Creative and IT Collaboration On The Rise

Research Reveals Common Cross-Departmental Communication Challenges

As marketing becomes increasingly dependent on technology, creative and information technology (IT) teams are crossing paths more often. Research from The Creative Group and Robert Half Technology underscores this trend: More than half (55 percent) of advertising and marketing executives interviewed said they are collaborating more closely with technology leaders within their company compared to three years ago. One-third (33 percent) of chief information officers (CIOs) reported the same of their marketing counterparts.

But barriers to effective partnering persist. When asked to name the number-one challenge for creative and IT teams when collaborating, the top response among advertising and marketing executives and CIOs was communication. Project logistics and IT-related challenges also are significant barriers, according to both sets of respondents.

Advertising and marketing executives were asked, “Compared to three years ago, how closely are you collaborating with technology leaders within your company?” Their responses:

Much more closely 30%
Somewhat more closely 25%
The same amount 39%
Somewhat less closely 3%
Much less closely 0%
Does not apply (no technology leaders) 1%
Don’t know    1%

CIOs were asked, “Compared to three years ago, how closely are you collaborating with creative/marketing leaders within your company?” Their responses:

Much more closely 12%
Somewhat more closely 21%
The same amount 37%
Somewhat less closely 3%
Much less closely 2%
Does not apply (no creative/marketing leaders) 23%
Don’t know    1%

*Responses do not total 100 percent due to rounding.

View an infographic featuring the research results.

“Technology’s increased role in customer acquisition and other marketing-related functions is one factor prompting higher levels of collaboration between IT and creative departments,” said John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology. “Poor communication between groups doesn’t just lead to discord and decreased productivity; it can also undermine a company’s ability to innovate.”

“The success of an organization’s digital strategy and initiatives is dependent on a strong partnership between creative and IT colleagues,” added Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group. “It’s imperative for business leaders to encourage teamwork and ongoing dialogue between the two groups, especially since there is so much crossover in key roles, such as user experience professionals, web designers and mobile application developers.”

The Creative Group and Robert Half Technology offer five tips to help creative and IT teams overcome common collaboration barriers:

  1. Form cross-functional teams around a central goal. While resources may come from different departments, creating one work group to tackle a particular project, like a website redesign, can help improve collaboration and eliminate an “us versus them” mentality. Once established, make sure objectives are clearly defined and communicated at the onset.
  2. Make time to meet and use that time effectively. Creative and IT leaders reported that scheduling in-person meetings is difficult given heavy workloads. However, carving out an hour or two to discuss projects can save valuable time and prevent miscommunication down the road.
  3. Check jargon at the door. Workplace and departmental lingo can help colleagues communicate ideas more quickly, but excessive use can cause people to lose interest and tune out if it’s unfamiliar to them. Throw in technical terminology and buzzwords like “IoT” and “growth hacking” and the dialogue will only go downhill. Explain concepts in terms the audience will understand and use concrete examples when doing so.
  4. Encourage constructive criticism. Creative and IT executives said providing feedback to their counterparts is challenging because it’s often not well-received. Empathy can help pave the path toward more productive conversations throughout the duration of a project and at post-mortem meetings. Teams must also clarify the time and resources that go into an initiative: A seemingly simple task may include behind-the-scenes complexity.
  5. Resolve conflicts quickly. When miscommunication leads to frustration, tempers can flare, especially when creative and IT personnel are under pressure. Addressing cross-team discord swiftly can go a long way toward maintaining momentum and building morale.

About the Research
The surveys were developed by The Creative Group and Robert Half Technology, and conducted by an independent research firm. They include responses from 400 U.S. advertising and marketing executives and more than 2,400 CIOs from U.S. companies with 100 or more employees in 24 metropolitan areas.

About The Creative Group and Robert Half Technology
Both The Creative Group ( and Robert Half Technology ( are divisions of Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm and a recognized leader in professional staffing services. For more career and management advice, visit the TCG blog at and the Robert Half Technology blog at