Cross-Functional Collaboration: Concept, Benefits, and Struggles

Workspace is an interactive environment by default. Collaboration inside departments and dedicated teams aside, one way or another, people from different areas of expertise and functions have to team up to work on a joint project or achieve a certain goal.

This is where cross-functional collaboration occurs. Today, this type of interaction is appreciated as never before since the era of globalization, digital technology, and remote work not only throws new opportunities at us but also sets its own rules.

The lack of efficient communication across the company units will slow down your business growth, so streamlined and well-organized teamwork inside the organizational structure is a must. Let’s look at how cross-functional collab works in more detail.

What Is Cross-Functional Collaboration?

Though a business is normally viewed as an entire structure, it’s always made up of multiple components. It’s true both for supply or distribution chains and for the company workforce.

Teams and departments inside a company are divided by function and isolated. Yet, they have to communicate and interact not only to succeed locally but also to make the business machine move in the right direction and evolve.

From time to time, much closer and more involved interaction is required to solve serious business problems, push a new project, or achieve intermediate objectives on the route to a bigger collective goal.

With that, cross-functional collaboration is the process of joining forces and combining the efforts of various operational areas to tackle some problems, implement improvements, hit specific targets, or realize innovative projects.

A few bright examples of cross-functional collaboration are:

  • Sales and marketing teams interacting on a new product campaign;
  • HR specialists working together with team leads and managers at all levels to define the talent demand;
  • Support reps, engineers, and developers communicating to improve customer experience on the online marketplace.

The type and scope of collaboration depend on the company’s nature and direct tasks to cope with. Yet, whatever the case, the smooth relationship between your company units will ensure a friendly working environment and help achieve internal synergy much thought by all businesses and vital for the enterprise growth and positive changes.

Cross-Functional Collaboration Advantages

Efficient teamwork has a lot to offer at all company levels and business layers. Being the pinnacle of internal teamwork, cross-functional collaboration can help you excel where you don’t even expect it, not to mention an overall competitive advantage you might gain.

A strong multi-faceted business team is one of the crucial keys to entrepreneurial success. And there are a few persuasive reasons why a collaborative spirit is vital for any workplace.

Driving Innovation

Innovation leads progress and collaboration promotes innovation. Collaborative work and consistent inter-functional communication allow for sharing views, thoughts, and ideas and finding original solutions for the most difficult situations.

Everybody perceives a problem differently. Making people with different mindsets work together helps approach the problem from different angles. It encourages creativity and reveals innovative concepts that can make difference for the whole project or issue.

Enhancing Employee Involvement

Working in their own smaller teams, people get used to each other and are in their element. On the negative side, though, permanently dedicated to pretty much the same tasks, they might end up feeling somewhat bored and disengaged.

Teamwork toward collective goals helps improve engagement, lights up interest, and makes people feel more valued and even happier.

Refining the Working Process

While it’s not an immediate effect, cross-functional collaboration ends up in a more streamlined, tuned-up, and efficient working process.

You can’t expect the workflow to change in an instant and there will be challenges on the way. Yet, it’s definitely worth compromising short-term productivity for more important long-term outcomes.

Attracting Talent

Talented personnel is one of the most valuable assets of any business. Modern companies hunt for top talent making it a prime priority for their talent management strategies.

Cross-functional collaboration creates a whole new working environment and can become a game changer for talent attraction by boostingу:

  • Productivity;
  • Innovation;
  • Involvement.

A collaborative climate alone appeals to employees and feels promising. Principles of collective work applied across the company allow newcomers to be on the same page with old-timers and easily integrate into the working process.

Cross-Functional Collaboration Difficulties

No system, technique, or approach is perfect. The same is true for cross-functional collaborations. With a lot of benefits and positive moments to it, it entails some difficulties and challenges as well.

Obviously enough, making multiple people with different expertise, backgrounds knowledge, and skills work in a synergic manner is not an easy task.

Linking a number of units or departments into a single chain, sourcing proper collaborative tools, stipulating result-measuring principles, and making it all revolve might seem offputting and even impossible at times.

Yet, knowing the obstacles and problems that might arise, you’ll be able to tackle and overcome them. Here are the most common of them and possible solutions.

Remote Work Hurdles

Working remotely is not always a smooth and sound process, more so when it comes to remote work in teams. The whole process hugely relies on the self-organization of all the people involved and requires effective coordination and monitoring.

With all participants scattered outside a common workplace, communication is very often problematic even inside a single team, not to mention cross-team interaction.

However, these are post-pandemic realia for many businesses, so you should find ways to embrace this situation and create a functional remote work environment.


Consider using collaborative tools to organize the process and make your teams work in unison. Hold regular virtual meetings and do cross-functional checkups to rest assured everyone is engaged.

Communication Problems

Misunderstandings are a normal thing for any process since all people communicate and process information differently. Unfortunately, you’ll hardly be able to avoid this.

People from different operational areas might simply fail to understand the terminology of each other or be not aware of all the nuances and details of the project or task.

Besides, misunderstandings might happen due to the lack of communication and some stakeholders not following the stated work algorithm.


A good team leader is the easiest solution to this problem. Someone who knows all ins and outs of the process at hand and is not new to cross-functional collaboration principles will be able to put communication on the right rails.

Everyone involved should clearly understand what they are doing and what goals they should achieve. Don’t be afraid to look stupid to ask the same questions or send the same message several times to make sure all people think the same way.

Lack of Team Spirit

You can’t expect people that never worked together before and hardly know each other to be on the same page immediately. It will take time and effort to make them a real team working like a charm.

Most often than not, people can’t build loyalty and trust to start a smooth collaboration offhandedly. One way or another, they will need to seat in and adapt to a new workflow that might reduce productivity.


Don’t let the whole situation flow and don’t wait until it settles. Yet, don’t push, this might slow the process down even more. Instead, start small. Pull the team together around some minor tasks first before they proceed to the major project.

This will help participants know each other better and give them time to build friendly and trusted relationships.

Take Your Cross-Functional Collaboration to the Next Level

We bet you don’t have any doubts about why cross-functional collaboration is important at this point. However, you might wonder how to create a collaborative system that will be maximum effective.

Here are a few aspects you need to consider to get the most out of the cross-functional collaboration approach and make it your company’s strength.

Start With a Plan

Planning gives a proper start to any project. Proper planning allows for:

  • Avoiding unwanted mistakes;
  • Detecting weak points;
  • Revealing gaps;
  • Setting up rules and standards.

So, take your time to create a plan your team can refer to and rely on. This will give people direction they will stick to, help them find common ground, and enable them to work in tandem.

Assign the Roles

In a complex process and multi-faceted communication environment, everyone should clearly know their functions, duties, and areas of responsibility.

Team leaders should explain to each member their place in the whole process as well as describe a common goal and make sure people understand their roles. This will let co-workers feel more confident and engaged. They will see how they contribute to the project.

Hold Scheduled Concept Reviews

To enhance cross-functional collaboration and maximize its overall effect, you should always stay on top of your project. This is where concept reviews come into play.

Holding regular meetings and welcoming members’ ideas, feedback, and notices on the project will help reveal the difficulties or issues before they go too far or negatively impact the project.

Besides, it will work to strengthen each team member’s ties with your company making them more involved and valued.

Refrain From Micromanagement

The need for stronger control and monitoring might seem natural for cross-functional teams. Yet, it’s a wrong approach. The best results will be observed in teams that get a certain degree of freedom.

Don’t limit employee initiatives and creativity too much. You can use a collaborative tool to check the performance and oversee the project without intervening in the process and interfering with the ongoing work.

Develop a Shared Understanding

Develop a shared understanding of project goals, timelines, and deliverables. Encourage everyone involved to ask questions and provide feedback to make sure they are on the same page. This will help avoid confusion and miscommunication and contribute to greater team cohesion.

Bottom Line

Cross-functional collaboration is an adhesive that glues different operational teams together and helps unlock their potential to the full when working for the same goal.

While it’s a great problem-solving tool, a properly set up collaborative system inside a company will let you get the most out of your human resources and make your business an appealing spot for talented workers.