If you feel like your organization operates in silos, you may wonder what is a cross-functional team and if it can help your business be more efficient and collaborative? Organizations are rethinking their project management strategies, and cross-functional teams have helped many spark innovation and reduce bureaucratic boundaries.
This post will explain what cross-functional teams are, why they are beneficial, and some tips your organization can use to build its own cross-functional team. For some businesses, the traditional organizational structure will be more helpful than a cross-functional team. However, for many organizations, cross-functional teams increase productivity and collaboration.
Cross-Functional Teams Defined
What is a cross-functional team? A cross-functional team comprises employees from different departments and functional areas of the company. In many cases, cross-functional teams will include employees from all levels of the organization. Sometimes, a cross-functional team may even include participants from outside the business.
For example, a web development company might create a cross-functional team that combines sales, marketing, and development. What’s the value of this approach? By combining members from the sales, marketing, and development teams, a company can uniquely approach challenges by drawing on various viewpoints and areas of expertise.
The traditional organizational structure silos departments. However, organizations are starting to realize that collaboration is vital for innovation. After all, the efforts made in marketing directly affect the sales team, which impacts the work done by the development team. Every aspect of a business is interconnected and dependent on one another for the ultimate success of the organization.
Some businesses maintain the functional team structure and create cross-functional working teams. Other organizations find that the cross-functional team works best as the primary structure of their business.
Startups can often solely rely on the cross-functional team structure since the business is small and employees have to do a little bit of everything to keep the business running. However, larger organizations will likely need to use a functional team structure that utilizes working cross-functional teams to stay organized and focused on department goals.
The Benefits of Cross-Functional Teams
The popularity of cross-functional teams continues to grow as businesses strive to innovate and deliver a highly personalized customer experience. The primary benefits of cross-functional teams are:
- Greater innovation
- Increased business coordination
- Greater efficiency
When businesses operate in silos, identifying and implementing improvements across the value stream is next to impossible. Cross-functional teams eliminate silos and work together to find more comprehensive and effective solutions to common problems and pain points. As a result, a cross-functional team can deliver more innovative solutions than individual functional teams working on their own.
However, cross-functional teams don’t only promote internal process innovation. Cross-functional teams also deliver innovative services and product solutions. Every functional team in your business has an area of expertise and a unique viewpoint on your customer. Imagine combining all the expertise from sales, marketing, development, and every other team that collects customer data.
The result is a cross-functional team. These teams are beneficial because they enable learnings from across the organization to be included in important product decisions and process reviews. If you want to make the best decisions for your organization, you need to review all of the data and expertise your company has to offer.
Increased Business Coordination
Lack of coordination between functional teams can significantly hurt a business. The value of cross-functional teams is that they promote business coordination. For example, if the sales and marketing teams are not coordinated, your business will likely be wasting the efforts made by both teams. In addition, in some cases, your teams could unknowingly work against one another without coordination.
For example, if your marketing team is focused on landing big enterprise clients, but the sales team is trying to make small, quick sales, your product development team will be stuck in the middle, trying to create something without a clear goal or focus. This example is inefficient and wastes valuable company resources.
Cross-functional teams keep everyone focused on organizational goals, and they promote a collaborative work environment where all functional teams work together to achieve a common goal. Cross-functional teams can help your business maximize value from existing resources.
Cross-functional teams eliminate silos and have more opportunities to identify and address operational inefficiencies. As a result, your business can spend more time focusing on innovation while delivering an improved customer experience. Imagine a simple customer request. Without a cross-functional team, that request gets passed from silo to silo until it is finally resolved.
Not only is this process inefficient, but it will likely lead to a negative customer experience. Have you ever called a customer support number only to be transferred to multiple different departments? It is a frustrating experience for customers.
Cross-functional teams can address customer requests far more efficiently, which not only improves the customer experience but leads to better business outcomes too.
How to Build a Cross-Functional Team
If you want to build an effective cross-functional team, there are a few things your organization can do, including:
- Highlight diversity – A cross-functional team is built with members from different functional areas. In addition, you should also include people with different levels of experience, ages, genders, races, etc. Cross-functional teams produce the best results when the diversity of your organization is represented.
- Establish organizational goals – To get the most out of a cross-functional team it is good to get everyone aligned with the same company goals. From here, your cross-functional team can ensure that the goals of each functional team are aligned with the company-wide goals.
- Include experts – It is critical that your cross-functional teams include subject matter and technical experts. These individuals can help others on the team understand technical details and inspire innovative solutions.
- Create a safe environment – You want people to take risks. This is where some of the best ideas come from. However, if people don’t feel comfortable and safe, they won’t take risks or offer unconventional solutions to problems.
Now that you have a better understanding of what cross-functional teams are, how they can benefit your business, and how to construct a solid team, it is time for your company to build its own cross-functional team. If you need help augmenting your staff with technical talent or want to learn more about cross-functional teams, reach out to an experienced app development partner.