In today’s interconnected and complex business environment, the future of work depends on the cross functional collaboration between departments, business units and vendors, and partners across geographical boundaries.
Businesses are not just one department or one unit. The businesses accomplish their collective goals by collaboration between the departments, functional units, and often outside organizations such as vendors or suppliers. Each of these functional units performs specific work, and the work from different departments needs to be orchestrated and choreographed to achieve overall business objectives or the KPI’s that the business measures itself against.
Ineffectiveness of cross-functional collaboration, and the challenges in communicating information at the right time and place leads to poor team performance. According to the Harvard business review, 75% of the cross-functional teams are dysfunctional.
One reasons for this disconnect is the challenges associated with the information and data flow as business functions are performed. Each team or department may perform at its best, with the best technology and people, however, other departments that collaborate with them may not be in sync. This lack of visibility and real-time collaboration may lead to a disconnect despite the best effort by everyone.
Let’s take the “Order to Cash” business function as an example of cross-functional collaboration between sales, order management, and supply chain (or fulfillment). In this case, the sales department might use a CRM platform like Salesforce, Dynamics 365, or NetSuite for order management. It might be integrated upstream with the eCommerce platform and a mobile order application used by field sales. Order Management must dispatch order items to fulfillment warehouses and suppliers. There may also be a service component of the order, which would be communicated to another department to provide field support and service via applications like ServiceNow. This scenario may further be complicated by different departments or third-party service providers using different service management applications like PagerDuty or Zendesk.
This typical “Order to Cash” process will constantly need to adapt:
- Business processes today are constantly changing and adapting. The supply chain, for example, is going through major changes and disruption due to COVID-19 requiring a constant change in suppliers and vendors.
- There is a need for constant change in technology to adapt to market demands, or improve upon existing processes. For example, the sales department may change the CRM system, or change its ordering setup. The e-commerce platform may change to adopt a new market or change in customer behavior.
- There may also be impacts from external sources like vendors or partners. The partners or suppliers may change their platforms that are connected to the supply chain. There may also be new suppliers or partners that use a system or platform that the business has not worked with before.
- There may be the desire to enter a new market requiring changes across the supply chain, CRM, and order management.
All of these changes require agility to adapt cross-functionally, ensure availability of information in near real-time, and keep the business running as a well-choreographed musical.
The sales, service, and fulfillment teams may be performing to the best of their ability, however, other than people and process, there is a tactical component of information to orchestrate business processes. The gaps in the information flow between departments and vendors may lead to poor customer satisfaction, or even worse, order cancellation. This affects net sales and future revenue streams.
Fortunately, with APIs and data integration technologies, there is a quick way to ensure that cross-functional collaboration happens in real-time. The success of the work will depend on the adoption of such integration technologies.