Cross-Team Collaboration: Best Practices, Challenges and Benefits


Collaboration is already hard enough. Now imagine collaborating with colleagues that aren’t in the same department as yours. Or maybe even a different location! Well, people do it every day and it’s called cross-team collaboration.

As these hybrid teams become more standard, cross-team collaboration is the key to connecting these different groups and increasing their productivity.

What Is Cross-Team Collaboration, or Cross-Functional Collaboration?

Cross-time collaboration, also known as cross-functional collaboration, is about getting different departments to work better together. These different departments, such as designers, developers, marketers and sales, are all tasked with a common goal, but each is responsible for a different stage of that project.

Getting these different teams, who likely have unique ways of working and preferred tools for doing that work, to act as a single group can be difficult. Cross-team collaboration is the bridge you can build to connect everyone. That’s the strength of cross-team collaboration. It takes everyone’s strengths and combines them for a better deliverable.

If you need to implement cross-functional collaboration at your organization, equip your team with a work management tool that let’s everyone work how they want. ProjectManager is a project and work management software with five different views, so each department can be productive and work at their best. Plus, you can track progress along the way with dashboards and reports. Get started with ProjectManager for free today.

ProjectManager's kanban board
ProjectManager has multiple views and workflow automation to improve cross-team collaboration. Learn more.

Benefits of Cross-Functional Collaboration

The benefit of cross-functional collaboration is that it creates synergy and efficiency in a cross-functional project. A project manager will want to get their teams working together on the same project, even if they’re all coming to it from different perspectives.

When you have teams that are united in the delivery of a project, but all work in isolation, you’re asking for trouble. A critical part of effective team management is communication. Communication across hybrid teams ensures everyone is working towards the same goal.

Cross-functional collaboration creates faster project progress and makes sure that nothing is neglected. The more departments you have working together, the more eyes on the project to catch anything that might have been mistakenly overlooked. They also come up with better ideas, because they can bounce them off others and determine what’s best for the project.

The company also benefits from having teams that feel more connected to the business. Plus, teams will benefit from working with a larger pool of talent that they can learn from. Stakeholders are invested in the project, and team-driven results can only make them happier as the project delivers success.

Related: Free RACI Chart Template for Excel

Challenges of Cross-Team Collaboration

Yes, there are many benefits to cross-team collaboration. But that doesn’t mean it will all come easy. There are several bumps in the road that you’ll have to smooth out before you can reap the reward of team collaboration.

The first thing you have to build is trust. Lack of trust is a collaboration killer. But even if you’ve got a business where every department fully trusts each other, there can be a problem of communication. Departments can operate as silos, and that means no communication comes out or goes in. Project managers must work to create communication channels that flow back and forth freely.

It was stressed earlier that having a shared vision is key to building cross-functional team collaboration. Therefore, the project manager must be sure that those goals and priorities are aligned across all departments. The goals and objectives must be clearly stated, communicated and shared across the whole company.

Then, there are the teams themselves. Engineers tend to use language differently than salespeople. And everyone has different personalities, some that don’t easily mesh with others. Even remote teams can suffer because online communication is easy to misread. Collaboration tools can help, but mostly this is a soft skill that project managers must master in order to get individuals acting as a group.

Cross-Team Collaboration Best Practices

There are best practices to apply when working with cross-functional teams on a cross-functional project:

  • While there is a project manager responsible for coordinating work between all departments, it’s helpful to have team leaders take responsibility for leading their individual departments.
  • A team charter will help with team collaboration and team communication. We’ve mentioned getting everyone on the same page, sharing the project goals and objectives, but how exactly is that done? Many ways. One of the best is having a team charter that everyone can refer to understand what the project’s key performance indicators are.
  • The team charter will include the mission statement and project goals and project objectives. It will define team roles, who is one which team and what they’re responsible for. Expectations will be outlined on the team charter as well. It’s best to deliver this team charter at a meeting with attendance from all departments where you can explain the team charter and hand it out.
  • Speaking of meetings, there should be regular ones throughout the project. There will be department meetings, of course, but there must also be inter-departmental meetings that allow the entire project team to get together, pass on updates and field questions and get feedback. Transparency helps with collaboration. Meetings can be a turn-off to many, so keep them targeted with a tight agenda.
  • Getting members of departments to coach or mentor others is another way to connect teams in a powerful way that exchanges skills, builds morale and trust. Project managers can define the goals of these coaching or mentoring activities. These shared team objectives will connect different departments and facilitate their collaboration together.

Tips to Improve Cross-Team Collaboration

One of the most important things to do when working with cross-functional collaboration is to get buy-in. You can’t spring the idea on the business and expect them to take the ball and run with it. That buy-in is not only for the team, but the whole company. If there is no executive support for cross-team collaboration, then it’s not going to succeed.

Another tip for better cross-team collaboration is to have one central source of truth. That is a central channel where all teams can communicate and share files no matter where they are or what department they’re in. Cross-functional communication is critical for cross-functional projects to meet company goals. This information must be updated across all departments in real time so that no one is working with old data.

Finally, use project management tools, especially ones that are cloud-based and give you real-time data for better collaboration and cross-functional communication. The type of collaboration software you want will foster communication, regardless of where or when the team member is working, and give project managers transparency to monitor and track without getting in their teams’ way.

How ProjectManager Helps With Cross-Functional Collaboration

ProjectManager is work management software for distributed teams. Real-time data keeps cross-functional teams collaborating no matter where they work or how they work. Multiple project views allow each department to work how they want while project managers can get detailed reports on their progress and performance.

Work in Multiple Project Views

Multiple project views mean that managers who work in a more planned-out manner can use Gantt charts, which organize tasks in a structured and sequential fashion, linking dependencies, prioritizing and adding milestones. They can then set a baseline to capture the project plan, so when it’s executed, they can monitor the project variance and stay on track.

ProjectManager Gantt chart

Manage Production on Kanban Boards

The kanban view is more for the agile worker in your project. This visual tool has the same data as what was planned on the Gantt but broken up cards that are tasks placed in columns that define wherein the production cycle it is. Team members can manage their backlog and plan sprints. Project managers get visibility into their work and can reallocate resources as needed to keep them working at capacity.

ProjectManager's kanban with a task overlay

Track Teams’ Progress on Tasks

Knowing who is working on what gives managers better insight into assignments. They can look at the team section of ProjectManager to get details on everyone’s tasks and then use resource management tools, such as our color-coded workload chart to balance work and keep everyone happy and productive. There’s a real-time dashboard too that tracks progress as it happens.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

Teams can comment and attach files to tasks, which automatically triggers email and in-app notifications to keep everyone alert of changes and updates. No matter where you are or when you work, everyone is on the same page.

ProjectManager is award-winning software built for hybrid teams. Our tool is designed to help everyone work better together, no matter where they work, how they work or what their skill sets are. Join the 35,000-plus users already delivering success with our tool at organizations as varied as NASA, Siemens and Nestles. Get started with ProjectManager today for free!