As CMOs focus on leading marketing through the next wave of disruption, Gartner says there are three priorities they must keep top of mind for 2024 – building AI-enabled marketing teams; recasting marketing’s value for an evolving enterprise; and orchestrating profitable growth across functions.

“Companies’ pursuit of digital initiatives designed to harness disruptive new technologies and unlock growth have made marketing ‘ground zero’ for cross-functional collaboration,” says Ewan McIntyre, chief of research and vice-president analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice. “With a wave of major disruptions apparent in the year ahead, CMOs must have a sense of urgency to ride this wave by utilising emerging technologies and helping to orchestrate profitable growth across functions – or risk being swamped by it.”

Build AI-enabled marketing teams

With executive leaders exploring emerging technologies such as generative AI (GenAI) and other commercially-critical innovations, CMOs must transform their organisations and augment marketer skills with new tools to execute the highest-leverage work.

With GenAI skills still in their infancy heading into 2024, CMOs risk prioritising the wrong mix of abilities as they continue to emphasise “hard” data skills such as coding more so than “soft” data skills such as analytical thinking.

A Gartner survey of 407 cross-functional leaders (including 329 marketing leaders) conducted in July and August 2023 found that only 8% of cross-functional leaders report that they aren’t planning to use GenAI for the initiative – and 73% are currently piloting or using GenAI. With this pivot in plans also comes a pivot in team structure.

“With the introduction of GenAI, CMOs’ talent plans are at a crossroads; they must look to adapt and realign roles, or risk teams becoming obsolete,” says Sharon Cantor Ceurvorst, vice-president, research in the Gartner Marketing practice. “If the latter were to occur CMOs risk losing influence over those plans. In anticipation of this, they must have an answer that blends the best of both technology and human capabilities.”

Recast marketing’s value for an evolving enterprise

Although marketing takes part in three out of five digital growth initiatives, over 40% of non-marketing collaborators agree that marketing gets involved where marketing is not needed.

“As marketing continues to lose ownership of marketing technology activities such as technology acquisition, configuration and management, marketing leaders must adjust before the power dynamic is permanently shifted,” says McIntyre. “CMOs must leverage their skills to communicate a vision of the power of customer engagement strategies to support long-term growth.”

As companies rethink their business models in light of tech disruption, CMOs need to focus on how marketing delivers value by building business-wide alignment on new customer growth strategies:

Connection to enterprise strategy – how marketing contributes to guiding and executing on top-level strategic priorities through business evolution narratives.

Critical-project impact – how marketing scopes its involvement in high-profile, cross-functional business initiatives to energise leaders around shared goals and demonstrably accelerate transformation.

Empowering Others – how marketing scales its impact by helping other leaders understand their role and how to best deliver combined customer impact.

“CMOs must apply their strategic influence to scale marketing’s commercial impact and drive profitability,” says Cantor Ceurvorst. “Because no function drives growth in isolation, CMOs must help guide the enterprise toward a new era of collaborative customer success via a compelling and clearly understood strategic narrative.”

Orchestrate profitable growth across functions

While marketers spend 17% more of their time collaborating on cross-functional initiatives than non-marketers do, cross-functional complexity is holding back the pursuit of growth opportunities. Seventy-nine percent of cross-functional leaders experience high collaboration drag on digital growth initiatives, leading them to be 37% less likely to exceed revenue and profitability objectives when compared to their low collaboration drag counterparts.

“Just under one-third of CMOs take an empowering posture toward cross-functional execution – where teams make decisions with guidance, but not control, from senior executives,” says Cantor Ceurvorst. “These teams are much more likely to exceed their business objectives.

“Our survey data shows that progress on this journey won’t necessarily be stymied by technology, but by people getting in their own way. What’s required is a new form of collaboration that cascades productively across teams.”