Cross Functional Collaboration

Learn how cross functional collaboration can up-level your team production.

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In any organization, collaboration is an organic offshoot of having people work closely together in groups, especially if they have similar roles and functions.

However, there are instances in project management when teamwork across different departments is required in order to achieve a common goal.

When team members come from different business units and are armed with diverse functional capabilities and expertise, it lays the groundwork for cross functional collaboration.

Cross functional teams are usually created when a project requires effective collaboration among individuals with distinctive sets of skills and expertise that cut across different departments, from various levels of the organization.

Why is cross functional collaboration important?

Breaking down silos has always been a genuine concern in most organizations. When departments begin to segregate themselves and operate as autonomous bodies, collective progress and productivity can be greatly impeded.

The silo mentality keeps different parts of the company isolated, causing an inability to understand, communicate, or work well with other units. Left unchecked, it can negatively impact operations, bring down employee morale, and contribute to the imminent breakdown of company culture.

To be able to remain relevant, innovative, dynamic, and growth-oriented, organizations need to encourage their people to work across functional boundaries.

In today’s global pandemic crisis, work processes have become so disrupted that the only way a business can move forward is through successful cross-functional collaboration.

By encouraging specialists from various disciplines to join forces towards a single goal, cross functional collaboration opens the door for generating fresh ideas and deeper insights -- which in turn fuels the collective ability to spark innovation, create new knowledge, push boundaries, and gain a competitive advantage that is critical to profitable growth.

Cross functional collaboration also reinforces team spirit as it builds a sense of common purpose and strengthens unity within the organization.

Key success factors that have been identified to contribute to such successful collaborations include: strategic alignment between functions, a working environment that supports teamwork, regular communication among members, and team‐based accountability.

What are examples of cross-functional teams?

As mentioned earlier, cross-functional teams are composed of members from different business units who bring with them unique skill sets as they work together toward a common goal. In some cases, team members may also include subject matter experts or consultants from outside the organization.

Cross functional teams consist of people from different areas of service or operations, like human resources, marketing, sales, IT, customer relations, and so on. With today’s distributed workforce, it would not be surprising or unusual if some team members are working remotely.

In start-ups and small organizations where most employees are prone to multi-task, cross functional teams happen almost organically. For instance, it is not uncommon for marketing teams to join forces with sales teams or product development teams in brainstorming for PR and social media efforts. Even in a simple project, you can find representatives from the finance or purchasing departments teaming up with the creative teams to make sure project delivery is not only on-time but also within budget.

Bringing a cross functional perspective to project management has been proven to enhance problem‐solving capabilities, develop team collaboration and communication, heighten productivity and thus, increase levels of client satisfaction.

Why do cross-functional teams fail?

While the concept behind cross functional collaboration is generally perceived as positive, its actual implementation does not always guarantee success. For cross- functional teams to thrive, management also has to do its share by setting clear and specific goals, providing leadership and guidance, and investing in the proper tools that will help team members perform more efficiently.

Unfortunately, studies show that many organizations are not prepared to sustain cross-functional teams. According to the Harvard Business Review, 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional, because siloes tend to perpetuate themselves even when people are brought together to work as a team.

Does this mean that cross-functional teams are a waste of time and should be rejected? Not necessarily. But first, we have to examine the most common reasons why cross-functional teams fail.

Now, imagine what a "game-changer" it would be if you had a resource management forecasting software that could:
  • Misaligned goals and priorities
  • Distrust and low confidence level among team members
  • Fear of conflict due to differences in opinions or working styles
  • Lack of commitment to the team or avoidance of accountability
  • Absence of a strong, unifying leadership
  • Lack of communication among team members
  • Failure to see the "big picture" by becoming overly focused on individual tasks
  • Absence of a standard, integrated technology that can systematize processes and make information accessible to all team members.

6 Tips for making cross functional collaboration work

Creating an environment that is more supportive of cross-functional teams requires improvements in leadership, management, and communication skills across the organization.

Aside from breaking silos and pushing boundaries, encouraging teamwork across functions also elevates the company culture and promotes more vibrant relationships in the workplace.

Here are six tips for making cross functional collaboration work:
  • 1. Assemble your team with care and allow for diversity among members. Make sure everyone understands their respective roles. Assign a team leader or coordinator.
  • 2. Set clearly defined goals, priorities, and project outcomes. Verify that everyone is aligned and on the same page.
  • 3. Encourage team communication and interaction.
  • 4. Use technology to stay on top of things in real time and limit the number of meetings. Follow a strict agenda and use time wisely.
  • 5. Pass on key performance indicators and metrics with the team to see how their efforts are contributing to the project. Share your success with all the members and use positive reinforcement whenever possible.
  • 6. Standardize your processes with the appropriate collaboration tools in order to remain well-coordinated throughout the entire project lifecycle.

How Work Coordination Software (WCS) can improve collaboration

The job of keeping your cross-functional teams informed, efficient, and synchronized at all times is made easier by leveraging professional services software solutions with enhanced features, such as Mavenlink. With projects, financials, collaboration, resource management, and business intelligence in a single platform, teams using Mavenlink are able to connect, collaborate, execute, and thrive like never before.

Cross-functional teams can stay aligned and connected on both individual and company-wide levels using Work Coordination Software (WCS), a comprehensive tool which provides them with an internal social network, a project management platform, and other business applications -- all in one place.

With Work Coordination Software, you can manage practically all aspects of your projects, business processes, resources, communication, reporting, data, technologies, and integrations, among others. This centralized feature helps tremendously in improving team performance for faster project turnaround and increased profitability, and enables greater visibility for stakeholders.

Professional services organizations will find that there are major advantages to using Work Coordination Software for their cross-functional collaborative work.

The top five benefits of using WCS include:

1. Increased inclusion and visibility

WCS enables and simplifies real time collaboration and communication among internal and external stakeholders from all areas of the organization, increasing a sense of belonging and improving visibility among team members.

Customers, employees, vendors, managers, and cross-functional teams are able to connect with a single source of data, a shared vision, and a central hub for real time interaction that promotes more active participation.

2. Improved data transfer, centralization, and integrity

With WCS, tools and applications are seamlessly connected, allowing data to move quickly and accurately from one system to the other without loss or misinterpretation. This improves the integrity of data transfer, making trusted information accessible to all participants and functional areas as needed.

Data integrity gives project managers and stakeholders more confidence when working, planning, and sharing financial and operational results. Centralization enables organizations to establish stable and consistent processes and workflows, instead of dealing with disconnected silos.

3. Increased transparency

In cross functional collaboration, transparency between departments, as well as between management and employees, is essential for inspiring cooperation and improving organizational culture. Having access to the same data enables different functions and business units to collaborate in real-time. And with increased transparency, team members are able to better understand their roles – not only in a particular project but more importantly, within the company.

4. Higher productivity levels

When team members are accessing and working with the same information, it increases confidence and makes it easier for everyone to be on the same page. Tasks are accomplished faster and with better quality. As a result of increased productivity, project-based and operational goals stand a greater chance of being achieved.

5. Increased chances for innovation

By eliminating silos and centralizing information, WCS can effectively reduce confusion around data and increase confidence in the quality and accuracy of information being shared by the team. This paves the way for discovering more creative and effective ways to satisfy both new and existing client needs.

Investing in a powerful Work Coordination Software can be a game-changing decision that will help take your business to the next level. The key is in understanding your company’s current and future needs, then selecting the right solution that will propel you towards your desired direction.

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