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In part one of our research series on digital transformation, Google’s Courtney Rose shows how simple organizational changes can help companies transform. Part two will explore the importance of the CMO and CFO relationship, and part three will focus on the next generation of digital leadership.

To stay competitive in today’s high-paced consumer market, companies must transform to be digital first. Even so, only 14% of businesses today are considered digital leaders.1 Why do so many lag behind? Because company heads mistakenly believe that digital transformation has to be an arduous, multiyear process that is solely reliant on technology.

Google recently partnered with Kantar to speak with Fortune 1000 company leaders and marketing professionals across industries, and we discovered that true digital transformation is less about technological tools and more about remodeling organizational structure. In our conversations, leaders from the most successful companies overwhelmingly emphasized the importance of two organizational changes. The first was establishing a team structure that fosters collaboration, and the second was investing in a flexible, experimental work environment.

2 organizational changes

Two organizational changes your company can make to further digital transformation: 1. Build a collaborative structure; 2. Invest in flexibility and experimentation

Build a collaborative structure

Collective strength, rather than individual talent, is now a defining feature of successful organizational leadership. What does this mean in practice? Companies that align their C-suites and boardrooms with teams across the business and focus on shared goals are better positioned for digital transformation. And leaders who bring this type of holistic approach to their businesses can more easily guide their teams in the same direction than leaders who juggle several distinct initiatives.2 According to one CMO we spoke with, “Digital transformation happens when you integrate a traditional team and a digital team together, and you function as one high-performing team as opposed to separate silos.”

Across business functions, we also found collaboration between marketing and finance leaders to be a key driver for digitally mature companies. A close relationship between the CMO and CFO is particularly valuable, because it builds strategic clarity and a harmonized leadership commitment.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that having the CMO and CFO in sync may not be enough on its own; close partnerships across the C-suite are vital. For example, 74% of marketers we surveyed said that the team who made day-to-day improvements included not only the CMO but also the CEO, chief digital officer, and head of marketing operations.3 This level of cross-collaboration can help accelerate growth as C-suite leaders align on the ways digital capabilities can support stronger business decisions and enable new opportunities for development.

Innovation happens when you empower people at every level of the organization to challenge the status quo.

Invest in flexibility and experimentation

Staying ahead of the digital curve sometimes requires changing course at a moment’s notice. And doing it successfully requires leaders who know when to pivot and who are open to experimenting with new strategies and solutions.

Executives we spoke to emphasized that embracing flexibility is one of the most important characteristics a team can have. Leaders who are ready and willing to adopt new strategies, test new processes, and evolve team structures can help their businesses find growth, even in periods of uncertainty.

We also heard that leaders who design their annual budgets to be flexible are better prepared to react to learnings throughout the year, rather than being locked into a business strategy based on what’s been done in the past. Leaders can easily reallocate investment toward strategic initiatives that best reflect current competitive market conditions, or they can revisit their budgets to add more funding if they have met or exceeded their goals.

Lastly, our research underscored how critical it is for leaders to set the tone throughout their organizations, to encourage experimentation and ongoing learning across marketing campaigns and broader programs, including structure and operations. Doing so helps amplify the impact of short- and long-term strategies and keeps teams aligned on goals and success metrics. As one executive from the B2B sector shared, “Innovation happens when you empower people at every level of the organization to challenge the status quo, to search for a better way of doing things, to search for a new solution.”

Discover how you can get your company on the route to digital readiness now.