What are Cross Functional Teams?

Have you ever felt like your organization functions in silos? Marketing is focused on entering a new vertical, while sales is aggressively trying to grow existing accounts, while customer success is stretched across multiple verticals, struggling to provide a tailored customer experience? While the functions of each of these departments are inherently distinct, their goals should be consistent - otherwise, your organization will quickly work itself out of business, by stretching its precious resources into too many directions at once. The introduction of cross functional teams can promote cohesion across your organization, allowing you to optimize your efforts to achieve goals faster with less waste. Read on to learn how cross functional teams work, and why they could be the answer for any organization looking to grow with agility and speed.

What is a Cross Functional Team?

Cross functional teams are groups consisting of people from different functional areas of the company - for example, marketing, product, sales, and customer success. These can be working groups, where each member belongs to their functional team as well as the cross functional team, or they can be the primary structure of your organization.

Why Do Cross Functional Teams Exist?

If you’ve ever called a company with a simple question - say, an airline or a healthcare clinic, and found yourself being tossed from department to department, feeling no closer to your solution after 20 minutes than you did when you first made the call - you’ve felt what it’s like to experience an organization functioning in silos.

This is a frustrating experience for the customer, and a missed opportunity for your company to develop a lasting relationship. While your organization has many different functions, each of these functions exists to serve the customer - so they have to work together to provide a comprehensive, positive customer experience.

Cross functional teams help organizations put their customers first, by encouraging effective communication across teams. Bringing people together with different perspectives can improve problem solving and lead to smarter, more sustainable decision making. Instead of competing for resources, cross functional teams collaborate to optimize use of time, money, and effort to improve customer satisfaction while helping to meet organizational goals.

Benefits of Cross Functional Teams

Cross functional teams are growing in popularity because of an increased demand from customers to provide consistently personalized, high-touch customer experience. Some of the benefits of cross functional teams include improved coordination across functional areas, increased innovation in product and process, and reduced cycle times for key customer touchpoints.

Improved Coordination Across Functional Areas

For many SaaS companies, coordination (or lack thereof) between marketing, sales, and product teams can make or break the business. Often, this is an issue of conflicting interests: If marketing is focused on landing enterprise customers to drive sustainable growth, while sales reps are motivated to win small sales quickly, the product team can’t create a product that will meet the needs of all of its customers.

Cross functional teams can help teams stay focused on corporate goals - so if the organization is trying to position itself as an enterprise tool, marketers can work with sales reps to identify ways to effectively market to enterprise executives. The product team can use insights gathered from sales performance and marketing research to prioritize features most valued by their target customer. A cross functional team of marketing, sales, product, and customer success representatives can work together on assigned accounts to provide enterprise customers with a customized, cohesive customer experience.

Increased Innovation in Process and Product

When organizations operate in silos, it’s difficult to identify and implement improvements across the value stream. Cross functional teams can work to identify best practices for different processes, then cross-train other cross functional groups to promote cohesion and efficiency across the organization. Working together to find solutions for common problems, cross functional teams can find more innovative, more comprehensive solutions than each functional group could develop on its own.

Cross functional teams don’t only promote process innovation - they also promote more innovative products. Imagine if every product decision your company made included insights gleaned from marketing campaign data, UX focus groups, sales conversations, product usage data, and other rich sources of customer information from across the company. This is the power of cross functional teams - creating a forum where learnings from across the company can inform smarter decision making.

Reduced Cycle Times

Think again of the phone call example above, where a simple request took 20 minutes to resolve, not because of the complexity of the request, but because of the inefficiency of the company trying to resolve it.

Cross functional teams help organizations identify their inefficiencies, while improving their ability to find solutions that work. In this way, using cross functional teams can drastically reduce cycle times for any recurring pain point. So instead of passing a customer request from silo to silo - the team can work together to resolve the request as quickly as possible, providing a far better customer experience. This is true of something small, like a customer request, as well as far larger projects, such as developing a new feature to meet customer demands.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

To learn more about Lean management practices, such as the use of cross functional teams, we recommend the following resources:

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