We're going to assume you already know what cross functional collaboration is, but if you don't, here's a primer✌️. Whether you find yourself in a pandemic, have a problem to solve, or are in search of inspiration, joining forces with team members from other departments is a sure way to booster cable your brain and kickstart your company's collective motor. We recently spoke with Antonio Molina, a seasoned SaaS marketer and Head of Marketing at Belgian scale-up, Qualifio. Companies like Nestlé, L’Oréal and Decathlon use Qualifio to run interactive marketing campaigns to gather data. In our chat with Antonio, we dove into the importance of driving cross-functional collaboration, OKRs and why they may be failing you, and ways to build a shared brain remotely.
Remote collaboration hasn't been an easy concept for all companies to grasp, especially those who aren't accustomed to working remotely. Luckily, the marketing team at Qualifio has always been remote, with people based across 4 offices in Europe. When asked his thoughts on the shift to remote work, Antonio stressed that the vast majority of technology companies were already working remotely prior to the pandemic even if they were in the same office. Antonio has worked in 3 European scale-ups, where the majority of communication already happened in tools like Slack and MS Teams.
For Qualifio, not a lot changed for them in terms of the physical shift to remote work or collaboration remotely between teams. If there were no changes there, I was curious to know whether there were any adjustments to other aspects of the way they worked at the onset of the pandemic. Antonio shared that in terms of their tools, not a lot had changed.
"The usage of “remote tools” is not new as you can see the price Salesforce just paid to acquire Slack. Even before the pandemic, all companies used these tools for communication and collaboration purposes."
Qualifio is a heavy user of software like Slack as a communication tool and Notion as a knowledge base. Their management team encourages the use of both, and their processes are closely linked to them. The tools they use to keep their teams in sync are vitally important.
Antonio likes to differentiate between software and the frameworks they use to encourage people to collaborate effectively. Within their cross functional collaboration framework, the dynamics to manage a meeting, empower employees and develop their talent, are all emphasized and as important as the software tools themselves.
"In the end, marketing teams must have an impact on the entire organization. The collaboration tools, both technological and conceptual, are essential in a company such as Qualifio."
At Qualifio, 'cross-functional and 'collaboration' are two keywords Antonio and his team integrate into everything they do.
"I'm passionate about marketing. And when you work in marketing, cross-functional and collaboration are words that should always be in your mindset. A well-fueled marketing team needs to collaborate with product, customer success, sales, c-level, HR… In my opinion, marketing teams should be the agent of change in a start-up or scale-up."
Bringing together a wide range of skills and knowledge from across the organization is vital to the growth and development of the company.
All departments need to be on the same page, meaning, aligned towards a common objective, and have the big picture in mind. This is one of the reasons why setting clear remote working objectives is essential.
"As I said, marketing and alignment is something that should be part of the same description. I ensure it with an always-on cross functional collaboration between teams with constant communication, documentation, recurrent meetings, end-to-end processes, etc."
In terms of running aligned and collaborative meetings, Antonio mentioned that he tries to avoid the 'meetnaping effect' by ensuring their meetings are planned ahead and they stick to a schedule. In a scale-up ecosystem, alignment is crucial in all aspects of your business, but so is ensuring your focus is set. When you are aligned on objectives and focused on how to work together to achieve them, following through with your processes becomes easier. And, when those processes need to change, just as they have during the pandemic, Antonio advises that companies KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid).
"The process needs to serve people and not the opposite. If you have a straightforward process focused on people, their experience should always be positive rather than negative, especially for creative teams like marketing. When the process and communication are clear and transparent, employees perform better and are happier."
"I try as a manager to always keep KPIs far away from vanity metrics that bring nothing to the business but demotivate people."
Antonio shared that from his career and experience he has mixed feelings about OKRs and thinks that it's just a fancy word sometimes misunderstood. For the successful implementation of OKRs, there needs to be a clear commitment from the top to the bottom and vice versa, which he shared, isn't always the case.
"If you spend some time talking with managers and employees about OKRs, they will tell you different stories. And, as I always state, it is all about people. If in a start-up or scale-up the process constrains talented people, it is not going to work. So I think OKRs are a good theory with too many difficulties to make it real."
At Qualifio, they track their performance and the projects by dividing them into three types of metrics (considering both quantitative and qualitative factors).
"Taking these three metrics: working in traffic and lead-intake would be the “owned metrics” for my team, but from a marketing management point of view I will track how many of these leads are converted into real opportunities (cooperation metric) and ultimately how much revenue represents."
The last metric is used when they evaluate the project and actions related to it. Antonio then uses the information gathered from this analysis to try to figure out where the inefficiencies are from a marketing perspective. He then uses the same approach for projects related to product launches, hiring, retention, cross-selling/upselling, etc. Apart from tracking OKRs and ensuring their remote teams are aligned on them, another key area of focus for Antonio's marketing team is how to build a shared brain remotely.
One of the biggest difficulties remote teams face is how to build and maintain a cohesive and shared brain; I was curious to dive into the challenges Qualifio has encountered and what's been working for their team to facilitate better brainstorming. Based on what he shared, it's clear that for their team, one of their cores to improving brainstorming lies in creating a strong connection among those they’re brainstorming with.
Antoine shared with us that the most significant difficulty he finds remote workers facing in terms of connection is that of reinforcing the bonds with their peers. He believes that many start-ups become successful because of their culture and their ability to maintain it even while their team is all remote, despite the fact that it is incredibly challenging. Reinforcing bonds within the team leads to a stronger shared brain. Ideas are generated when people interact with one another and like this, they tend to more easily be aware of problems that may arise and discover new insights along the way to help solve them.
"I work in marketing for a Martech company that, apart from technology, sells creativity and the idea that better marketing can be real, so we take ideas and brainstorming seriously. We know how important human interaction is for our culture and business, so we try harder to keep it up with cross-team initiatives, games, and challenges."
Through what they call 'Corona sessions', the entire company comes together to think about things they can develop that would make life easier for their customers and them during the pandemic. Antonio shared that although the results of these sessions were good, it was through the process of holding where they gathered the most insights. Through these Corona sessions, it was clear for them that for example, mixing a developer with an SDR and a designer could help the company develop not only their culture but their business too.
Apart from their Corona-sessions, Qualifio bonded employees by having the team share videos about them working from home. They encouraged their team to send funny videos about their life during the pandemic; the result surprised them.
"It became a creative game where people just wanted to have fun and share some good moments with their colleagues. I invite you to check it out. Creativity is a muscle and you can boost it in many ways. In the end, inspiration is what happens in the wrong situation to the right person, right?"
To read the rest of our interview with Antonio around Cross Functional Collaboration, async vs. sync for remote marketing teams, and how they manage to facilitate remote collaboration between teams, head over to Medium.