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Cross-functional Teams: The Future Of Corporate Teamwork

Cross-functional Teams
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Individual talents get magnified many times over through the collective lens of an effective team.” – Dalal Haldeman

It takes a number of professionals with expertise to successfully execute a project to its completion. Many times individuals have excellent skills and prowess in their fields yet they fail to deliver because they do not know how to work with a team. 

As per a recent report generated by PGI.com effective workplace collaboration can increase successful innovation by upto 15%. Constructive teamwork lends a great perspective to a project, increases competence, and consequently enhances productivity. In recent years, the concept of cross-functional teams has become more commonplace and is being chosen by top-tier organizations for effectively managing and completing projects.

What Is A Cross-Functional Team?

In the simplest terms, a Cross-Functional Team is a work group consisting of employees from various backgrounds and areas of expertise who collaborate to work on a common project. It includes professionals from various functional areas of an organization as well as from outside with relevant experience in their respective fields. 

In order to impart creativity and new ideas to a project, organizations opt for cross-functional governance consisting of several functional teams and groups separated by distinctions of departments or even organization, and work towards achieving a common goal. Even though members are separated by functional boundaries and sub teams, they must work in cohesion and collaboration and ensure their goal is achieved. 

In an organization there are several different teams such as Marketing, Writing, Software Development, Sales, Accounting, Customer Service, so on and so forth. Every team is focused on a different vertical special to them, and are expected to excel in its job. In certain cases cross-functional teams are more fluid and include clients as well as stakeholders within them as well. 

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Experts believe that cross-functional teams include multidisciplinary professionals who bring creativity and fresh ideas to projects. It also promotes a collaborative culture of work and is known to maximize resources as each member imparts their own unique perspective. Instead of each team working independently, a collective effort is known to generate effective results These teams lay emphasis on communication and partnership rather than individual roles and therefore, are known to be better than traditional hierarchical structures of working.

Cross-functional teams are best known to optimize resources in comparison to normal teams where work flows in a regular succession. Many times in an organization employees are  underutilized and some quite the opposite, cross-functional teams on the other hand are known to promote 100% utilization of all operational forces. This is exactly why cross-functional teams are the future of organizational teamwork as they present a fresh take on enhancing productivity through different professionals coming together. 

Why Cross-Functional Teams Are Important?

This is an important question. Cross-functional teams have proven to be an asset for organizations hence, their widespread demand. When we think of why cross-functional teams are important, countless reasons come to mind. To paint a clearer picture of why cross functional teams are key, a list of factors have been listed below:

  • Improved Communication 

Communication is the mainspring of the success of an organization, the glue that keeps it intact. According to recent collaboration statistics, only 5.9% professionals in organizations communicate their work goals on an everyday basis. This is where cross-functional teamwork plays a major role. When professionals with ample knowledge of their domain come together they are required to work individually yet communicate functionally to ensure the success of their project. 

 As per the communication statistics 2020 almost 96% professionals feel that the organizations they deal with can improve significantly when it comes to communicating. This is where cross-functional communication proves beneficial. Unlike other teams, communication in cross functional teams is not just from the top down but amongst team members at every level of the project. Members from different verticals of a project take insights from one another on each step and work with everyone’s collective opinions.

  • Boost Innovation

In today’s world, creativity and mass appeal is key for the success of a project. Cross-functional teams are known to augment innovation as experts from different areas lend their vision to the success of a common project. Every individual brings experience and ideas to the table, and the best ones can be filtered out to generate the best results. 

When members with complementary skills begin working together they promote communication and collaboration while adding the much needed inventiveness to a project. Cross-functional teams lend an assortment of perspectives to a task which boost innovation and thus, improve overall performance.

  • Enhance Productivity

When working together it is essential that members give their 100% and do not slack. Cross-functional teamwork does not progress in the regular pecking order, rather they work in customized workflows with everyone working individually yet cohesively. Professionals working on what they know best with well-rounded inputs from others are generally more productive than traditional corporate teams. Experts believe that cross-functional collaboration brings diversity to an organization and helps keep the goals aligned. 

This  and that gives members more time to finish their work perfectly. Even though such teams are not devoid of a leader, there is room for individuals to work on their own and be productive.

  • Learning New Skills

Another upside to working with various professionals in a cross-functional team is that they get ample information about each other’s fields. This helps then understand the project better at every stage and deliver accordingly. From iterating on ideas quicker to understanding what your colleagues want out of you, cross functional-teams allow transfer of knowledge.

For example a marketing professional can learn about what the content team is looking for and learn about it likewise content team can work in cohesion with the development team to prepare content as per their requirements. This gives each person an insight into what other members do and value their work as well.

How do cross-functional teams work?

In layman’s language cross-functional teams are created when multiple experts from their fields come together to successfully execute a project to its fulfilment. The presence of professionals from different backgrounds makes working a wonderful experience while also being able to generate great results. 

Most teams work around their own forte, the marketing team focuses on promoting their product, sales professionals want to boost up their sales, and the accounting team keeps a track of the finances. The working of a cross-functional team might not occur hierarchy but that in no way means that it is not organised and well-structured.

  • The first step is assembling a group of highly trained professionals who bring with themselves experience and knowledge to a project and are also capable of working in a team. 
  • While there are no leadership structures in a cross-functional team, there is a requirement of a supervising force that can hold the team accountable and monitor the output. 
  • The objectives and upshot of a project must be clearly understood, as well as what is required of a person individually. 
  • The members of a team must also comprehend what stakeholders are expecting and must stir in the similar direction. Stakeholders must get ample representation in the team and their needs should be deemed important.
  •  Furthermore, all teams must work in cohesion on their individual targets while also communicating effectively with each other at every stage. 
  • Members must quit relying on regular meetings and must embrace project management and collaboration software like ProofHub as mentioned above. ProofHub helps teams allocate and manage work while also helping stay on top of deadlines.
  • It is imperative that members of cross-functional teams undergo conflict resolution training and must learn to develop consensus to ensure effective results. 
  • Value must be placed on the skill and role of every team member rather than giving them an upper hand based on the baggage of their past experience and position.
  • The Human resource department must also be involved in the training and development process keeping the dynamics of the team in mind at every step.

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Example of Cross-Functional Collaboration

By now we are well-versed with what cross-functional teams are and how they help in maximizing productivity in an organization. If the readers put two and two together they can easily understand the functioning, but to impart clarity here is an example of a cross-functional team.

  • Product Development Team

A cross-functional team designed for product development encompasses several sub-divisions with experts from various backgrounds. The focus in such a team will be on the diversity of talent from multifarious fields. Professionals from the following areas of work will work in cross-functional product development team:

  • Research and development – Professionals from this section work on brainstorming ideas related to the scope of the product, its market requirements, assessing customer problems, presenting a solution, and lend a perspective to the individuals who are supposed to develop an idea. The information about a product and its profitability or loss is evaluated by the R&D team and they constantly work with the idea screening and concept developing team and get their inputs. 
  • Idea screening – Successful product development depends on selecting an idea with the maximum possibility of success and potential for the future. Professionals from this department regularly communicate with research persons and gain their opinion while also using their skills. In this stage professionals work collaboratively with technical resource specialists, market analysts, and developers. Their opinion is greatly valued and they are consulted throughout the process of ideation.
  • Concept development & testing – Generating a concept, building a detailed version of it, and carefully employing the research done is very important. As per CBI Insights, “17% of startup ideas fail just because it was a poor product.” This highlights the importance of evaluating the proposition and screening the idea before finalizing on something and creating a strategy around it.
  • Creating a market strategy – When creating a strategy around a project it is quintessential to assess the market, conduct a competitor analysis, and create a value proposition report. This way experts from other verticals can give their feedback as well and help in successfully taking the product to the testing stage. The marketing model must be cost-based and appealing at the same time, so it is able to target the right audience.
  • Product assessment and development – Once all the above-mentioned stages are competed, then comes the work of technical experts. With well guided insights from professionals of the aforementioned fields, a prototype is developed to visualize the product, and then the Minimum viable product (MVP) is finally created. While assessing the product, members from technical teams must be actively involved and regularly updated about the product.
  • Market testing and commercialization – The final stage translates to professionals testing the product on target market to eliminate any chances whatsoever of any kind of uncertainty and checking the overall viability of the product. There are two basic market strategies that professionals follow:
  1. Alpha Testing: Conducted by test engineers who judge the product based on its performance and issue the required changes after discussing with members of other verticals as well. 
  2. Beta Testing: Here the customers and target audience tests the product and give an unfiltered opinion. 

Professionals from all of the aforementioned fields come together with their expertise and knowledge to develop the required product and this is a perfect example of a cross-functional team. This way, by recruiting experts from their respective fields and integrating them to work together harmoniously, many tasks can be successfully accomplished and organizations can profit considerably.

Benefits of Cross Functional Teams

As mentioned above cross-functional teams have proven to be a great way out for teams looking to expand their horizons, deliver better results, and work in unison towards a common goal. Cross-functional collaboration has numerous benefits, here are a few of them summarized for better understanding.

  • Information & Insight

Cross functional teams are best known for fostering creativity, and change. When professionals from various areas of expertise collaborate to work on a common agenda, the probability of gaining insights about different professions and how they affect your work also increases manifold. Moreover, such employees are complementary to one another and help each other enhance their skills and lend a fresh perspective. 

Cross-functional teams are also known to multiply creativity and innovation, and hence, generate the best possible results. Through the amalgamation of different ideas and thoughts they lend a creative vision to the project and that is one of the biggest benefits of a cross-functional team.

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  • Increases Coordination

When working with a team, the major problem one faces is the lack of coordination and cohesion among the members. This problem is easily tackled with a cross-functional team, where professionals are working individually, yet together, and are well aware of what the others are doing and what is required of them. 

From sales to marketing, to development and testing, each vertical of the team works in harmony with the other to avoid any conflicts or confusion. Their ultimate goal is to enhance customer experience and work together to provide enterprise customers a wholesome experience and thus, generate the desired results. 

  • Team Engagement And Communication

With increased collaboration and coordination comes the gift of effective communication which is intrinsic to cross-functional teamwork. Communication is quintessential to the smooth working of any team and generating an output. Cross-functional teams are known to improve communication and facilitate exchange of ideas in a wholesome manner. 

As Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, 85% employees are not actively engaged in the workplace. These deteriorating employee engagement rates are detrimental to the productivity of an organization. Cross-functional teams are known to boost engagement by helping team members bond, exchange ideas, interact, and revamp the overall workplace dynamics. 

  • Alignment Of Goals

Employees go astray while working on a project which affects their performance and thus the performance of the organization as a whole. Cross-functional teams help in keeping the goals aligned with the company objectives and showing the team a clear picture of what is required of them. 

When working together, despite different roles, a team must move in a single direction and be aware of what the others are working towards. This is facilitated easily through cross-functional teamwork. It directly impacts productivity, as each member is cognizant of how their work affects the overall results.

  • Promotes Diversity And Inclusion

Another great benefit of cross-functional teams is that they promote diversity. As we know, Cross-functional teams do not thrive on hierarchical structures like other teams, employees are given adequate importance on the basis of their role in the team. Everyone’s role in a team and their skill is considered significant and their skills are greatly valued. 

By diversifying a team, and integrating technical and non-technical professionals, organizations not only capitalize on the best skills of their teams but also help them gain valuable insights about each other’s professions. 

  • Stronger Working Relationships

It is extremely great to develop healthy, amiable relationships at work especially when you’re working on the same team. Cross-functional teams help foster better work relationships, helping them get a clearer understanding of what is required of them. 

The basis of great productivity is a collaborative team working in complete sync with one another and building a great rapport and a sense of accountability towards their colleagues.

ProofHub helps Cross-functional teams work smoothly

As per research, online collaboration tools and digitization at the workplace increases productivity by upto 30%. Modern workforce requirements make it inevitable to work with multi-management online tools that make collaboration easier especially for cross-functional teams. There are various tools in the market that make teamwork a walk in the park, the most popular among them is, ProofHub.

ProofHub is a one stop shop for effective management and communication in a multi-tiered team. It simplifies working together and helps achieve goals well in time. When it comes to online management tools, it is a top choice among high ranking professionals looking to expand their horizons and maximize productivity. With tonnes of features, ProofHub is extremely comfortable to use especially for cross-functional teams where collaboration, communication and management are key. 

Even in a structure as dynamic and organized as a cross-functional team ensuring cohesion and effective teamwork can be a challenge, ProofHub simplifies it. From personalized individual and group chat options to time tracking and custom workflows, ProofHub offers it all. It is indispensable for cross functional teamwork as it allows professionals from multiple disciplines to band together and work towards common goals. The following features make ProofHub ideal for cross-functional governance:

  • Custom roles
  • Custom workflows and kanban boards
  • Tasks with deadlines
  • Group chat
  • Dedicated space for discussions
  • Online proofing tool
  • File sharing
  • Integrations with third-party apps
  • Simple, no per-user pricing

All these features make ProofHub imperative for cross-functional parties across the globe and this is precisely why as the trend of cross-functional collaboration grows so does the popularity of the tool. 

Conclusion 

Cross-functional teams are becoming increasingly popular especially during the present times where major corporations are relying heavily on remote work. Such teams allow organizations to recruit professionals based on their skills and expertise and enable them to deliver to the best of their abilities. Cross-functional teams are also known to have a positive psychological impact on professionals and hence, deliver their best.

With plenty of room to grow, learn, and explore, Cross-functional teamwork ensures that work is not passed on from one silo to another rather professionals work in unison to generate desired results. It focuses on the organization as well as individuals, and everyone’s skill is given equal weightage. A wholesome working environment of a cross-functional team boosts employees positively and a project is executed successfully. 

In a nutshell, cross-functional teams can be referred to as the future of proactive collaboration and corporate teamwork. I hope this information is helpful to you and gives you abundant information about the concept and importance of cross-functional collaboration. 

Happy reading. 

 Vartika Kashyap
Vartika Kashyap

Vartika Kashyap is the Chief Marketing Officer at ProofHub and has been one of the LinkedIn Top Voices in 2018. Her articles are inspired by office situations and work-related events. She likes to write about productivity, team building, work culture, leadership, entrepreneurship among others and contributing to a better workplace is what makes her click.


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