Project managers plan, allocate and schedule resources efficiently to optimize resource utilization, maximize productivity, and control costs effectively. This often requires resources from different functional teams to work together to meet the project goal. Working with cross-functional teams can get complicated. Using resource management software enables these cross-functional teams to work together more cohesively and successfully.
What is a Cross-Functional Team?
A cross-functional team has members from different departments. These resources bring a unique skill set to the table, and all collaborate to work towards a shared business goal. Some external team members may also be hired only for a particular project. Extensive knowledge-sharing and enhanced client satisfaction are the cornerstones of this operations model.
Cross-functional teams are common in small set-ups, though larger organizations also adopt this model increasingly. Each team member is assigned a task relevant to his area of expertise. Since project tasks are often co-dependent, resources often acquire a working knowledge of other tasks (thus enhancing their skills). They may also contribute to improving the entire process (leading to innovation).
Cross-functional teams enable organizations to leverage resources from a global talent pool. Digitalization and technological advances make it possible for managers to tap cost-effective resource skills from various geographies, thus increasing productivity and cutting costs.
Benefits of Cross-Functional Teams
Cross-functional teams are very goal-oriented, can be highly productive and offer myriad benefits.
- Access to a wide range of skills and knowledge – Resources with diverse talents are part of different departments within the organization. They can be put together to work as a team as per the project requirements.
- Reduced costs – Since resources from various locations of the organization can be leveraged, the cost of hiring new external resources goes down.
- Improved knowledge-sharing – Cross-functional teams encourage sharing of knowledge across different departments. The various resources work in tandem and can identify and overcome project-specific challenges more effectively.
- Greater innovation – Each employee brings his perspective and viewpoint to the project; this is based on his unique skills as well as experiences. Combining all these encourages out-of-the-box thinking and creative solutions, which boosts innovative ideas.
- Enhanced efficiency – Project managers get an overall perspective of the project and can tap diverse skills to find solutions to various bottlenecks. They can allocate the right task to the right resource. Inter-department collaboration helps employees better understand the co-dependencies of tasks. The project is executed more efficiently.
- Increased employee productivity and better performance – Being assigned tasks relevant to their skill sets encourages employees to be more productive. The resource capacity planning can be utilized optimally, and employees put in better performances.
- Higher profitability – Project managers can utilize internal resources from diverse locations. This reduces the cost of hiring new resources. More cost-effective freelance external resources can also be hired on a project-to-project basis. This keeps costs under control and boosts profitability.
Strategies For Developing a Cross-Functional Team
Having a team with diverse talents and experiences is certainly beneficial. But managing resources from different functional areas can be complicated and challenging for the project manager. There may be conflicts of interests, a clash of personalities and delays. Managers must use resource management tools and techniques to develop cross-functional teams that work together collaboratively and efficiently.
Here's what a project manager must keep in mind while forming a cross-functional team:
- Put the right team together: Each project requires a particular set of skills and expertise, and the team must have resources that bring these to the group. While each resource must be a self-starter and able to complete his assigned task independently, he must also collaborate with the other team members to overcome any bottlenecks that may arise during the project's lifecycle. The project manager must ensure that he assembles a team with specialized and shared skills.
- Have a designated team leader: While each team member is responsible and accountable for his assigned tasks, there needs to be a team leader to ensure that the project progresses on schedule and to monitor each team member. The leader is accountable for the entire team and would need to collaborate with the team members during the planning process.
- Define desired goals clearly: Based on the project goals and priorities, the team goals must be defined clearly and without ambiguity. The project manager must outline the task priorities, the expected outcome, the deadline and the budget. This gives resources greater clarity on what is expected of them and they can work towards those deliverables.
- Plan the project from start to end : The manager must visualize the entire project and use resource scheduling software to plan each stage of the project. The deadlines, expected outcomes and timeframes must be specified.
- Emphasize team success : Team members each have a set goal, and some may be more successful than others in achieving theirs. The team leader must recognize each team member's success, but at the same time ensure that the focus remains on achieving the common goal.
- Encourage team members to share ideas: The manager must include team members in task planning and listen to their ideas and opinions. This will make them feel included and motivate them to work more productively. It will also show that he has trust in them.
- Offer concrete solutions to resolve workplace conflicts and challenges: Different departments and teams may sometimes have varying goals and styles of working, for example, sales and marketing teams, or finance and research teams. The project manager must be able to resolve these conflicts amicably for the greater good of the organization.
- Enhanced internal communication: Two-way communication is key to the success of any project. Team members must be made aware of what is expected of them, and they should also feel free to air their concerns. Resource management software provides a common platform for accessible communication amongst team members.
- Revaluate goals and processes continuously: Cross-functional teams are flexible and able to adapt to changes more easily. They are ideal for adopting innovations. Team leaders must constantly monitor to see what is working and what must be changed. They must also review resource performances and make adjustments to the processes and resource scheduling tools being used.
How Does Resource Management Software Help Cross-Functional Teams?
Managing resources is a challenging process, requiring great skill and talent. Projects that employ cross-functional teams for greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness can prove even more challenging. Using a resource scheduling tool like eResource Scheduler streamlines the entire resource management, planning, allocation, and scheduling process for project managers while working with cross-functional teams.
Here's how a resource management software like eResource Scheduler with its various resource scheduling tools equips project managers to work more effectively with cross-functional teams.
- Managing projects more efficiently – Resource management and planning become more streamlined. Managers can check real-time resource availability across all company locations and plan their projects accordingly. Resources can be allocated and scheduled more efficiently. Cross-functional teams get an overview of the project objectives, timelines, and their own assigned tasks.
- More effective resource scheduling – The Calendar and Activity Dashboard allows managers to view the schedules of various resources, and they can assign tasks according to available resource capacity, avoiding schedule clashes and double-bookings
- Overview of project priorities – Team members can view the prioritized tasks as well as dependencies and ensure that each task is completed on schedule to avoid delayed projects.
- Easier assembling of cross-functional teams – Resource scheduling software comes with various collaboration tools that enable managers to form cross-functional teams more efficiently, especially when some resources are shared across projects.
- Optimizing resource utilization – Real-time reports help managers monitor that resources are being optimally utilized and equip them with the data needed to reallocate resources to avoid over-or underutilization of resources.
- Project tracking – Gantt Charts track the timelines of various project tasks. Managers can monitor the status of various tasks and adjust time-frames accordingly. Team members can check the progress of the project and also make and add to a central to-do list.
- Identifying resource skills and gaps – Skillsets of all resources within the organization are listed in one central pool and managers can identify the resources they require for a particular project.
- Common communication platform – Different departments working on the same project need to coordinate and communicate with one another frequently if the project is to be executed smoothly and on time. Resource management software makes communication easy, especially when resources are scattered across the globe. Resources can share information and documents one-on-one or with the group as a whole.
Cross-functional teams are increasingly the norm for various organizations. Resource management software makes working with them more streamlined and efficient.Next Blog Previous Blog