The secret to building cross-functional teams & driving successful product innovation

Product innovation - lightbulb on a Post-it note


Successful product innovation is the lifeblood of every company, but achieving it isn’t always easy.

Doing so requires excellent communication and cooperation across multiple teams within the organisation, many of whom have their own agendas, objectives, and unique ways of doing things, which must all be managed accordingly.

Sherrie Fernandes, Vice President of Product Management and User Experience at G-P

In this piece, Sherrie Fernandes, Vice President of Product Management and User Experience at G-P, explores how businesses of all sizes can build and manage cross-functional teams that enable them to optimise their own product innovation strategies and why strong leadership is essential to overall success.

Sherrie is a dynamic product leader with 20+ years of experience developing web applications for SaaS companies. In her role, she’s responsible for defining a compelling product strategy and user experience that moves the company strategy forward and creates positive business outcomes for its customers. 

Sherrie joined G-P in 2021 to build a world-class, data driven, customer obsessed team. Leveraging her exceptional business, leadership and communication skills, Sherrie is adept at building cross functional teams to drive product innovation for companies of all stages. Her experience spans large enterprise firms including: Hewitt Associates, Kronos Incorporated, Fidelity/HR Access and Constant Contact, as well as start-ups such as Deploy Solutions and Scout Exchange, which have served multiple segments and categories.

Sherrie and her team were instrumental in the development of G-P’s next generation of features for its market-leading Global Employment Platform™, which makes it easier for businesses to hire and manage international talent in over 180 countries. Sherrie and her team are always focused on product innovation to enhance the user experience to support global workforces.


As every business knows, the customer is at the centre of all new product innovation. But it isn’t simply a case of asking customers what they need because they usually aren’t able to articulate it effectively. Instead, the key to success is having the ability to identify real pain points on their behalf and come up with innovative solutions to them.

Getting it right the first time is almost impossible, which is why running experiments, soliciting user feedback, creating multiple iterations etc, are all important parts of the process. This can be lengthy and expensive, but the most successful companies always preserve resources for innovation focused on gaining competitive advantage, whether it be creating new products or simply improving existing ones. Why? Because they know how important it is to their long-term success. 


Of course, successful product innovation isn’t achieved by one team in isolation.  It is almost always a joint effort between numerous different departments across the business, ranging from R&D and product development to sales, marketing and more. This is because each team brings its own unique perspective and thinking to the process, resulting in better, more effective solutions overall.

That said, the more teams there are involved, the harder the process can be to manage. Furthermore, with many people now working remotely or on a hybrid basis, communication and collaboration between co-workers can be even more challenging. Fortunately, there’s a growing number of remote communication solutions, including video conferencing, instant messaging, file sharing and virtual whiteboarding, that are making this task easier by the day.

In addition to having the right tools in place, organisations also need to clearly define the objectives and key results upfront, build trust with (and between) each team involved, and demonstrate that they value everyone’s ideas and participation equally. 

Unfortunately, from time to time,  conflict will arise during the innovation process.  When it does, it needs to be addressed in a timely manner. If not, it can quickly derail the project or result in a poorly thought out end product, which isn’t in anyone’s best interests.


Irrespective of whether a cross-functional team is global or domestic, remote or in-office, having great leaders at the helm is ultimately what makes the difference between success and failure.  Strong leaders tend to be great communicators, capable of fostering a culture of direct and open communication at all levels.  A key part of this is identifying and hiring employees that are the right fit for both the company culture and the task at hand, from innovation managers through to R&D technicians and product engineers.  Doing so helps maintain harmony throughout the team and keeps conflict to a minimum.

When working with a global or remote workforce, great leaders are constantly thinking about how they can strive for inclusion and fairness across multiple time zones while keeping everyone focused on the end goal.  For instance, what work can happen asynchronously? If meetings need to be had, what is the focus and desired outcome? If that’s unclear, then a meeting probably isn’t needed.  Running periodic retrospectives that accurately capture what’s working and what’s not is another good way to keep processes on track and ensure everyone is contributing equally.

Great leaders also take the time to get to know each team member personally.  This requires a concerted effort, particularly in larger companies where employees can be spread across continents, but doing so is what creates high performing cross-functional teams that produce truly exceptional new products.     

Modern organisations live and die by the products they produce, which is what makes continual innovation so crucial. Rather than relying on a single team, the most successful organisations focus on bringing together the best minds from across the business and providing the tools and environment required to thrive, regardless of location. However, to be truly effective this process must be guided by great leaders that foster a culture of success, where every team member feels included and valued at every stage of the process. Without this, success is never guaranteed.




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