Cross-Functional Leadership: The CIO’s Role in Facilitating Collaboration Between IT and Other Business Units

by | Jun 10, 2024 | IT Workforce, Professional Growth & Careers

Every executive in an organization must work together to achieve company goals. Collaboration drives a company forward. It ensures everyone is working together to boost innovation and functionality.

CIOs play an intrinsic role in collaborative efforts. They must ensure the IT department’s technology benefits everyone. However, facilitating collaboration requires a careful strategy that must be fostered company-wide.

Read on to learn the strategies necessary for fostering collaboration.

Reorganize Teams

Teams typically exist within one department. But when cross-department initiatives come into play, teams must reorganize. The strongest leaders in each team must sit together so they can determine each other’s needs and the best processes for achieving goals.

The teams at CarMax tried this approach with much success. They determined that their teams should focus on business objectives rather than tangible goals. Teams acted like startups innovating quickly to transform digitally.

Rethinking Technology

Team settings force IT teams to rethink how they create and deploy technology. They can no longer work in a linear, assembly-line fashion. They must work collaboratively with others to ensure their products meet various needs across departments.

They must consider a wide range of factors in technology development. Growth, scalability, and revenue are essential factors. The input of various team members will ensure products meet departmental goals.

Pick the Right People

Cross-functional IT teams will meet their share of challenges. Team members may have priorities tied to their department. They may use technical jargon that is not widely understood across departments.

The teams can also suffer due to unclear governance and a lack of accountability. These issues can make them dysfunctional. It can create obstacles that get in the way of company goals.

Companies can overcome these issues by choosing the right people for their teams. They must identify team members who will be most likely to deliver on team objectives. Training may be necessary to ensure the employees they select can meet these goals.

Team members should have the skills to understand various aspects of the project. They must also have the right personality fit. They should be agile, fast-moving, innovative, and willing to collaborate.

Building Skills and Relationships

Collaboration may come more naturally to some than others, but it takes some training regardless of personality. Leaders must foster an environment that cultivates collaboration skills. They must teach workers to be accountable. They must train them in conflict management and communications.

Some leaders promote a collaborative environment in the workplace by co-locating team members. They put workers together who have no history of collaborating in the past. This strategy forces collaboration and makes workers more open to other’s opinions.

Trust is also essential in a collaborative environment. Some team members may feel like opening up to others means losing control or giving up valuable knowledge. A culture of trust will reduce those attitudes.

Articulate Shared Goals

New teams must understand their goals and ambitions. Leaders may have to sell teams on their objectives to ensure they are all working towards the same outcome. They must give them KPIs and metrics so they can measure their success.

Leaders can encourage teams to stay on the same page by rewarding them for meeting their shared goals. Rewards should be awarded to the whole team rather than individuals to promote a sense of unity.

Delegate Roles and Responsibilities

Unity is essential in creating cross-functional teams, but each team member should have distinct roles and responsibilities that keep them accountable for their work output.  Without roles and responsibilities, team members will keep bumping heads. Roles should be designated ahead of time to ensure teams understand their duties from the start.

Trust can be an issue when roles and responsibilities are delegated. If one team member feels they are being ‘bossed around’ they may become distrustful or resentful. Leaders can prevent this from happening by devising clear processes each team member must follow. This will ensure a hands-off approach that minimizes micro-managing.

Establish Multidisciplinary Oversight

Executives should determine a level of oversight. They should devise objectives that they feel are necessary to their team’s success. They should use this measure when they report to managers in different departments with progress reports.

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Additional Leadership Resources

The Art of Leadership: CIO Edition

How CIOs Can Champion Upskilling Across the Organization

Employee Retention: Strategies for Career Advancement in IT Teams


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