8 tips for cross-functional team challenges
A cross-functional team is a group of a company’s employees, each with different expertise, working towards a common goal. They may also use outsourced consultation but mainly work internally and usually come from the marketing, sales, team, product, finance, and customer service departments.
Sharing these common company goals, whether a special project or several other business projects, members of such a cross-functional team must be multitaskers. They must carry on with their day-to-day work while also taking part in their cross-functional unit tasks.
Such work requires cross-team collaboration and for each team member to contribute his knowledge and experience towards achieving the desired outcomes.
Since employees coming from different departments face common challenges and core business goals, companies expect effective cross-functional collaboration, creative solutions, new perspectives, and success.
However, team members with different backgrounds and responsibilities may employ separate practices and priorities. What works in their department may not fit the entire cross-functional collaboration challenges. The organization must make sure that all team members are on the same page.
This is usually true when interpreting the needs and wants of customers. There is a risk that diverse teams or the chosen team members would utilize different perspectives, solutions, and platforms that indicate what their consumers want.
However, for the benefit of the whole organization, their best solution is to have a cross-organizational single platform for analysis of their consumer's voice as well as consider several additional ideas for a better project organization, focus on the right objectives and success.
Structure types of cross-functional teams
There are at least three types of cross-functional teams inside organizations:
1. A mix of employees from different teams working together
This team is composed of single representatives from different teams.
While being busy doing other teams' projects, they also devote some of their time and effort towards working on cross-functional projects and priorities.
Participants must support each other, create a good work atmosphere and try to see the bigger picture. Honest communication and effective collaboration are also required. They may choose one team member to be their leader.
2. The company’s management: department heads
Cross-functional collaboration may also exist when the company decides to form a project team in the form of its managers.
Simply put, the senior leaders and managers of the organization's different departments, other than having management meetings, will get together and operate on a cross-functional collaboration unit.
Such a team would handle an existing project or a new project, exchange ideas and project priorities, and generally support the company goals and common challenges.
The organization has to make sure that leaders from every department fully understand the purpose and importance of their cross-functional collaboration, the project's common goal, and desired outcomes.
3. A mix of managers and employees
The third and final cross-functional collaboration type of team mixes managers from several departments with employees from the same or other departments.
The objectives are the same, the need to collaborate is known and desired, so this mixed team can focus on the specific business project ahead.
Overall, companies need to evaluate the progress each of these collaborations makes and oversees that all team members contribute to the organizational goals stated. One of the things to keep in mind and measure is how time-consuming the team meetings are and whether long meetings take place because of the following challenges.
Organizations encounter a variety of challenges, and if the solution to some of the task management is to create cross-functional collaboration, they better measure and examine just how efficient these teams are.
Whether handling a fairly simple project or a complicated task, the purpose of these same room get-togethers between different team members is required to move projects ahead, save time and achieve the common goal.
There are mainly 8 types of cross functional collaboration challenges, and for each type, there is a business solution. Here they are presented in the form of tips.
Challenges and tips for cross-functional teams
The importance of team cooperation in organizations can't be overstated. However, teams’ cooperation is never easy and can fail for a variety of reasons. Cross-functional collaboration challenges can become problematic for the entire company if not handled properly.
Here are the top 8 challenges for cross functional teams and tips on how to resolve such challenges.
Challenge #1: Unclear purposes and goals
Multiple teams working for a company sometimes find out that they have conflicting goals. The same can be said for cross-functional teams, composed of employees from other departments. If top management isn't clear about the purpose and focus of such a team, its ability to collaborate goes down as well as the failure of all participants involved to resolve an issue or task.
Tip #1: Having clear macro and micro-level purposes
Every company should make clear goals at both the macro and micro levels.
The macro-level refers to large-scale and strategic decisions. The micro-level refers to small-scale and day-to-day tasks which are required in order to achieve the bigger goal.
Challenge #2: Too many tasks
An organization may feel happy about the appointed cross functional collaboration team and delegate too many tasks to such a crew.
Feeling enthusiastic about their abilities, both as individuals and as a team, may cause top-level leaders to have the team manage several projects at once, not realizing it is going too far. Such a business decision may put too much pressure on the team and may turn out to be less beneficial for the entire organization.
Tip #2: Task prioritization
Cross-functional teams need to have clear goals and assignments that fit their abilities, time, and responsibilities. If the company wants to assign the team more than one task, it should prioritize or let the team decide how and when to tackle each task.
Challenge #3: Lacking in the management of time
Since marketing, product, or salespeople, who also join a cross-functional unit, must be multitaskers, they need to make sure their time is handled well.
Long meetings, time-consuming discussions, trying to manage different priorities, or taking too much time to understand a project may all cause team members to waste precious work time.
Tip #3: Organized time management
Project management calls for the usage of best practices, and one of them is efficient time management. when every department team member organizes his time well, and when priorities are clear, both the employee and the organization benefit.
Challenge #4: Not knowing who’s responsible for what
In order to fully collaborate, each cross-functional member needs to know in advance what is required from him. If tasks are not divided clearly among members from, for example, the marketing team or from other teams' members, confusion and problems may arise.
Tip #4: Define team and personal accountability
The cross-functional team leader must delegate tasks to each member of the project team. That can happen after such a leader receives the clear goal and purpose for such a collaboration unit. Once the whole team as well as each of its own members knows exactly what he is accountable for, the project can move ahead smoothly and more efficiently.
Challenge #5: Confusing the day-to-day with the cross-functional team tasks
Businesses sometimes create unintended confusion when assigning tasks to employees, and in the case of a collaboration unit, it means that department-level tasks conflict and contradict with the functional team ones. Nobody planned it and no manager intended for it to happen, and yet, it did
Tip #5: Matching daily team activities with cross-functional tasks
Resolving this issue starts with making sure there are no conflicts between both units. Then, regular check-ins to make sure both are aligned is called for.
Reports from the cross-unit leader, mixed with talks with all other employees participating in such an effort, should give managers the true picture of the situation.
Challenge #6: Relying on guesswork
Cross-team collaboration, as well as each company's department efforts, boils down to understanding what their clients need and want. However, some businesses still don't manage to handle the tons of customer feedback about their products and services and resort to guessing what they want.
Tip #6: Making data-driven decisions
New software options, with AI-powered and machine learning capabilities, can help organizations to collect and analyze their customer conversations, leading to data-driven decision-making processes.
Collaboration units can access reports and data analytics about their product and service performances, use them for their project management needs and keep working towards achieving their common challenges.
Challenge #7: Not understanding your customers’ needs
Even when businesses do manage to collect their consumers' feedback, they don't always know how to prioritize the main pain points. While every mention, and often complaint, count, volume levels are key for organizations that need to know what to handle first.
Tip #7: Prioritize customer-driven decision making
Categorization of consumer comments and complaints can help businesses prioritize what to handle first. Pain points that are shared by many consumers deserve immediate care and support from organizations.
Data analysis that groups complaints into categories can signify what needs to be taken care of first and what problem areas are less urgent to deal with.
Challenge #8: Less consideration for what happens in the marketplace
A company must always stay abreast of what is happening in its market and check out what its competition is doing. Its managers can learn a lot from analyzing what consumers say about the competitors' products and services.
If businesses ignore market trends, as can be figured out from what consumers are saying regarding both the business as well as its competing products, they stand to lose grounds on sales and market share.
Tip #8: Understanding the competition
Analysis of competitors' customer feedback can inform businesses with real-time intel and sentiment about the market. By figuring out what consumers consider as the competitor's products' pros and cons, businesses can receive the market's bigger picture analysis.
AI-powered customer analysis can help cross-functional teams
Affogata delivers an AI-powered customer analytics platform that serves as the single source of truth for cross-functional teams. The platform's features cover the main tools businesses need in order to figure out their consumer's voice.
Organizations can analyze the feedback they receive from their consumers as well as engage with them by replying from the all-in-one-place platform. The analysis is done in real-time and covers market trends, product, and services analysis of both the company and its competitors and enables entities to make actionable insights.