In the current business environment, the democratization of information driven by technological advances has highlighted the importance of cross-functional collaboration. 

This type of collaboration — one that involves various department teams working together toward a common goal — is critical because it breaks down organizational silos, ensuring that all departments align with the company’s mission and vision and understand how their contributions affect the overall objectives. Only with a holistic approach can teams make informed decisions quickly, accelerating goal achievement.

Benefits of Cross-Functional Collaboration

The benefits of cross-functional collaboration are manifold, ranging from improvements in reporting efficiency and accuracy to fostering increased innovation and agility. Diverse teams combining varied skills can tackle complex challenges more effectively and adapt swiftly to market changes and customer demands.

As a CFO, you play a pivotal role in driving this collaboration. Your comprehensive oversight of the company’s financial health enables you to guide strategic decisions that necessitate cross-departmental cooperation. Moreover, you can ensure resources are efficiently allocated to collaborative projects that align with strategic goals. By promoting a culture of openness and implementing performance management metrics that incentivize collaboration, CFOs can lead by example and enhance organizational effectiveness.

Challenges and Strategies: Ways to Promote Collaboration

One major challenge in promoting such collaboration is effectively conveying to teams the significance of their work in contributing to broader business objectives. Often, teams and their leaders fail to see how their efforts fit into the larger business picture due to information silos that foster tunnel vision.  

This tunnel vision can, in turn, lead to an “us versus them” mindset.  When there is an us versus them mindset, each team pulls together their own data from their own sources, which increases the risk of inconsistent data.  When data is inconsistent across sources, it creates confusion for the business as a whole.  In past lives, I have seen different revenue per period reported by different departments, which was also different from the revenue reported by the finance team in the company’s financial statements and management reports.  For data to be useful for informing decision-making, it needs to be accurate and consistent across all the data repositories where it exists — there needs to be a single source of truth for data. 

In my experience, a simple way to promote collaboration is to hold regular all-hands or town hall meetings that present performance metrics and status updates on important organizational initiatives and goals. These meetings are a good way for leadership to set the collaborative tone from the top by highlighting the different teams’ contributions and tying them to the organization’s big-picture mission.

Another common obstacle to effective cross-functional collaboration, usually due to siloed departments, is the perception of conflicting priorities.  I say “perception” because while it may appear that various departments have conflicting priorities, at risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, I believe that the departments of any well-run organization, just like the sections of an orchestra, work in concert, with the CFO playing the role of the conductor.

That means that there shouldn’t be any conflicting priorities.  Like an assembly line, each department’s goals are outputs that, in turn, are inputs to another department. Each department’s goals should be a piece of the puzzle to achieving the company’s overall goals.  That is why I believe that it is essential for functional area leaders to take the time to share short- and long-term goals with each other, with an aim to understand the “whys” in relation to the organization’s overall goals.  This will reveal the shared benefits – the “what’s in it for me?” – for all departments as they work toward achieving the company’s strategic objectives.  

Thus, the goal of shortening financial close timelines, for instance, benefits not just finance but all other teams. It provides an earlier and more accurate view of the company’s performance against plan and allows the company and individual departments alike to use that information to pivot quickly to take advantage of opportunities or change course to respond to changes in the marketplace.  

Likewise, the goal of launching a new product benefits the entire organization by allowing it to increase market share and grow revenue or by replacing a poor-performing legacy product, preserving revenue that benefits all departments.  

The list goes on and on — this symbiosis must be revealed so everyone can get on the same page. By fostering an understanding of each department’s short — and long-term goals, you can reveal the shared benefits, get cross-functional buy-in, and align efforts toward the company’s strategic objectives.

CFOs as the Cornerstone of Strategic Decision-Making

In conclusion, as a CFO, remember that your role extends beyond traditional finance functions to include being a cornerstone of strategic decision-making. By synthesizing complex information from various sources and sharing it timely and effectively, you help shape the company’s strategic direction and ensure it remains agile and responsive to industry dynamics. Effective performance management, anchored in clearly defined metrics, further supports this by providing a holistic view of organizational performance.

As CFOs, your critical role in facilitating cross-functional collaboration cannot be overstated. By leveraging your unique position, you can drive integrated approaches to problem-solving and innovation that are essential for achieving corporate success. It is crucial for leaders to embrace these practices and promote a culture of collaboration and strategic alignment. Through such efforts, companies can navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape more effectively, ensuring sustained growth and competitiveness.


Heather Ogan

Heather Ogan joined FLG as Administrative Partner, succeeding co-founder Jeff Kuhn, in January 2022. Heather is a senior finance and accounting executive with over 20 years of experience leading high performing teams in both public and private companies.  Prior to joining FLG, Heather consulted with several companies experiencing rapid growth…Read More