For many SaaS companies, cross-functional collaboration seems like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want absolute synchronicity between their sales, marketing, and product teams? A thriving SaaS org is like a well-oiled machine, with every moving part informing the movement of others.
The catch is: in order for your SaaS company to achieve this kind of synchronicity, you can’t treat your colleagues like cogs.
But in an evolving SaaS landscape, where much of our work collaboration is being conducted remotely, how do you create that foundation of empathy and communication skills to ensure that your org is operating efficiently?
That’s what we’re here to find out.
Here's a breakdown of our agenda:
- What is a cross-functional team?
- Why do cross-functional teams exist?
- The incredible benefits of cross-functional teams
- How do we implement cross-functional collaboration?
The CMO Summit brought together industry experts who shared valuable insights on navigating the challenges of remote work, enhancing cross-functional collaboration, and aligning with C-suite goals. Here, we round up their main takeaways with exclusive quotes from the experts themselves.
But before we get into the meat of their discussion, let’s break down cross-functional collaboration and how exactly it can benefit your organization.
What is a cross-functional team?
A SaaS organization is made up of many vital functions, but all too often they operate in separate silos, sometimes even at odds with each other. If you work in a SaaS organization, you know it’s an old story: Marketing blames sales, sales blames marketing, they both blame product.
Not ideal, but let’s establish what the ideal situation should look like
What is the best example of a cross-functional team?
A cross-functional team is what you get when talented individuals from different departments like marketing, product, sales, and customer success come together to tackle challenges and save the day.
These teams can either be special task forces, with members juggling their roles in their own departments and the cross-functional team, or they can be the heart and soul of the entire organization, driving collaboration and innovation across the board. It's like having a dream team of experts with unique powers working together to achieve incredible results!
In short, it’s about bringing together a diverse group of people with varying skill sets who strive toward a common objective or multiple common objectives.
Why do cross-functional teams exist?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few decades, you’ll know the frustration of contacting a call center (sigh). Picture the scene: (It’s painful, we know).
You’ve spoken to one customer advisor, explaining the problem inside out and back to front, only for them to hand you over to a different advisor, where you have to explain the same problem all over again.
At this point, you’re frustrated, you’re wasting precious time out of your day, and you just know that when you make that follow-up call in a few days’ time, you’re going to have to have this same conversation as if the whole conversation were erased.
This is a pretty major and common problem right across the entire business world, so cross-functional collaboration is all about problem-solving.
The moral of this story: In order to provide your customers with the most delightful experience, where they truly feel like their needs are being heard, it’s important to foster cross-functional collaboration between your teams.
When organizations function in silos, it's not only a headache for customers but also a missed opportunity for the company to build strong, long-lasting relationships. Each department exists to serve the customer, so shouldn't they all work together seamlessly to create an amazing customer experience?
That's where the magic of bringing people from different backgrounds and perspectives comes in. When you have cross-functional teams in action, problem-solving becomes a breeze, and decision-making becomes smarter and more sustainable.
Instead of fighting over limited resources, these teams collaborate to make the best use of time, money, and effort, all while improving customer satisfaction and helping the organization reach its goals.
So, let's break down those barriers and let the power of teamwork and collaboration shine. It's time to deliver exceptional experiences, leave customers smiling, and make your organization truly customer-centric!
The incredible benefits of cross-functional teams
Cross-functional teams are all the rage these days, and it's no wonder why! Customers are craving personalized, top-notch experiences, and organizations are stepping up to the challenge.
Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say, and these teams bring together experts from different areas, and the results are nothing short of amazing. Here's a sneak peek at some of the benefits you can expect.
Coordination on point: With cross-functional teams in action, coordination across various functional areas becomes a breeze. No more silos or disjointed efforts. Everyone is on the same page, working together seamlessly.
Unleashing innovation: When you have diverse minds collaborating, innovation flows like a river. These teams bring fresh perspectives, creative ideas, and out-of-the-box thinking. It's a recipe for groundbreaking products and processes that leave the competition in the dust.
Lightning-fast customer touchpoints: Time is precious, especially when it comes to customer interactions. Cross-functional teams streamline processes and eliminate unnecessary steps, resulting in reduced cycle times for those critical moments when your customers connect with your brand. Faster response times mean happier customers!
So, if you want to stay ahead of the game and deliver exceptional experiences, it's time to hop on the cross-functional team bandwagon. Get ready for improved coordination, mind-blowing innovation, and lightning-fast customer touchpoints.
Now that we‘ve established the benefits of cross-collaboration, it’s time to look at some of the solutions that our wise CMOs at the CMO summit proposed for implementing and improving these processes, in the modern world.
How do we implement cross-functional collaboration?
How do we embrace remote work and build empathy
Remote work has become the name of the game in international business, and video conferencing has been a crucial tool!
Although it’s never a substitute for in-person contact, you’re now able to observe those subtle cues that come with body language and facial expressions, which allows you to really connect with your team members.
But here's the thing, just showing up for a video meeting isn't enough. Now that tech teams are so scattered, it’s more important than ever to encourage empathy.
If you feel like a colleague is really struggling, it might be more convenient for you to share ping over a quick Slack DM, but is that really going to create the kind of empathy that really encourages collaboration?
“In the modern age, we can really utilize technology to ensure that we’re staying engaged and empathetic. Using a platform like Slack, there are many ways you can create a rapport between teams to overcome the fact that you’re not just bumping into each other in the office.”
Jeff Boehm, Chief Marketing Officer at Wicket
And not just that, the rise of remote work has created more international teams, meaning we're dealing with diverse cultural values.
A failure to embrace and respect these values can also create a block to cross-functional collaboration. That’s why it’s more important than ever to utilize the tools you have in order to create a strong foundation of empathy within your team.
This also includes project management tools such as Asana and Trell. Once you’ve created a solid rapport with your team, it’s now time to facilitate seamless collaboration.
While in an office, it’s difficult to lose track of current projects because you can hear your colleagues speaking about it, and you can see them working on it. For remote work, it’s important to utilize all functionalities to communicate with colleagues and employees on the status of projects.
TL;DR: Remote tools make remote work feel, well, less remote. Use them.
How do we manage key stakeholders in cross-functional collaboration?
Maintaining high employee morale is essential, especially when teams are dispersed in a remote work environment. The physical distance can make it challenging to foster a sense of camaraderie and motivation, but it's a challenge that can be overcome.
It’s the responsibility of SaaS leaders to understand the importance of keeping employees engaged and excited, even when they can't gather in person. They take the lead in creating a positive work culture that transcends physical boundaries.
But how can leaders encourage this? Well, let’s break it down:
How do we generate enthusiasm around significant company developments
It’s essential for SaaS leaders to recognize that unveiling a new website represents a milestone for the organization and an opportunity to showcase its brand and offerings.
They may organize virtual launch events with interactive elements like live demos, Q&A sessions, or virtual tours of the website. Additionally, they encourage employees to share their thoughts and ideas, fostering a sense of ownership and collaboration.
By involving employees in the process, leaders ensure that they feel invested in the success of the website and the organization as a whole.
“I think, more than platforms and tools, it’s all about the different rhythms you employ to enable cross-functional collaboration. In our case, we have a very specific meeting that really sets the essential goals for the week. That then cascades into a kickoff with my marketing team, where we make sure that we’re aligned.”
Gaston Tourn, Chief Marketing Officer at Curio
At the CMO summit, our experts discussed the broader responsibility of shaping the company's value proposition. Here’s how they summed it up.
A CMO understands that a strong value proposition is essential for attracting and retaining customers.
However, it's not just about the external perception of the company—it's also about aligning the expectations of various stakeholders, both internal and external.
CMOs collaborate with cross-functional teams to define the company's unique value proposition, ensuring that it resonates with the target market and meets customer needs.
They work closely with product managers, sales teams, and customer support to gather insights and refine the value proposition based on real-world feedback. By aligning stakeholders' expectations, the CMO ensures a consistent and compelling message is communicated to customers, partners, and employees.
“The role of the CMO should be to shape and identify the markets that we're going after, but also to make sure that everyone’s in alignment with that goal.”
Equally, a VP of Product will have to ensure clear lines of communication between their product managers and other teams about the product’s capabilities and benefits so that the rest of the organization is aware of how the product should be positioned and what the brand identity should be.
How do we set boundaries and prioritize in cross-functional teams
In today's fast-paced and constantly connected world, increased accessibility and availability can often lead to burnout and a blurred work-life balance.
As leaders, it becomes crucial to recognize this potential pitfall and take proactive steps to set boundaries and model healthy work-life integration on a day-to-day basis.
By establishing clear expectations and encouraging a culture that values well-being, with all personnel feeling that their voice is represented on the team, leaders can help prevent burnout and promote the overall mental and physical health of team members.
Effective leadership requires prioritization skills and the ability to discern when to say no and focus on immediate attention needs.
In a world filled with competing demands and endless tasks, leaders must have the discernment to identify the most critical priorities and allocate resources accordingly.
By effectively prioritizing, leaders ensure that their teams can focus on what truly matters, reducing overwhelm and increasing productivity.
How do we streamline communication in cross-functional collaboration?
While it is important to find efficient modes of communication, leaders must also be empathetic and considerate of individuals' preferred methods.
Some team members may thrive with video conferences, while others may prefer written communication. By acknowledging and respecting these preferences, leaders foster effective communication and create an inclusive work environment.
“It's really easy to be overwhelmed by communications platforms. All the different inputs can create a threatening cloud of dichotomies. Some people like to communicate via Zoom using video conferencing, for example. Then again, another person may want to communicate via text or email. The question is, how do you streamline communications while also being empathetic and mindful of people’s preferred modes of communication?”
Amy Barzdukas, Chief Marketing Officer at WiTricity
Like what you see? Why not check out some exclusive insights from some of the leading minds in SaaS with a Future of SaaS Membership?