Effective cross-functional collaboration can be just the thing you need to propel your business to the heights of success. It helps in building harmony across the organization and also spurs innovation. So how do you ensure effective cross-functional collaboration between your teams? – By using collaboration tools
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best collaboration tools and also look at the various ways cross-functional collaboration can benefit your organization.
The concept of cross-functional collaboration
The teams in an organization usually work as isolated islands. This is not really conducive to the growth of an organization. Cross-functional collaboration essentially bridges the gap between the sales, product, human resource, customer success, finance, engineering, and marketing teams.
Effective cross-functional collaboration means clear and frequent communication across all teams. With cross-functional collaboration, your teams can contribute to each other’s success by sharing important resources. As your teams work more harmoniously, they’ll be able to achieve their collective goal in no time.
Cross-functional collaboration is not a new concept by any means, but the majority of organizations are not making the most of their cross-functional teams (CFTs). In a 2019 survey conducted by Deloitte, it was found that although cross-functional teams do exist in companies, most of the work is organized according to hierarchical lines. So, it’s evident that something needs to be changed.
How does using collaboration tools benefit cross-functional teams?
An organization that values cross-functional team collaboration will be able to benefit from greater innovation and creativity. When the teams within an organization share information and resources with each other, they can nurture some powerful ideas, whether it’s for solving a pressing problem or coming up with something new.
The advantages of cross-functional team collaboration are many, like:
1. More innovation
With cross-functional team collaboration, you get an opportunity to gather a team of people who’ll look at a problem in different ways. Every person in a team comes with their own unique perspective, experience, and skills. So, when people from different teams get together to brainstorm, they’ll be able to come up with some innovative and new ideas. Opportunities like these would typically not be available in a silo-structure organization.
Let’s understand this with the help of an example. For instance, you have a marketing campaign planned. Your cross-functional team (CFT) for this campaign will consist of a content writer, an SEO specialist, and a graphic designer. Together, they’ll be able to ideate and brainstorm to create a better content marketing campaign. You can enhance the efficiency of this cross-functional team further by including members from the product and sales teams. Their contributions would be valuable for taking your marketing campaign to the next level.
So, it’s evident that a cross-functional team would be able to cover more ground and also come up with innovative ideas when they collaborate with each other.
2. Improved organizational knowledge
Information disconnect and gaps of knowledge can be found in any organization, but that does not mean that they should be overlooked. Inefficiencies like these can be quite damaging to the overall productivity of an organization. Cross-functional team collaboration can help in addressing this issue. Teams can continue to learn from each other when they share their knowledge through cross-functional collaboration.
In a 2012 study, it was found that teams that continuously share knowledge and learn from each other’s insights through cross-functional collaboration are able to contribute to the development of organizational knowledge. Each member will be effectively depositing their knowledge to a wider pool, and also withdrawing useful information from this pool. When everyone has access to a broader body of knowledge, they’ll be able to put their best step forward. The productivity levels would also increase and the projects will move faster.
3. Collaboration tools keep everyone on the same page
Cross-functional team collaboration ensures that all the teams are communicating with each frequently. Frequent organizational communication helps in keeping everyone aligned. Every team member is on the same page, with regard to the departmental goals and company objectives. When everyone is on the same page, they’ll be able to work together towards a common objective.
4. Growth of employees
Through cross-functional collaboration, members of different teams get an opportunity to their knowledge and expertise with each other. This helps employees in developing new knowledge and skills that they weren’t familiar with before. Besides developing tactical skills through knowledge sharing, they’ll also be able to learn better communication skills, adaptability, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence. An organization with employees committed to continuous learning would always have a competitive advantage in the industry.
5. Stronger company culture
By incorporating cross-functional collaboration in day-to-day activities, you’ll be able to create a company culture that is rooted in teamwork, togetherness, and harmony. Every employee will be able to gain a deeper appreciation of each other’s perspectives. Cross-functional collaboration makes it easier for employees to foster connections with people in other teams directly, without having to approach their manager every time. A strong company culture would mean greater stability for the organization, as the employees would have the incentive to stay within the organization.
6. Collaboration tools foster greater employee engagement
In cross-functional team collaboration, every member is able to see that they are an important part of something bigger – a common goal. This is a motivator that drives greater employee engagement. The employees also get to experience how a company a run, as opposed to just getting a fraction of the information from the company meetings. With greater visibility into the company’s operation, the employees would put their best step forward in achieving the collective objective.
Role of technology in cross-functional team collaboration
With remote work becoming increasingly common, ensuring smoother collaboration between cross-functional teams has become all the more important. Technology can play a very important role here. The quality of collaboration tools in your tech stack can determine the success of your cross-functional teams.
Every organization that wants to foster collaboration between their cross-functional teams should consider including the following types of collaboration tools in their tech stack –
- Communication tools: These are tools designed to streamline asynchronous team communication.
- Workflow management tools: These tools help in streamlining routine organizational processes for greater efficiency.
- Task/Project management tools: These are tools that make it easier for teams to prioritize and organize tasks and projects so that they can be finished on time.
- Document sharing tools: With these tools, teams can share important documents and files with each other, and also collaborate on them.
With this, let’s move on to the tools list for busy cross-functional teams.
12 Best Collaboration Tools for Cross-Functional Teams
Here are our top 12 collaboration tools that can take your cross-functional team’s efficiency & productivity a step ahead:
1. Best collaboration tool – Nifty
This enterprise project management tool can ensure true collaboration between cross-functional teams by bridging the gap between communication and action. NiftyPM serves the purpose of an all-in-one remote office that can help teams with everything, from planning to executing projects.
Here’s how it can help ensure better collaboration between your teams –
- Nifty Discussions feature streamlines team communication and collaboration.
- Portfolio management: Nifty makes it easier to organize projects into relevant folders based on their location, department, manager, etc. Portfolio overviews provide the project managers with a better view of the project statuses, timelines, and completed and overdue tasks.
- Setting milestones: Nifty allows you to set important milestones for your projects on Gantt charts, along with details about the name of the project, description, due date, start date, etc. The milestones are color coded for easy status tracking.
- Time tracking: The time tracking feature is excellent for ensuring the productivity of your cross-functional team. It allows you to see who is working on which task and for how long. There is also a time reporting feature.
- User roles: Nifty also allows you to set user roles for providing customers access to different features. The four user roles are Owners, Admins, Members, and Guests.
- Other features: List, Kanban, and Swimlane views for visualizing tasks and projects. Built-in docs to bring your content and notes directly to the workspace.
Pricing: Nifty provides 5 plans – Free, Starter, Pro, Business, and Unlimited. The paid plans start from $39 per month.
2. Content Collaboration platform: Narrato
This content collaboration tool can be a great addition to your tool stack for streamlining content collaboration and creation. Narrato is an all-in-one solution that makes it easier for teams to manage content projects without having to constantly switch between multiple scattered tools. It comes with some powerful features like:
- Custom user roles: Users can be added under different roles with custom access to the workspace features. Currently, there are 5 user roles on Narrato Workspace – Admin, Project Manager, Editor, Content Creator, and Client. This gives you total control over who can access which projects. There are also Guest roles for external stakeholders.
- Better communication: Content collaboration features on Narrato include on-platform messaging, @mentions, and in-line comments on content, which makes it easier to collaborate and communicate without having to leave the platform.
- Content calendar and Kanban board: The shared content calendar can be used for content planning, assigning tasks, and tracking the progress of projects.
- Content workflow management: You can build custom content workflows and automate them on Narrato. Tasks can be automatically assigned and the assignees are notified instantly as the workflow status changes. You can also control which users can see a content task at a given workflow stage.
- Powerful content editor: The content editor on Narrato has an AI content assistant with a readability and grammar checker tool. There is also an SEO brief generator that offers SEO suggestions, and an AI writer which can generate content for a variety of use cases.
- Other features include WordPress integration, Canva integration, and free image search. Narrato also has an API using which you can build custom integrations with your CMS and other apps.
Pricing: Narrato provides both free and paid plans. The paid plans start from $8 per user per month. There is also an option for a custom plan to meet the unique requirements of a cross-functional team.
This is a next-gen collaboration tool that makes it easier for teams to come together to share knowledge, information, and resources with each other. Whether your cross-functional team is working remotely or in-office, Jive can ensure greater alignment, connectivity, and productivity with its wide range of features.
Some of the key features of this platform are
- Two-way comms: Built-in collaboration features allow you to switch between one-way communication to real conversations.
- PeopleGraph technology facilitates seamless collaboration and communication between teams by mapping the relationship between content, activities, and people.
- Analytics to gain insights about your processes, employees, and organization.
- Customizable spaces for every kind of project team.
- Activity Streams keep everyone on the team up to date about the projects and other important information.
Pricing: For pricing information, schedule a demo with Jive.
File Sharing and Collaboration Tool
This cloud-based tool simplifies file sharing and collaboration for cross-functional teams. It makes it easier to collaborate on multimedia files after sharing them on the platform itself. OpenText Hightail comes loaded with some great collaboration features like –
- File sharing makes it easy to share documents and links via discussions, chats, or status updates. It supports all document file types (.docx, .doc, PDF, etc) and also image, video and audio files. Users can also control access to shared files for viewing, editing, and commenting.
- Activity feed, status updates, and notifications to keep track of the current projects and activities.
- Discussions: Forum-style discussions through message boards.
- Commenting and feedback feature with options to vote and like items.
- User directory: Catalog of all the users on the network.
- Microsoft Outlook integration
Besides this, it also comes with some great project management features and additional features like time-stamped commenting option on video and audio files.
Pricing: OpenText Hightail offers 4 plans – Free, Pro, Teams, and Business. The paid plans start from $12 per month.
Task Management Tool
This is a flexible and easy-to-use task management software that can be very useful for cross-functional teams for ensuring smoother collaboration. It comes with some great features like –
- Redbooth dashboards: These can be customized according to your needs. Teams can use the dashboard to collaborate, track updates and manage tasks.
- Task progress tracker ensures greater transparency. Users can set priority, status updates, and due dates to keep the team updated on the task.
- Kanban boards with a drag-and-drop interface to ensure better planning and effective collaboration on tasks.
- HD Video Conferencing makes it easier to organize meetings and presentations on the platform itself.
Besides this, Redbooth comes with several other great features like time tracking, Gantt charts, file sharing, and more.
Pricing: Redbooth offers 3 plans – Pro, Business, and Enterprise. These plans start from $9 per user per month and there is also a 14-day free trial option.
Team Communication Solution
This tool can streamline the communication between your busy cross-functional teams through a private network. Brosix allows you to customize your internal communication according to your needs. It comes with options for screen sharing, custom chat rooms, chat options, and more that can help boost your cross-functional team’s productivity.
Other useful features include –
- Access control to user features
- Remote desktop
- P2P file transfers
- User activity log
Pricing: Brosix provides 3 plans – Startup (free), Business, and Premium. The paid plans start from $4 per user per month.
Creative Collaboration Tool
This collaboration tool is great for cross-functional teams working on creative projects. It allows users to plan and organize creative projects on visual boards, where the teams can then come together to ideate and brainstorm. Key features of this tool are –
- Real-time collaboration
- Supports all types of files.
- Notes and to-do lists.
- Comment threads with @mentions
Pricing: Besides a free plan, Milanote provides a pay-per-person plan ($9.99 per month) and a Team plan ($49 per month)
Time Management Tool
Favro is an excellent time-tracking and management tool for distributed cross-functional teams. It comes with a virtual dashboard where you can see your team’s activity scores, get real-time updates, and set productive and unproductive apps for each member. You can also enable the optional screenshotting feature. The great thing about Favro is that it comes with integration options with 30+ project management tools.
Key features include:
- Time tracking
- Real-time collaboration through Team and Planning boards
- Roadmaps and Scheduling
- Sheets, Database, and Word docs creation
Pricing: Favro offers three pricing plans – Lite, Standard, and Enterprise. The prices for each are dependent on the number of users (2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 10, or 100+)
Teams Meeting & Note-Taking Tool
This tool lets you stay on top of your team discussion by transcribing the audio into text notes. You get text summaries of your cross-functional team meetings almost instantly. It comes with Zoom integration, making it easier to delegate tasks, add comments, and perform actions in real-time. Users can also collaborate on meeting notes by adding photos, highlights, and audio. Otter.ai is an excellent tool for keeping your cross-functional team collaboration aligned.
Pricing: Otter.ai provides 4 plans – Basic (free), Pro, Business, and Enterprise. The paid plans start from $8.33 per month.
Collaborative Visual Production Platform
This is an excellent collaboration tool for cross-functional teams working on advertising or marketing visuals. Teams can come together to create engaging visuals on the drag-and-drop editor with the help of a huge library of visual elements and templates.
It also allows users to scale up their creative production by automating certain tasks. Tasks and projects can be organized into folders and then shared with teams. For a truly collaborative experience, Creatopy makes it easier to give feedback, share notes, and also links on the platform.
Pricing: Creatopy provides three plans – Create, Automate, and Enterprise. These plans start from $17 per month.
Choosing the best collaboration tools
When it comes to choosing the best online collaboration tools for your organization, here are certain things you should take into consideration:
1. Does the tool come with multiple features?
There are tools that only focus on one aspect of collaboration. This means that your teams would have to switch between multiple apps and tools to collaborate with each other. It would be a better idea to look for feature-rich tools that come with numerous capabilities for streamlining team collaboration.
2. Is it easy to use?
Ease of use is the most important point when it comes to choosing collaboration tools. If a tool works great but involves a steep learning curve, it would be difficult to get all the team members onboard swiftly.
3. Is it a cloud-based tool?
Cloud-based collaboration tools are always more useful. When all the information is stored online, every team member is able to access it easily, which ensures greater alignment between teams.
4. Compatibility and integrations
Another important thing you should look into is compatibility – whether the tool supports all the types of files your cross-functional teams normally use. A good tool would also come with some useful integrations.
We hope that this makes it easier for you to find the right collaboration tool for your cross-functional teams. All the tools mentioned in this article will help in enhancing the transparency, clarity, and efficiency of your team operations. While tools play an important role in facilitating collaboration, it’s also important to streamline your workflows to increase operational efficiency.