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How IT executives' play a key role in effective teamwork (new research)

Alicia Raeburn contributor headshotAlicia Raeburn
February 26th, 2024
2 min read
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As an IT executive, you’re at the core of the company’s collaboration, working at the intersection of people, processes, and product. And more than likely, you’re not doing it alone. 

To better understand the IT leader’s pivotal role in driving innovation and operational efficiency across the company, The Work Innovation Lab, a think tank by Asana, recently surveyed and interviewed IT professionals, including top execs from industry leaders like Google, Slack, and Okta. 

According to the research, successful IT leaders are beacons of cross-functional collaboration—43% of IT teams are more likely to collaborate cross-functionally compared to other departments
(e.g., sales or marketing departments) on average.

By dissecting this data further, we can uncover valuable strategies and insights to refine your collaborative efforts, ultimately bolstering organizational success.

IT: The collaboration catalyst

IT teams are increasingly becoming the backbone of their organization’s collaboration. In fact, 64% of all internal collaboration by IT teams is cross-functional, one of the highest of any department (just behind HR and legal teams). 

And while collaboration is spread across the company, roughly a quarter of IT’s collaboration happens with operations teams. This is likely an effort to continuously improve their company’s business processes. For example, both teams might partner to automate operation workflows or infuse AI processes throughout a company’s value chain.

The dividends for this collaboration are enormous—process improvements can help automate traditional operations, saving upwards of 60% in expenses. 

In addition to working more cross-functionally in general, the Work Innovation Lab research found that CIOs, CTOs, and other IT leaders are working more closely with their sales teams—sometimes as integrated members of those teams on strategic initiatives. 32% of IT executives reported being asked to advise on their company’s go-to-market strategy more often this year versus last year. 

The benefits are huge, but cross-functional collaboration isn’t easy

IT work is more collaborative than ever, but that doesn’t mean the transition is easy. A significant 54% of senior IT executives report experiencing stress weekly due to cross-functional work. This could be a result of working with other departments without fully understanding their business priorities and objectives. To counter this, IT leaders need to foster a culture of continuous learning and empathy, gaining a comprehensive view of the organization's goals and challenges.

Beyond that, data and systems security remain top concerns, with 27% of leaders feeling stressed daily about this issue. The more spread out work is across an organization, the harder it is to control. Balancing innovation with robust risk management is critical to maintaining the integrity and security of organizational data.

How can you improve cross-functional collaboration?

While it may be stressful, the results are clear—cross-functional collaboration is helping IT leaders be more successful. But that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. Lean into cross-functional collaboration by: 

1. Leveraging data: Employ data-driven analyses to gain a deeper understanding of team interactions. This approach can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in collaboration, guiding more effective digital transformation strategies that enhance teamwork.

2. Building stronger connections to revenue-generating departments: With an increasing number of IT executives advising on go-to-market strategies, it’s crucial to align IT insights with sales and marketing plans, reinforcing the strategic value of IT in these areas.

3. Thinking strategically about your tech stack: During the pandemic, many companies overinvested in collaboration tools. Reorient to select the right kinds of collaboration platforms, meaning those that enhance the digital employee experience and improve the way employees collaborate with one another.

4. Reducing unnecessary workflows and processes: When considering new technologies, ensure they help automate and reduce workloads. As redundant or unnecessary processes are replaced by more effective ones, it’s easier for teams to work together and focus on more strategic, impactful work. 

Building a better workplace

IT leaders are grappling with a lot of challenges, but some ways of working, like collaborating across departments and teams, are worth the effort. By understanding and enhancing cross-functional interactions, strategically investing in tools, and addressing challenges proactively, IT executives can more meaningfully impact their organization's resilience and success. The journey toward improved collaboration requires a blend of strategic foresight, empathy, and adaptability, with a focus on both the present needs and future aspirations of the organization.

Dive into the full report

Learn more about the daily challenges and stressors IT teams are facing right now, and how top-performing leaders are addressing them, the way IT leaders are future-proofing their organizations, how these roles have shifted, and more.

Get the insights
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