A brand lives in all corners of an organization. And each and every employee plays a role in its overall creation and management. Web designers and developers create digital assets like websites and apps. Content creators and marketers put together marketing campaigns that target the audience’s pain points. Salespeople and front line employees represent the brand in their interactions with customers. And so on.
However, with people demanding more holistic brand experiences, these teams can’t afford to work in isolation. Their projects must come together seamlessly to provide a consistent, positive experience for the customer.
Sure, it can be challenging to get your teams to work together. And not because they have different goals, responsibilities and job functions, either. The fact is, people struggle to check their egos at the door, step outside their comfort zones, and trust others. They’re much more apt to work independently or (if they have to) in small groups with like-minded individuals.
So how do you, the person tasked with orchestrating it all, get the teams in your organization to collaborate cross-functionally? There are a few ways. And we’ll break each of them down for you, below.
But first, let's discuss some of the benefits that cross-functional collaboration can have on a brand. You know, to lift your spirits and give you a little motivation.
Benefits to Cross-Functional Collaboration
There are lots of specific benefits brands get from cross-functional collaboration. However, the majority can be summed up in three categories.
1. Consistency Across Brand Asset Creation
If you want people to have a good perception of your brand, you need to be consistent. Your voice needs to sound the same in all of your content, and your digital assets need to look alike.
Cross-functional collaboration makes it easier to keep everything in sync, because it keeps everyone on the same page. With cross-functional collaboration, teams can share their work and participate in feedback loops more frequently. They can communicate about branding updates and brainstorm new ideas, together.
The result? Out-of-date assets (like logos) pop up in public spaces less often and projects from different teams fit together to form richer experiences for customers, with every brand touchpoint.
2. Faster Iteration & Innovation
Trends move quickly. That means, companies have to move fast if they don’t want to be left behind.
But this can be difficult to do, if teams and individuals work separately. Beyond hitting mental blocks and running out of creative juice, innovating in a vacuum can lead to a whole host of problems, including wasted resources, product duds, and marketing faux pas.
Cross-functional collaboration changes the game, by getting people to think and talk about a problem from lots of different perspectives. By brainstorming together, these teams can bounce ideas off each other and layer their ideas into full-fledged concepts for products and campaigns. They can also clean up errors and spot problems with an idea, before too much time is wasted developing it.
Once the development phase starts, cross-functional collaboration can also help teams iterate more quickly. Projects can be split and shared among different people on the team, and everyone can participate in the feedback loop to make sure revision rounds are as effective and complete as possible.
3. Better Output
Ultimately, the point is to successfully create and launch something that will benefit the brand.
As Justine Metz, head of Global Wealth Management Marketing at Bank of America, explains, “The potential benefits to the customer and the business, of providing better solutions to the client, far outweigh the team integration challenges. It may take longer, but you get to a better result.”
Why? Because you have more perspectives and ideas in the room to cross-check content, designs, and products. Having multiple sets of eyes enables you to verify that an asset will help (and not hurt) the brand, before they ever reach the public.
How to Set Up Collaboration Between Internal Teams
Now that we’ve reviewed some of the benefits of cross-functional collaboration, let’s get to it. Here’s our step-by-step method to setting up successful cross-functional teams that will help you create an overall better brand experience.
1. Make Introductions
It’s a well-established fact that people who don’t know each other don’t work as well together as people with good working relationships. And you don’t need to look any further than sports teams to see it.
In fact, whether we’re talking about European football clubs, American basketball teams or any other athletic group – we can easily attribute success to good team chemistry. The reason being: teams with good chemistry know how to communicate, how to make seamless handoffs, and how to cover for one another. More than that, they’re also able to successfully make adjustments to the game strategy in the moment.
This same lesson can be applied in business settings as well. The better people on a cross-collaborative team know each other, the better they’re able to communicate, work together, handoff responsibilities, and make adjustments to the project scope and timeline, as needed.
For this reason, it’s vital to prioritize introductions and get-to-know-you experiences both before a cross-collaborative team comes together and shortly after their project kicks off. You can do this in lots of different ways, like encouraging water-cooler conversations or simply discussing priorities, goals, and preferences.
2. Hold a Kickoff Meeting
Once you’re ready to get the project underway, you should gather the team together and hold a kickoff meeting. This is the time to discuss your vision for the project and set clear goals for reaching it. It’s also an ideal time to assign roles, discuss the division of labor for the project and get everyone the right level of access in your brand management platform. That way, you spend less time fielding questions and working out logistics, later on.
This doesn’t need to be a three to four hour meeting, though. It’s just intended to give the team some direction before they jump into their work.
3. Make Brand Knowledge Shareable
A major trap businesses fall into with cross-functional collaboration is forgetting to make all necessary assets and information available to the team. This might be specific brand assets like logos and images or it might be guidelines for the brand voice and design.
Whatever the case, forgetting to give your cross-functional team everything they need at the outset of the project can lead to a slow down in project momentum, as team members wait for brand managers to send over assets and answer questions about their use.
One of the easiest ways to combat this is to use a brand management platform. With one, you can create, modify, save, store, and share brand assets in the cloud and give your teams direct access to them. This means, they can view and use those assets, on demand, without any extra hand-holding.
4. Create Communication Channels
No matter where your team members are located – or how far away they’re located – communication channels need to be clear and open to everyone on the team. People need to know how to get questions answered, how to give updates and request feedback, and even how to share a quick win with the rest of the team.
This is especially important for cross-functional teams who are less likely to bump into each other in a regular office setting or in virtual department meetings.
That said, it’s not enough to put together a spreadsheet with everyone’s preferred method of contact. Communicating that way is simply too complicated. Instead, cross-functional teams should come to an agreement about the communication channel everyone on the team will use for the duration of the project (at least, when communicating with each other). Not only will doing so cut down on communication lags, but it can also eliminate confusion about how to reach people.
5. Set Up a Collaborative Workspace
With team members spread out – both across office spaces and time zones – it can be difficult to work together. This is especially true, if everyone on the team is using a different tool to do their work.
While this can’t entirely be avoided, since very few developer tools have the right capabilities for creating marketing campaigns, there should be an overlap somewhere. In essence, the team should have a shared workspace where they can iterate, leave feedback, edit and share deliverables.
Not only does having one simplify the work itself, by allowing everyone to work on the most recent iteration of the project, but it also streamlines the approval process. And that means faster project execution and quicker publication.
In addition to its capabilities to create, store, and share brand assets, Frontify doubles as a workspace for teams to work on digital assets, leave comments, and approve versions – making it an ideal choice for cross-collaborative teams.
Cross-functional collaboration can be incredibly difficult to set up, especially for businesses who’ve never done it successfully before. But it’s not impossible. By following the tips and tricks above, you’ll be one step closer to building solid cross-functional brand teams.