Preventing Silos: Make Cross-Functional Collaboration Work

cross-functional collaboration

Many companies and their employees suffer from silos, which can exist in multiple forms. If you have only one or a small group of employees with access to crucial documents, you may have a data silo. Meanwhile, if only a limited number of people know how to use particular tools or have honed specific skills, you might be dealing with some knowledge silos.

Silos can prevent both the company’s growth and the development of your employees’ skills and overall career. According to consulting company Roland Berger, they may be more of a problem than some realize. In a year-long study of more than 100 global businesses, the company found nearly 80 percent of respondents said “strongly pronounced” silos were negatively impacting everything from the company’s costs to culture.

Unfortunately, only 20 percent said they had the right tools to combat this issue. However, there is a technique that they can adopt to tackle these silos head-on: cross-functional collaboration.

Cross-functional collaboration fosters more interaction between teams as they work together and share knowledge and data. This interaction can be the key to making silos disappear. Let’s get into why companies struggle with silos and the tools you can use to make cross-functional collaboration an essential part of your organization.

What is the Mystery of Team Silos?

Communication breakdowns and standstills can happen between many different teams, but we will focus on two teams that are often very separate — sales and software development. Though they have distinct objectives, they have the same goal of wanting to see their company’s product succeed. But very often, they remain disconnected while trying to achieve this goal.

While the development team works on product creation, the sales team focuses on what comes after development. They’re more concerned about generating the best leads than they are about building the product that’s going to market. Meanwhile, the development team is often not privy to what happens during the sales process.

In a way, there can also be a language barrier between the sales team and the development team. All employees have their own work styles, meaning they work according to their unique strengths and weaknesses. The work styles of a development team often differ from those of a sales team. Building communication between those of varying working styles is crucial, but too often, companies need to form the building blocks for collaboration between those different sets of workers. 

Unfortunately, this failure can create animosity between teams as they don’t understand the differing responsibilities. For example, the development team may be frustrated with how often the sales team reports to them to suggest product changes without the developers understanding how the sales team wants to make these changes to improve profitability.

Meanwhile, the sales team may not comprehend the amount of work they’re suggesting and how much it may fundamentally alter the product.

Innovate with Cross-Functional Collaboration

With cross-functional collaboration, you can get your teams back on the same page, creating better workers and a healthier overall environment. It starts with facilitating communication.

Think about times and spaces where only one team is present, like a sales coaching session. Such coaching is crucial for your sales team, but your development team could also benefit from sitting in. To put this idea into context, let us use the Sales team and the Development team in certain scenarios that exhibit ideas for stronger cross-functional collaboration.

Two Ways to Transform Silos into Bridges

1. End knowledge silos by having meetings between various teams.

While it’s unreasonable to suggest that all teams should participate in all meetings, you can open up discussions and ask each development team member to sit in on at least one sales training session per quarter. Encourage participation in different team’s sessions as this expectation helps the development team to learn about the challenges the sales team is facing, hone their own skills, and better understand how they can help their coworkers thrive.

Likewise, you can ask members of the sales team to sit in on product meetings. That way, the sales team can be more involved in the product ideation and creation process. By seeing how the development team operates, the sales team can gain more appreciation for and understanding of their coworkers, gain more insight into the product itself, and share knowledge from their struggles with sales to help guide the product to greater profitability.

2. Break data silos with sharing and collaboration.

There are several ways to prevent data silos from happening. One way is to increase the amount of shared documentation. 

Rather than making essential documentation about the product only available to the development team, you can create encrypted drives to safely store and share data and make it accessible to other teams. The more your sales team understands the product they’re selling, the more their leads will trust them as experts. Through their knowledge, they can turn their leads into long-term clients.

You can also use collaboration tools to give teams more insight into each other. Multiple teams can use these tools, which provide them with an idea of what their coworkers are working on, timelines for different projects, and a space to speak to one another about ongoing plans. These collaboration tools often also have spots to share documentation, which can further spread knowledge about the product.

Start Embracing Cross-Functional Collaboration

Silos stand in the way of your company’s success. Both knowledge and data silos break apart communication and prevent growth. Your team’s knowledge or crucial data can stay in one place rather than spread across the company, where they can create better, more well-informed workers. While it may seem that the sales and development teams have little in common, they have many ways of helping each other if they can.

With cross-functional collaboration, each team can share vital information that makes them better at their roles. But they’ll also gain insight into and appreciation for one another, creating happier and healthier workplaces. Everyone brings something unique to the table, from their work styles to their experience. We could all benefit from letting ourselves learn from one another.

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