The Importance of Cross-Functional Collaboration

By Mackenzie Oakley | July 12, 2022

Team work makes the dream work, right?

It’s kind of cheesy but there is truth in that statement. No one is capable of handling everything by themselves, all of the time. We may try, of course, but eventually most of us will need to surrender to the fact that a little support and assistance would go a long way.

In business, teamwork and cross-functional collaboration is crucial to ensure organizations continue to move forward and grow. When developing a new product, engineers will lay out the product features, the finance department will set pricing, marketing will develop branding and messaging, and the sales team will sell it when it’s ready to go.

Without all of the different functions working together, the new product launch would fail.

The importance of cross-function collaboration

The last few years have also stressed the importance of organizations creating environments where teamwork and cross-functional collaboration is not only encouraged but incentivized.

Working through a pandemic was unprecedented and difficult and further proved the need to rely on each other in order to come out on the other side. As professionals in the procurement and supply chain industries, we’ve realized the importance of expanding our networks, diversifying our sourcing strategies, and reaching out to new potential supplier partners to ensure procurement is able to fulfill its obligations.

Internally, companies have had to adjust to changes as well. As more and more companies adopted remote-work environments and hybrid schedules, the need to boost effective communication, have the right tools in place, and encourage teamwork between functions grew exponentially.

Remote work and hybrid working schedules

Like most companies, Una had the majority of our team showing up to work in an office space prior to 2020. We were used to popping into each other’s offices to ask questions or to clarify talking points of a recent brainstorming session. We had several weekly meetings where the entire team gathered around a table to discuss operational procedures, sales initiatives, and marketing tactics. And yes, there may have even been the occasional ping-pong game happening in the sales pit.

But all of those things came to a screeching halt when stay-at-home orders began going into effect. For the sake of safety and the health of our employees, Una – and thousands of other companies all over the world – made the decision to send employees home to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

All of a sudden, business leaders were tasked with implementing processes that helped ensure business continuity in a remote-working environment while making every effort to stay connected with their people. In order to be successful, it takes effort from everyone, across teams, to establish open lines of communication in each situation, especially since working from home is here to stay for some companies.

Benefits of cross-functional teams

If teams are “siloed” and only focused on their own initiatives or goals, it can derail the organization’s overall objectives. Promoting cross-functional teams has numerous benefits that help the organization as a whole, including:

  • Promoting the “big picture” – teams shouldn’t be competing with one another. Instead, having an equal understanding of what the company wants to achieve will make it so all teams are working towards common goals.
  • Increased efficiency – collaboration increases the efficiency of project work and completion. When everyone works together, possible challenges can be addressed quickly to minimize the time it takes to find solutions.
  • Increased innovation – when everyone works together, more ideas are brought to the table and different vantage points are readily accessible, leading to more innovation when it comes to developing a product or reimagining procedures.
  • Increased organizational knowledge – collaborating with experts in different parts of the business “cross-pollinates knowledge” that may otherwise never be shared and highlights how everyone’s role is important.

How to establish a culture that promotes cross-functional collaboration

Promoting cross-functional collaboration comes from within a company’s culture. It must be built into the way an organization operates in order to take hold and flourish. In a recent episode of The Sourcing Hero podcast, Steve Trussell spoke specifically to creating an environment where teams work collaboratively with other functions to find solutions.

Here are some of his tips for making teamwork the reality of your organization:

Align the company's goals

First and foremost, as mentioned above, when everyone is working towards the same end goal, the organization wins. It’s impossible to be successful if 6 teams are going in 6 different directions. Instead, be sure to clearly communicate with employees and stakeholders as to what the company’s objectives are, how they may change over the course of the year, and ask each department to come up with a plan to work towards meeting those goals.

For procurement, it takes work and conscious effort to get and stay aligned with those same objectives, with the need to remain informed of ever-changing priorities among stakeholders and moving with them in lock-step as the business continually evolves.

Incentivize collaboration

Fostering a culture of collaboration could mean incentivizing those who actively participate and come together for the greater good. Instead of competition, teamwork is acknowledged and celebrated. Reward systems, whether they are financial or experiential – or a combination of both – have proven to strengthen the bond between teammates and motivate employees.

According to Trussell, at the end of the day, people want to to be part of the solution and feel like the work they’ve done has made a difference. People want to bring value to the table and drive the company forward.

Bring in the right people

The hiring process and finding the right people to fill positions can be daunting but it’s a key part to ensuring collaboration takes root. Those who are team players from the beginning, have the ability to adjust to changes quickly, who’ll do the right thing for the company, and who are aware of how their roles impact the organization will be the ones to bring any dreams of cross-functional collaboration to fruition.

For more insight on this topic, check out Episode 63 of The Sourcing Hero podcast:


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