We have no shortage of tools today to communicate with our teams. We have apps that can send group messages, share files with hundreds of people, and even video chat in the browser. Introducing new software to your team and organization doesn’t always solve your problems, though. In fact, if integrated improperly with the wrong culture and understanding, new software can actually make cross-functional collaboration challenges even worse than they were before.
At Spike, we understand the issues teams face today. We’re a remote team with people all around the world. We know the challenges faced when people are on different teams, in different time zones, and using different software platforms. When teams are working well together, magic can happen at an organizational level. These are the times are when some of the best products and ideas happen.
Cross-Functional Collaboration – What is it Anyway?
Cross-functional collaboration is when coworkers from multiple teams or departments (i.e. sales, accounting, engineering, human resources, etc.) within an organization come together to work on a centralized project or task. Thanks to modern technology, employees don’t even have to be in the same building for this to happen. Everyone can be remote and still collaborate. Businesses will often use software tools to manage data locations and communications.
An example of cross-functional collaboration is when a company has an idea for a new product. The engineering team might develop a roadmap of features. The accounting team will develop pricing, HR will hire the needed people to complete the project, and the marketing team will work on brand messaging for the new product. The sales team will then work on selling it once it’s released to the public. If teams work well together, the product will be released on time, on budget, and ready to sell to the public. If the teams don’t work together, then the product will be delayed, buggy, and perform poorly in the market.
Cross Units Have Conflicting Goals or No Goals Set
When departments within an organization are more concerned with their own individual goals and tasks more than the company goals, cross-functional collaboration issues will arise. What’s even worse is when a department isn’t even aware of the overall organizational goals, though. A key task for company leaders is to ensure that each department’s goals align with overall company goals. If goals are in alignment in each department, then everyone will be working towards it.
Lack of Organizational Awareness of Other Teams Projects and Initiatives
Another aspect of cross-functional collaboration that can often derail a project or a team is when different departments are not aware of each other’s projects and initiatives. Suppose the engineering team decides to work on a big new project related to a major company product. In that case, they might not realize the marketing team is also working on a bigger project related to overall company messaging. The engineering department will try to include the marketing department in the new release without realizing they are in the middle of their own project with its own deadlines and goals.
A solution here is for the company leaders to develop a system to keep other departments aware of what major projects are occurring in the organization at any given time. This awareness information could be on a company Wiki or simply shared at all-hands meetings so the company is aware of what’s going on in each department.
Cross-Functional Units Don’t Understand Other Roles, Responsibilities, or Jargon
Every department thinks what they’re working on at the moment is the most important thing at the company. The engineering department believes the product wouldn’t work without them. They’re correct.
The accounting department believes no one would get paid without them. They’re correct. The marketing team says that no one would understand the product without them. They’re correct. The sales department says that no one would buy the product without them. They’re also correct.
Each department is merely a piece of the overall pie. When organizations struggle to understand the value each department brings to the equation, cross-functional collaboration tends to break down. When it breaks down, teams become even more siloed and start focusing only on their own goals and objectives.
Company leaders need to focus their communication on explaining each department’s role in the success of the company. When an organization understands what each department is working on, their responsibilities, and how they are achieving those goals, everyone will be more likely to be more collaborative among the entire company.
Fear That a Cross-Functional Team Project Will be Too Time-Consuming
A common problem in an organization is when departments and teams don’t use cross-functional collaboration methods. They’d rather work on their own projects than be involved in ones that require the entire company to work together towards a common goal. The problem with this thinking is that it assumes no other department can contribute towards tasks and give ideas that can improve what your department can produce.
In this situation, senior leaders will be required to bridge the gap between these departments and set a new vision for them. There are people in organizations that are so tunnel vision that they cannot see the forest for the trees, meaning they so focused on the singular role that they miss out on what the entire organization is doing as a whole. When senior management gets involved in vision casting, these departments will understand that their role is a just one cog in a much bigger wheel.
Spike’s Solution for Cross-Functional Teams
Spike might seem like just an email application, but it’s so much more. Spike offers a complete digital workspace for individuals, departments, teams, and entire organizations. Spike starts with email. By turning email into a chat-like interface, Spike turns email from a slow archaic technology into a chat-like layout that you can use at lightning speed.
Spike then adds on a unified calendar that can merge calendars from all of your email accounts (iCloud, Gmail, Google Workspace, Yahoo, etc.) into a single calendar. Having the best calendar app is just as essential to your workday as finding the best email client or best online notes system. An excellent digital calendar will help keep you on schedule, provide plenty of focus time, and help make sure you are where you are supposed to be and when.
Spike doesn’t stop at email and calendar, though. Spike Notes is the only platform that doesn’t break your workflow, is entirely unified, and open to everyone. Spike Notes pushes your workflow even further, putting all the tools you need at your fingertips, giving you a powerful, collaborative space for you to work with your team right in your Inbox. With Spike Notes, you can collaborate with internal teams, external contractors, and customers without needing to create an account.
Spike Groups is another key part of the Spike experience that can enable cross-functional collaboration. Groups are a collaborative workspace for teams and clients for both personal and business needs. They transform complicated email chains into easy-to-follow conversations that can be separated by topic. It’s team chat without ever leaving your Inbox! With Groups, you can have a centralized place to track everything about projects even across departments.
Wrap Up on Cross Functional Collaboration
There is a lot that goes into cross-functional collaboration for small, medium, and large organizations. The key thing to keep in mind is that senior leadership must set the vision for collaboration in an organization, reinforce the key values that drive the organization forward, and decide which software stack the organization uses.
When setting the vision for collaboration, it must be decided that cross-department collaboration is a crucial part of the organization’s culture. The healthiest organizations are the ones that work well together across the board regardless of which department you’re in. When departments are focused on the organization’s goals, good things will happen. The key values of an organization will be a guiding light for every single person in the organization regardless if they are in engineering, marketing, accounting, operations, or human resources. When it comes to the software stack, senior leaders must select tools that create a unified digital workspace that enables their teams to seamlessly collaborate with each other regardless of device type or location. A true digital workspace will unlock the true value of cross-functional collaboration.