Vosper and Woodford said understanding each other functions was key to their success © Leo Wilkinson
Vosper and Woodford said understanding each other functions was key to their success © Leo Wilkinson

10 tips for cross-functional collaboration

23 October 2017

Communicating honestly about objectives and finding a shared goal is key to successful cross-functional collaboration, according to speakers at the CIPS Annual Conference 2017.

Richard Woodford, global procurement category director, marketing, at education publisher Pearson, said being transparent from the outset helped foster trust between functions.

“From the procurement side, you need to be honest about what your objectives are,” he said. “If you are looking to try and drive savings and value, then get it on the table from the get-go because it will go a long way to help further understanding.”

Laura Vosper, Pearson's director of marketing, agreed establishing common ground between the functions was key for collaboration.  

“Spending a bit of time sharing past experiences and identifying the differences between how marketing and procurement operations run can really help understanding and also identify a common areas,” she said. 

“Procurement often say that we are too wedded to certain suppliers and actually that’s because one of our top objectives is to respect our relationship with suppliers, so that shows you the differences we can find when we are upfront about our function’s commitments,” she said. 

Woodford added that when working cross-functionally, procurement teams should also look to assist marketing teams by setting out a course and taking on some “heavy lifting” during the process.

“Fundamentally, having some kind of structure will get you from A to B a lot quicker and effectively than normal. We know that but you have to work with the other functions to get everyone on the same page,” he said.

“There are some things that marketing people don’t like doing – they are creative people and procurement people are much more directional so using our skills to drive the agenda will help both reach the goal.

“Take some of the load on.  Say: ‘we’ll have the difficult conversation with businesses in the supply chain, we’ll worry about the contracting, we’ll worry about the operational performance reviews and you can concentrate on the day-to-day things that drive the business to be successful’.”

Woodford and Vosper shared the following top 10 tips for successful cross-functional collaboration:

  1. Be honest
  2. Clearly outline what you want to achieve
  3. Listen to each other
  4. Be accommodating to each other’s arguments
  5. Look for common ground
  6. Try and understand each other’s language
  7. Make the process as simple as possible
  8. Challenge each other and others around you
  9. Align objectives and ask questions
  10. Remember, together you can be a formidable team
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