How to Make Cross-Functional Collaboration Work for Your Team
Project Management

How to Make Cross-Functional Collaboration Work for Your Team

Mar 7, 2024

When everything’s going well, it’s easy to feel grateful for your high-performing team. But sometimes a task comes up that’s outside of your team’s expertise, and you wish you had someone outside of your department you could turn to. With cross-functional collaboration, you can do exactly that and draw on the expertise of multiple teams.

Here’s what you need to know about cross-team collaboration, including its benefits, common challenges, and best practices for cross-functional projects.

What Is Cross-Functional Collaboration?

Cross functional collaboration: officer saying, if it isn't the dream team

Cross-functional collaboration, also called cross-team collaboration, is the practice of involving team members from multiple departments on a single project. Not only does this allow you to benefit from multiple perspectives and skill sets, it also contributes to greater employee engagement and a sense of teamwork across your organization.

Cross-team collaboration doesn’t mean that you combine your teams into one large team or do away with your leadership structure altogether; often, a cross-functional team will consist of one or two team members from each department.

For example, if you’re developing a new app for your company, you may want input from your design and marketing teams in addition to your software developers. The individuals assigned to your cross-functional team may still perform their ordinary responsibilities while on the cross-functional project.

Benefits of Cross-Functional Collaboration

Cross functional collaboration: woman saying, our team is good enough to crack this box

Effective cross-functional collaboration isn’t just about benefiting an individual project team. It can improve problem-solving and decision-making across your organization. Here are just a few ways cross-functional collaboration can have an impact:

Streamlined workflows

Without interdepartmental collaboration, individual teams are left to their own devices, and may find themselves relying on inefficient workflows and outdated processes. By incorporating skills and perspectives from various departments, it becomes easier to see the bigger picture and take the initiative to streamline your workflows.

Cross-functional teams can create their own workflows and share expertise across different areas, improving efficiency across your organization.

Increased employee engagement

Cross-functional collaboration efforts increase employee engagement by connecting different team members from multiple departments. Instead of working with the same group of people day after day, individual employees get to know more people across your organization and see how their role fits into the big picture.

Since cross-functional projects have stakeholders in multiple departments, they can contribute to a greater sense of cohesion and a positive work environment.

Greater creativity and innovation

Bringing different skill sets and different perspectives onto a specific project can lead to greater creativity and innovation across the board. Chances are your customer support and product development teams both have insights into how to bring your new product to market — in ways that would benefit your marketing team.

Cross-functionality supports knowledge sharing across your organization, so individual departments don’t have to reinvent the wheel for each new project.

Challenges of Cross-Functional Collaboration

Cross-functional collaboration isn’t always smooth sailing. Unless you develop a culture of teamwork and collaboration, these three challenges are likely to rear their head.

Poor communication

Having different perspectives is good, but cross-functional teams also need to have clear methods of communication. That means using the same messaging and remote collaboration tools, like Slack and Zoom — but it also means having a similar approach to differences of opinion and conflict resolution. 

By using the same project management software and standardized project templates, you can reduce the risk of communication challenges on cross-functional teams.

Different objectives

Sometimes, cross-functional teams struggle to get on the same page due to a lack of trust. Working with new people is always a challenge, and it’s especially difficult if you don’t have shared goals. Cross-functional teams may use different metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success than other departments do.

Having regular team meetings with fun team-building exercises can build rapport and help teams identify shared goals and celebrate project milestones.

Hierarchies and data silos

Being part of a cross-functional team doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll leave old ways of thinking behind. Team members from different departments may bring their own ideas about how the team should operate, and those who aren’t part of the cross-functional team may be reluctant to collaborate and share the credit.

Encouraging employees to question hierarchies and break down data silos can foster collaboration between different departments.

5 Best Practices for Cross-Functional Collaboration

Woman saying, you have to admit we make a great team

The best way to approach cross-functional collaboration will vary depending on the size of your organization, the timeline of your project, and the departments involved. Follow these five best practices to ensure your collaboration efforts go smoothly.

1. Choose your team well

Putting together a Dream Team for a cross-functional project isn’t always easy. Ideally, your team will represent a cross-section of various departments, but some departments may be more over-represented than others. Try to draw from a variety of experience levels, including team leaders and entry-level employees, to avoid hierarchies.

2. Set common goals

Before you begin a cross-functional project, set shared goals and communicate them clearly to everyone involved. Remember, the KPIs that individual departments use to measure success may not apply to your cross-functional project.

Explain which metrics you’ll be using to track the success of the project, and how they align with the overall objectives of your organization.

3. Choose the right tools

Will your cross-functional team be working from the same location, or are you putting together a fully remote team? Either way, use project management tools to create a single source of truth for the project so that everyone’s on the same page and can communicate with each other in real-time.

You can even use project management AI tools like Anchor AI to give you more detailed insight into your project. Simply ask Max, your AI project manager, questions about the project, such as “What should we work on next?” or “How did the meeting go?”

4. Make the most of meetings

Meetings are key to cross-functional collaboration, especially if you have a remote work policy or if team members still have responsibilities in their individual departments. Plan meetings wisely to avoid meeting burnout. Instead of lengthy meetings each week, use daily scrum meetings to check in often but efficiently.

You can use Anchor AI’s Quick Prep tool to generate a meeting agenda, or the Topical Summary tool to organize your notes after each meeting.

Need to save a recording of each meeting? Use Anchor AI to capture the full audio of your meeting, whether it takes place online or off.

5. Use automation

Cross-functional collaboration requires coordination between multiple departments, and not every department moves at the same pace. Use automation to streamline repetitive tasks like data entry, scheduling, and task management, reducing paperwork and the amount of time it takes to communicate with other departments.

For example, you can use Anchor AI’s AI task manager to identify action items and add them to your team’s to-do-list automatically. Or send out follow-up emails and meeting summaries after a meeting to keep multiple stakeholders in the loop.

Improve Cross-Functional Collaboration With Anchor AI

Cross functional collaboration: DJ Khaled saying, I need the dream team all the time

Cross-functional collaboration occurs when team members from different departments work together on a single project. Maybe your marketing and sales teams are working together on a shared project that neither one can accomplish on its own.

Cross-functional collaboration can lead to greater creativity and teamwork, as long as you address challenges such as poor communication and a lack of trust.

Anchor AI helps you streamline cross-team collaboration with AI-powered note-taking and project management tools. Whether you need to generate a meeting summary or send out a follow-up email, Anchor AI can do the hard work for you so you and your team can focus on what you do best. Sign up today to try it out for yourself!

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