How to improve cross-functional collaboration among teams

Cross functional collaboration is integral to the success of any business, and this statement couldn’t be more true in today’s era of remote work and distributed teams. A high level of synergy between different departments is the only way to guarantee a high level output and sustained progress towards achieving your business goals.

Consider the turnaround time and approval process bottlenecks your organization might face in the following situations: 

  • Marketing teams requiring creatives from the design teams
  • Working with multiple agencies to achieve business goals
  • Back and forth with clients to provide deliverables

We’ve all been there, right? These are processes that always have scope for improvement, and by the end of this article we hope to arm you with a better understanding of actions you can take immediately to solve such challenges. 

Besides optimizing your workflows, cross functional collaboration opens up doors to new ideas and fosters a community like atmosphere between different departments. Your marketing team might have valuable insights on improving your sales funnel, and similarly your sales team would be able to provide recommendations on content to create in order to attract relevant customers. The benefits of working as a team are obvious and well established, but the more synergy you can develop while working with multiple departments, the better positioned you will be to grow and succeed with your business endeavours.

In this blog post, we will be sharing best practices for improving collaboration among remote employees, along with highlighting problems that business leaders face when it comes to cross functional collaboration.

What is cross-functional collaboration?

Cross-functional collaboration is the process where individuals with different areas of expertise come together to work on a common goal. 

Every business will have some degree of cross-functional collaboration, no matter how big or small. In order to grow, employees with different areas of expertise must collaborate to solve difficult problems.

Cross-functional collaboration challenges faced by business leaders today 

Overseeing a team is not an easy task, especially during times of crisis such as COVID-19. Your employees will likely all have different personalities, seniority, and soft skills. 

When it comes to cross-functional teams, this gets amplified since team members will also have wildly different job functions. For example, if you are building a roadmap for your product development over the next 6 months, it is likely that you will need a high degree of collaboration between your marketing, sales, design and product teams to see it come to fruition. 

Let us take a look at major challenges faced by business leaders who manage cross-functional teams:

  1. Managing teams remotely

Remote work is now the norm due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and while managing virtual teams is a whole challenge of its own, the byproduct of remote working is that it has made cross functional collaboration harder to execute.

According to a report by Slack, one of the most common problems faced by SME’s is optimizing productivity for complex projects that require expertise from different departments.

In other words, intra-department tasks are straightforward to plan for. But when you have multiple different moving parts in your machine, getting them all to work in cohesion is difficult. 

  1. Keeping up with various different tools used by teams

Marketing, sales, engineering and customer success teams all use a plethora of unique tools for their job functions. While a marketing team might use a content management system, a sales team would use a CRM and a software development team might use completely different platforms for documentation such as GitBook. It is often a challenge to stay up to date with all these different tools without getting overwhelmed.

  1. Design bottlenecks in business workflows 

Long turnaround and approval times have always been a pain point, but with remote work this inefficiency has been amplified as well. When you are dealing with multiple stakeholders and have to oversee the production of countless media files in various formats there is bound to be a high likelihood of redundancy and error (unless you have the aid of tools like digital asset management software)

How you can improve cross-functional collaboration to meet your business goals 

Centralize your project management

If we could pick just one tool that would have the maximum impact in improving cross-functional collaboration, it would have to be a centralized project management software

For stakeholders and business managers, this would give you the ability to oversee progress throughout the entire project lifecycle. You would also have the ability to make approvals and leave feedback in the platform itself.

For designers and developers, this platform would not only allow you to generate media assets at scale, you would also have other benefits like ensuring all digital assets are tagged, on-brand, easy to retrieve, sorted according to personalized filters and more. 

Finally, marketing teams can deploy these creatives straight from the platform thanks to multiple integrations. Role based access makes it possible to provide different levels of permissions based on the user – this means you can collaborate with external agencies or clients to get their approval much faster than you could by using traditional means.

Automate your workflows 

Workflow automation is a powerful tool to help aid collaboration among different teams. You have the ability to configure custom workflows, share them with all involved teams and they can focus on their specific function. This leads to shorter campaign execution times, since there is less back and forth between teams. By automating mundane tasks you free up time and also give each team member clear responsibilities so that they can just focus on their tasks without worrying about other things.

Build trust and transparency

It is very likely that some teams will have dependencies on other teams. For example, if your marketing team has plans to improve their page loading speed for boosting SEO rankings, you might need the help of a software engineer to help with removing scripts or unnecessary HTML elements. However, engineering teams would have to handle their own processes concurrently as well. In such situations, if both teams cannot develop mutual understanding or help each other with their goals your business will never succeed.

Fostering healthy relationships between teammates is an overlooked aspect of cross-functional collaboration, and constant activities to promote such an environment is essential.

4 Benefits of Effective Cross-Functional Collaboration

There are major benefits to developing a robust collaboration system. Besides the obvious improvements in campaign execution and streamlining business workflows discussed earlier, here are some overlooked benefits that will help your company grow holistically.

  1. Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge sharing is incredibly important for your business, since it improves the skillset of your employees and facilitates sharing of ideas from different perspectives.

  1. Synergy

The output of your team as a whole is undoubtedly greater than the sum of its individual parts. Cross-functional collaboration allows you to simply achieve more because you will be less likely to make oversights or errors. 

  1. Innovation

As mentioned previously, innovation and creativity is greatly enhanced when you have people of different backgrounds coming together to solve problems. Tech giant Google has specifically designed workspaces (both physical and virtual) to allow diversity and cross-functional collaboration.

  1. Team spirit and employee engagement

By developing a sense of inclusivity and allowing team members to feel like they are a part of something bigger than simply fulfilling their tasks, you will create a positive atmosphere within your organization.

Conclusion

Managing multiple teams and fostering an environment for effective cross functional collaboration is considered a Herculean task – but it doesn’t have to be. Using the help of project management tools and making changes to your workflows, you can make significant growth in this aspect of your business. 

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