How-To Guides

How to use workflow software to smooth cross-department collaboration

Last updated:
October 22, 2020

“Let the experts do their job,” is an excellent way to celebrate an organization that is home to many different departments. This usually happens as the organization grows and they need more specialized individuals and groups to meet their goals.

On the flip side of that, it touches on a great challenge that arises as a result—how is it possible to sync and move efficiently when many teams work across functions, clients, projects, and processes?

In order to optimize these varied processes or scale, successful organizations use workflow software to bring it all together, while saving time and fostering good working relationships across departments. We’re going to examine how you can use work management software to achieve your own goals, too. 

What is workflow software?

Workflow software describes a type of application that helps automate your work processes. You may also hear it referred to as a workflow management system. 

It helps organizations improve their business processes by creating a space for defining, automating, monitoring, and improving their work.

What is a Work OS and how does it relate to workflow software?

Short for Work Operating System, a Work OS is a cloud-based software platform where teams can build custom workflow apps. It’s also a way for organizations to unify the execution of day-to-day work, like workflows, projects, initiatives, epics, and tasks.

Some critical capabilities of a Work OS include:

  • Organization-wide use
  • Building blocks
  • Integration of data and apps
  • Structured datastore
  • Workflow automation
  • Permissions and governance
  • Data visualization and analytics

We’ll discuss more on how these capabilities optimize cross-department collaboration later.

What is cross-department collaboration?

In a nutshell, cross-department collaboration is what happens when people from different operational areas come together to solve problems, implement process improvements, or produce deliverables. 

As businesses expand, it’s natural for individual groups within them to slowly form silos. Silos describe a mindset that can develop in the workplace when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. 

Over time, they can actually develop their own habits and goals, which has the potential to take a once-unified company and brand into a fragmented version of itself—ninety-seven percent of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project. 

How do organizations benefit from cross-department collaboration?

Many organizations like Netflix, Google, and Amazon owe their success to the collaboration of their diverse departments and skillsets. It can actually be an indicator of healthy internal culture and even business success due to its benefits, like:

  • Decreased employee turnover: businesses with effective communication—like that involved in cross-department collaboration— are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover
  • Expanded creativity: cross-team collaboration brings more ideas, strategies, and ways of thinking to the table 
  • Improved performance: one study from Deloitte found that shifting to a team-based model resulted in a significant increase in performance for 53% of organizations
  • Boosted employee morale: 54% of employees reported that a strong sense of community (great coworkers, celebrating milestones, a common mission) kept them at a company longer, even if it wasn’t in their best interest

3 big roadblocks to cross-department collaboration

Naturally, the fusions of different teams, work styles, processes, and tools leave the potential for a few hiccups. Read up on a few of the most common roadblocks so you can avoid them. 

  1. Poor communication

According to research from The Cost of Poor Communications, the average loss per company is more than $62 million a year as a result of inadequate communication between and to employees. This could refer to any number of communication blunders from lack of transparency and poor team chemistry, to using the wrong channel to communicate information.

  1. Lack of motivation

Balancing classic responsibilities is challenging enough for employees—add cross-department initiatives to the mix, and you’ll leave some employees scrambling to find the motivation to perform their best. Cross-department collaboration has to be done thoughtfully and take into consideration more than just task allocation. Some common principles of motivation are:

  • Individuals want to be rewarded for their efforts
  • An increase in effort should be recognized with more rewards
  1. Functional silos

Functional silos are teams of employees organized by function that operate separately from each other, without cross-collaboration. In companies that are grouped this way—intentionally or not—teams take strict ownership and control over projects and areas, rather than leveraging collaboration. This is a threat to organizational alignment, intelligent resource management, and performance.

As an example, teams with strict ownership on projects might not be able to or won’t know how to bring in expertise from other departments—so the best person for the job won’t always be the one doing it.

3 ways to use workflow software to smooth cross-department collaboration

Now that you’ve had a taste of all the basics of cross-department collaboration, let’s bring all of that knowledge together. Using workflow software is a great way to either avoid or address any collaboration challenges across teams—and make it enjoyable, too. Here, we’ll show you what it could look like using a Work OS like

  1. Define each department or team’s stake in the project

The planning stage of a cross-departmental project is incredibly important because these initial meetings provide the space for teams to:

  • Negotiate responsibilities
  • Challenge opinions 
  • Suggest ideas
  • Shut down unnecessary work

It also allows them to share the nuances of their contribution to the project, so all teams and members understand each other's work. On, you can track all of these discussions and their outcomes on the one dedicated project board. You can then assign individuals or entire teams to specific tasks and KPIs to ensure clarity. 

  1. Create a knowledge and resource repository

More often than not, different teams and departments aren’t able to access the same information, software, documents, and more. 

A Work OS allows teams to store and update such resources in real-time and all in one place. You can import from your computer and other storage platforms you love. It’s also flexible enough to let teams then customize their workflows specifically to their needs, but make it visible and accessible to their cross-teams. In the example below, you can see that you can add a Status related to an item’s files.

  1. Share progress and completion

From small wins to organization-wide impact, success and achievement should be public and social so everyone understands the value of contributions made and feels appreciated. 

It’s easy on to boost morale and engagement whether you want to add a GIF on an item’s updates, create an update to tag an entire team, or even just the celebration that occurs when you change an item’s status to Done.

All-inclusive cross-department collaboration

Cross-department collaboration can be the green light—or the roadblock— in an organization’s journey to success. Optimizing the process for maximizing the efficiency of multiple teams or departments is a feat much easier handled with workflow software.

A Work OS like has all of the features and tools needed to make cross-departmental projects a success and helps you keep communication at the forefront, make all of the important stuff accessible to everyone, and win together. 


This post is a guest post by Rachel Weaver. 

Rachel Weaver is a Content Marketing Manager at Work OS is a flexible platform where anyone can easily create or customize the solutions their team needs to run any aspect of their work.

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