Cross-functional teams in CRM are relevant to most businesses as it is unusual for a project of any meaningful size not to touch different areas. They are important as they can break down perceived or real barriers between departments and, when done well, they can achieve a degree of customer-centricity that individual departments can’t by “joining up the dots” between different customer interactions.
However, it is very common for them to fail. There are lots of reasons why this is the case. I don’t propose exploring them here - what we will explore is how we can give ourselves the best chance of succeeding.
In the context of CRM, a cross functional project is typically concerned with creating a culture and set of working practices that will ensure a customer-centric view, rather than a department-based one. This article focuses on:
It is the responsibility of any steering committee or senior management to promote a culture of cross-functional working - without this the team will fail.
A cross-functional team seeks to bring together specialist who can together make design and process decisions or recommendations. By working together, rather than linearly, cross-functional teams should be able to arrive at an informed consensus more quickly. They should also reduce time needed for knowledge transfer.
For CRM, the scope of cross-functional teams should be defined as:
A small group of key team members from each support or administration area that the specific cross-functional project affects. They should be carefully chosen for complementary skills and be committed to a common goal. They should also be mutually accountable for the team’s success.
As Behnam Tabrizi, consulting professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, writes: “Cross-functional teams often fail because the organisation lacks a systemic approach. Teams are hurt by unclear governance, by a lack of accountability, by goals that lack specificity, and by organisations’ failure to prioritise the success of cross-functional projects.”
To ensure that cross-functional teams succeed, the following working practices should be considered.
These simple working practices can be used to assess the health of the project. For instance, if one or more of the team roles is poorly defined, the team will not be working as effectively as possible. It is suggested that a simple checklist is used to monitor this:
Targets for cross-functional teams are often different from departmental ones because they can be less directly-driven by revenue and more concerned with a longer-term benefit. Examples of targets that could be considered are:
CRM-focused cross-functional teams can work really well, but only if they have the necessary space and focus to do so. Few are made up of individuals with no other day jobs, so getting the balance of time is crucial and will only be achieved by the right buy-in at the right senior levels.
Darron Gregory is principal consultant at TAP London and a specialist in customer insight. He heads up TAP London’s insight and analytics team and is responsible for helping customers to get the most from their data. Gregory has over 20 years’ experience using Apteco FastStats and is an accredited trainer. He has frequently appeared as a speaker and thought leader at various industry events, as well as featuring in a number of publications where he has discussed topics such as, “Demystifying big data” and “The art of the possible with CRM”.