Cross-Functional Collaboration: Marketing and Data Sharing Goals

In the latest installment of the Data Unlocked Podcast, Jason Davis, Simon Data’s co-founder and CEO, connects with Mayur Gupta, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at the USA Today Network. They discussed the intersection of technology and storytelling- how businesses can use data to disrupt markets. However, in order to see the best results, there needs to be buy-in from both technical and non-technical roles. But how do you get both to work together harmoniously? We’re breaking down how Gupta uses shared OKRs, cross-functional collaboration, and data-driven creativity for powerful marketing outcomes. 


Shared Goals and Objectives

Oftentimes, marketing has to work with other teams to accomplish their goals. However, this collaboration doesn’t always go smoothly. 

In a study commissioned by Forrester Consulting, we found that a lack of collaboration leads to missed opportunities. In that study, 95% of respondents have experienced negative business impacts as a result of the marketing and strategy challenges. These challenges include missed opportunities, decreased customer satisfaction, missed strategic growth opportunities, increased costs, and lowered engagement. Organizations need to close these collaboration gaps.


How is marketings cross-functional collaboration with other teams?


The dream is teams working together harmoniously to reach shared goals. In reality, every team has its own goals – and they’re mostly unrelated. Even if they are willing to help coworkers, time and focus is taken away from their main goals. This leads to collaborative efforts taking a back seat to individual priorities. One way to enable effective cross-functional collaboration is by ensuring that both teams have individual KPIs that feed into a shared OKR. Using cross-functional pods with a joint OKR invests disparate teams in a common goal, which ultimately leads to frictionless collaborative work. 


“The idea is that we strongly believe that the big rocks are going to be moved when our cross-functional powerhouses come together. They have very tangibly defined key results in OKRs. We look at those monthly and quarterly. And you check-in and tell us, and it all ladders up to a company OKR, which is, again, all of this is a whole new rhythm, as part of our evolution as a company. “

Mayur Gupta


Setting joint goals via shared OKRs is a good first step in fostering collaboration between teams. But how do you foster true collaboration that combines intuition and technical prowess for the best outcomes?

True Cross-Functional Collaboration

Gupta is a believer in the philosophy that for true cross-functional collaboration, getting people thinking about not only the what, but the why, is key. 

Often, the question tends to be “what are we doing” or “what should we be doing.” However, Gupta challenges teams to instead ask “why are we doing”. Based on that answer, is there a better solution that leads us to this outcome? Gupta provokes these thoughts from his team by having the cross-functional pods meet monthly to talk about the data. Having members of all teams involved in the decision-making process helps people buy into monthly, quarterly, or yearly goals. 

He insists that while reports are important, the core pods should slice and dice the data daily. Team members should be living and breathing analysis in their day-to-day. Honing analytical skills takes practice and upkeep, and keeping that brainpower within a closed system can take your business to the next level. 


“Every month, there’s a data read-out for the entire company. It’s a hardcore insight session, where we’re just talking about what we learned in the last 4 weeks. What trends are we seeing? Why do we think that is happening? The focus is on the ‘what’ – but more importantly, on the ‘why we believe it could be happening. It leads to a lot of great questions.”

-Mayur Gupta


So, while we’ve covered the importance of data transparency and analytical skills, there’s still a missing key factor. When your company is data-empowered and collaborating efficiently, how do you maintain curiosity and creativity around that data?

Data Inspired Over Data Dependent

Business leaders are firm on the idea that data is a powerful enabler, but it’s not an end-all solution. Data isn’t creative, data isn’t intuitive, and it can’t always tell you what your next steps should be. 


“There’s a tendency to become data-dependent, where you become paralyzed until the data shows you the path forward. That’s a very dangerous place to be in for a company because data gives you a lot of false positives.”

-Mayur Gupta


If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a point that we’ve heard on the Data Unlocked Podcast before. In a previous episode, Colin Zima, Chief Analytics Officer and VP of Strategy at Looker said that “while data science can solve complex problems in a vacuum, people can consider variable situations.” 

Gupta explains that he challenges himself and his team – “don’t lose serendipity, don’t lose common sense and irrationality of decision-making.” Basically, don’t get lost in the numbers. Data can do a lot, but if the numbers aren’t adding up, take a step back and open up the problem to a larger team. Test your data. Run experiments. Try things that you don’t think will work. Enable your org to do things that your data can’t.  Ultimately, their intuition and collective experiences are who’s driving measurable results – not the numbers. 

Data Democratization

Overall, the best possible way to make sure everyone is aligned and empowered to make data-informed (not dependent) decisions is to have a centralized data hub. A data hub consolidates and stores all company data in one location – where everyone can access it. Simon Data’s CDP is one such hub. CDPs also help cross-functional collaboration by letting everyone see the data and allowing data manipulation by people in non-technical roles. Instead of waiting for data teams to create segments for marketing campaigns, marketers can personally create segments while still relying on technical teams to interpret and analyze the resulting data. 

Data and metrics should always be at the center of a company’s goals and objectives. However, knowing how to make the data work across the entire organization isn’t always easy. By aligning all teams around shared OKRs, you can increase efficiency and collaboration, but making data accessible to all teams offers the greatest amount of transparency and understanding all around.  To learn more about what a CDP can do for your company, watch our video on the 5 Secret Powers of a CDP


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