Collaborative Acumen and the CMO

Presented by Demetra Anagnostopoulos

Increased business acumen is an important component of any strategic initiative for developing leaders — i.e., the specific literacy around business fundamentals and the key functions of an organization that drive business results. Lately, I've been thinking that there's a parallel to business acumen that's equally important for achieving strong results. Let’s call that "collaborative acumen."


When we think of business acumen, it's clearly not just about individual spreadsheets and analytics. It's about being able to see a business or enterprise as a living, breathing system. It’s understanding not just each piece of the business, but the interrelationships between the pieces, and therefore, appreciating how true value and strategic intent can be accomplished through those elements.

Collaborative acumen is a similar capability on the human side of the equation. What is the best way for people to be involved? How do we influence across an organization, or with those outside of the organization, with whom we have no direct-reporting or authority relationships? The ability to set up, manage, engage, and build ownership from stakeholders for any given project — this is what collaborative acumen is all about.

Collaborative acumen was very much on my mind when I appeared as a guest of the online interview program CMO Advantage (linked below). I was invited to talk about the human side of collaboration and, specifically, how collaboration affects marketing. Like Finance, Operations, IT, and Human Resources, Marketing is a function that must collaborate with every sector of the company — not to mention with internal and external customers. To complicate matters further, Marketing often must interface with supply chain partners, distributors, franchisees, and others. Yet, in many marketing functions, we think exclusively about analytics, data crunching, competitive intelligence, and the branding, messaging, and positioning of an organization, and its products and services. With all that on our plates, we may neglect to fully consider the key stakeholders who need to be involved, and determine how they should be involved, in order to drive smart decision-making and implementation.

This brings me to the concept of collaborative acumen for marketing executives. Unfortunately, we can see the impact of a lack of collaborative acumen in marketing all the time. Do any of these look familiar?

  • Product launches gone awry because whole groups of stakeholders were left out of the process.
  • Projects that get killed two-thirds of the way to completion because a key decision-maker pulls the plug.
  • Getting blind-sided by the competition because a key customer need was overlooked or ignored.
  • Rebranding a product without having full alignment from sales to support it on the front line.

The list goes on. Anyone who is currently leading a marketing function in any organization undoubtedly has lived through at least one of these scenarios.

My aim in the CMO segment that follows is to provide some really practical frameworks, skills, tools and strategies that any marketing professional can use to build a great team, and drive stakeholder voice into the conversation. With that in mind, you aren't easily blindsided, and you increase the return on any initiative because of your ability to drive involvement through collaborative acumen.