in an age when measurement of ROI is both a key indicator of success and data dependent).

What is more, where previously the CMO relied on two agency partners – advertising and media – today they must keep a multitude of different specialists on speed dial. But whilst their unique expertise can introduce data, technology and channel savviness to the creative conversation, the management responsibilities can be dizzying. Then there is the broader challenge of ensuring everything ladders up to the bigger business agenda.

Therefore, to be successful, CMOs of the future need to be great conversationalists. They need to encourage collaboration, seek out the best tools and technologies that can deliver unique and relevant customer experiences, while ensuring the entire business, and every partner, is on board with the direction the brand is going in. On-trend and on-budget analysis, combined with insight, will be necessary to navigate the best route to successful outcomes.

New and productive top-to-top partnerships will need to move away from the idea of “bought in” creativity and strategy. Instead, agency leads must be allowed to share in the bigger picture vision. The good news is that the best agencies are already planning for this, mapping out the blueprint for a strategy-focused future. For partnerships to be successful, CMOs must encourage agencies to share proactive, innovative ideas, provide counsel, and give them the confidence – and the permission – to challenge the client brief.

Businesses are needing to adapt to a change in customer mentality, and the CMO is in pole position to lead the charge. However, where once they looked outwards, blinkered by a laser focus on the consumer, they now need to be more inward-facing, working to join dots internally across the business. How they work with agencies must also evolve, creating opportunities for conversation, while allowing agencies to make themselves indispensable. Collaboration has never been more critical.

Jamie Matthews is the CEO at Initials