Digital designers know how design thinking affects the creation of new products. As ardent defenders of their users, they have consistently emphasized the significance of creating websites, apps, and other digital initiatives with the requirements and preferences of the user in mind.
Recently, companies have also begun embracing the concept and started creating cross-functional teams to promote user-centric design.
Cross-functional teams bring together elite talent with various skill sets to design, build, and market solutions. At their best, they can build solutions that can propel a business far above its rivals.
However, if these teams are not properly managed, they degenerate into a mess of shoddy communication, missed deadlines, and unsatisfactory outcomes.
This article will look at what cross-functional teams are, how they benefit your organization, and a few best practices you must follow while building cross-functional teams.
What is a cross-functional team?
A cross-functional team consists of individuals with various skill sets who work together toward a common objective. They’re often created in response to projects that call for the expertise of various departments.
For instance, the creation and introduction of a website will undoubtedly involve developers, but it may also involve teams from the design, research, sales, marketing, and legal departments.
Cross-functional teams can occasionally form independently, especially in small organizations where workers frequently wear multiple jobs. For instance, frequent interaction with product and sales team members is crucial at a startup with a one-person marketing department.
Regardless of how cross-functional teams are formed, they require a distinct set of management strategies than you would employ for a group of employees in a similar position.
When can you use cross-functional teams in an organization?
Cross-functional teams are more effective when tackling more complicated problems or accomplishing long-term goals.
These can be common occurrences like ongoing product development, projects with definite beginning and ending dates, or more ongoing, long-term objectives. Here are two instances:
- High-impact projects: Cross-functional collaboration is necessary when a project is aimed at a bigger corporate initiative. As an illustration, let’s say that instead of launching a standard marketing campaign, you're planning a multi-year advertising campaign to increase brand recognition, attract new clients, and surpass revenue targets.
In such cases, it would make sense to incorporate members of the sales teams, revenue, and demand creation alongside members of the marketing team to make it a high-performing campaign.
- Agile projects: Because they emphasize collaboration, agile projects are excellent candidates to collaborate with cross-functional teams. For instance, if you want to launch product upgrades, you may assemble a cross-functional team with the help of the content design team, product marketers, and software engineers, who all work with the Agile methodology.
Challenges of cross-functional teams
You might experience certain difficulties when combining employees from different departments. Because of this, it's crucial to think about conflict resolution strategies early on. Here are a few typical challenges faced by cross-functional partnerships and how you can overcome them:
If your organization is new to cross-functional team collaboration, your teams may frequently grapple with opposing viewpoints and methods of operation.
Team members from different departments may have different ideas about how the project should be completed and may prioritize some steps more than others. So, finding alignment is important if you want to complete your projects on time.
Solution: Establish a clear and explicit aim for the project, so the unit works for a common purpose and exhibits stronger collaboration and cross-functional teamwork.
Managing team members with various skill sets, levels of expertise, and working styles create a unique set of managerial problems for cross-functional teams.
As a result, establishing a uniform procedure for completing work might take time because team members may be accustomed to working in a particular manner.
Solution: Create a clear organizational structure from the outset and assign a single decision-making leader followed by a distinct descending hierarchy to avoid future internal conflict.
Team members may believe that deadlines are less strict and they can work more independently—or at their own pace—in a cross-functional setting. While some of this is acceptable, it's still crucial to approach cross-functional initiatives methodically to avoid future delays and setbacks.
Solution: Every project should have a regular feedback loop to ensure that everyone is held accountable for completing their portions of the task on schedule.
You can use a creative collaboration and project management tool like Artwork Flow to set up workflows, assign tasks, and send team members automated follow-ups when the deadline is nearing to guarantee work is completed on time and under budget throughout the project life cycle.
Best practices for managing cross-functional design teams
Here are some generalized practices that can help you build a successful cross-functional team:
Promote consistent communication
Team members ought to converse with one another as frequently, so everyone is aware of the project's current state and their specific duties.
However, this is easier said than done as tools like email and group chats become a mess of lengthy threads, and it becomes impossible to keep track of feedback or trace accountability.
This is where a Workflow management software like Artwork Flow comes in. It collates feedback from cross-functional teams, makes it easy to assign tasks to team members, and traces accountability so important details don’t slip through the cracks.
Create a team identity
Team members should feel at home on a cross-functional team to support decision-making, effective communication, and buy-in.
One way to achieve this is to host a project launch party where team members may mingle and establish relationships before the actual work begins.
Another approach to take is to establish your team’s values and objectives before you begin working. For instance, if a software decision must be made between a financial factor and the user experience, the team should have already decided which factor is more crucial (for what it’s worth, we’d always choose a better user experience).
Take advantage of automation
Using automation means your team can perform more skilled work instead of spending time on work-related activities like information searching and change communication.
This results in fewer bottlenecks and a more streamlined workflow which helps your team be more productive and facilitates better collaboration.
Tip: Use a creative collaboration tool like Artwork Flow to assist your cross-functional team in organizing tasks, establishing clear ownership and accountability for work, and centralizing team communication.
Benefits of cross-functional collaboration
Because they don't bring a variety of viewpoints to the table, organizations that operate in silos frequently have trouble solving problems.
Cross-functional teams, on the other hand, push the boundaries of conventional thinking, which leads to the improvement of decision-making procedures.
They also help avoid groupthink and unconscious biases as they involve individuals with various viewpoints and specialties.
In essence, cross-functional work can enable you to do more, whether you're developing a new product or strengthening the team at a company. Here are a few ways in which they help you achieve this:
- Improves employee engagement: Because team members in a cross-functional team structure are more likely to feel like they share a single goal, this structure can enhance employee engagement and create a sense of oneness.
- Builds better management skills: Because there won't be as many team members with the same skill set to support them, cross-functionality can improve team members' management skills.
Consider a scenario where a designer works in a cross-functional team. This designer will be responsible for advising the team on design-related subjects and may even serve as a team leader in the area because they need a full staff of designers to assist them.
In other words, each team member is in charge of making decisions and identifying inefficiencies in their particular area, which enables them to hone their leadership abilities in the process.
- Promotes better collaboration: Cross-functional teams foster strong collaboration skills due to the high degrees of transparency and effective conflict-resolution techniques. Plus, everyone must deal with people and skill sets they are unfamiliar with, which results in more learning opportunities in addition to collaboration.
In a time when design is frequently the only factor distinguishing a good product and a terrible one, a designer’s contribution to a product is priceless.
That means to succeed today; every company should also be a design firm and a technology company. Therefore, it’s the need of the hour to eliminate the silos surrounding the design team and adopt a cross-functional approach.
About Artwork Flow:
Artwork Flow is a creative collaboration software specifically designed for design and marketing teams.
It helps simplify your creative process by enabling you to collaborate with your team from anywhere, secure your assets, and manage your project end-to-end.