Why Cross-Functional, Agile Teams Are More Effective

No matter the goals of your business or your team, you can utilize an agile framework to streamline processes, improve communication, and complete projects more efficiently.

cross functional agile teams

The best agile teams are cross-functional, and the more areas of expertise included in the group, the better. Cross-functional, agile teams help companies build better products and deliver a website experience that touches every point of the customer journey. This post is going to show you how. 

What Is a Cross-Functional Agile Team?

Cross-functional teams are an essential component of agile development. They include people with a variety of complementary skillsets working together to complete projects in sprints or iterations. These are brief periods (usually one month or less) during which small batches of work are built, tested, and delivered. 

Cross-functional teams typically consist of 5-11 people who are mostly autonomous, managing their own schedules and work. The agile framework was created for software teams, but many companies have discovered the value of applying the processes and principles of agile to other teams, like marketing, business, and design. 

Teams and Technical Agility

Cross-functional teams are built to avoid the pitfalls of traditional waterfall development, where stakeholders create requirements that are then handed off to different teams to complete at various stages of the project timeline. The waterfall approach creates information silos, reduces flexibility, and often leads to solutions that are more costly than they need to be.

WebOps takes the foundations of agile development and applies it to digital marketing. By creating a cross-functional web team, which includes not just developers, but content editors, designers, and marketers, you can avoid silos and take a team approach to iterate and test creative solutions quickly. This approach boosts productivity, cuts costs, and allows you to build better products. 

Roles in A Cross-Functional Agile Team 

A cross-functional agile team always includes a Product Owner and a Scrum Lead, who are vital to the overall success of the product and the team. Here’s what they do:

Product Owner

The Product Owner is, as the name implies, focused on the product in development. This team leader identifies and prioritizes product requirements and features to help maximize the return on investment or ROI. The Product Owner evaluates the product based on how it meets the end user’s needs.

Scrum Lead

The Scrum Lead is focused on the team and the project timeline, rather than the product itself. This person doesn’t manage the team, they serve it, helping to remove impediments and protect the team from outside interference. The Scrum Lead is an expert in agile development, and they use that knowledge to guide the Product Owner, team, and even the company as a whole.

The rest of the Scrum Team consists of the individuals necessary to complete project sprints without any handoffs. Traditionally, development teams would consist of software engineers, architects, programmers, analysts, system admins, QA experts, and testers. With a WebOps approach, however, that team may also include marketers, designers, content specialists, and business stakeholders. 

T-Shaped Talent Makes the Best Cross-Functional Teams

The most successful agile teams consist of individuals who have deep expertise in one area, but a broad base of general supporting skills and knowledge which are valuable to the team. These people are known in agile communities as “T-shaped people.”

T-shaped people have enough knowledge to collaborate effectively with experts in other areas. Populating a team with these people can save time and money, as it cuts down on time spent explaining complex topics and allows teams to speak the same language. 

7 Benefits of Cross-Functional Agile Teams

There are many advantages to implementing a WebOps approach within the agile framework to build cross-functional teams. Here are just a few of them.

  1. Improved Communication and Collaboration

In many companies, individuals spend much of their time in meetings, many of them unproductive. In fact, a Harvard Business Review survey of senior managers in a range of industries showed the following:

  • 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work

  • 71% said meetings are inefficient

  • 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking

  • 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together

Cross-functional teams don’t waste their days in meetings. Since they are aligned on goals and objectives, they don’t need lengthy meetings to resolve conflicts between stakeholders or present the status of the project. When meetings happen they are brief and productive—daily scrum meetings, for example, are often capped at just 15 minutes, rather than the standard hour-plus. 

  1. Efficient Use of Resources

If you’ve ever worked on a product and had to make major changes after it’s already been built and tested based on stakeholder feedback, you know what a waste of time and resources it can be. Cross-functional teams are able to easily switch gears and be flexible with requirements because they are aligned on the larger goals of the product and often don’t need to go outside of their group to get buy-in. 

Agile development also allows for greater automation in building, testing, and deploying. This gives team members the opportunity to spend less time on mundane tasks and more time on bringing their unique expertise to ideation. 

  1. Faster Iteration

Cross-functional teams don’t need to waste time coordinating with other teams and divisions within the company. This allows them to iterate more quickly. 

For example, if a cross-functional web team is creating a landing page for a marketing campaign, they can quickly build and test multiple versions of the page to see which one performs better. Because they have writers, designers, marketing, and developers all working on it from within the same team, they can create each version faster than if they had to rely on individuals from several different teams. 

  1. More Scalability

Companies often hold off on large projects due to constraints with resources, time, or money. If you’ve ever worked on a site relaunch, for example, you know how expensive and time-consuming it can be. And many of those dollars and hours are wasted ones. 

With an agile approach, you can scale incrementally and effectively. Instead of relaunching your website, you can focus on the areas that will have the most impact. Because each area of expertise is represented in a cross-functional team, changes can be tested and made quickly, ad their impact can be analyzed before committing to the next change.

  1. Reduced Risk 

With cross-functional, agile teams, you run less of a risk of failure. There’s no scenario where you build a large website or feature that ends up becoming a total bust. 

With the incremental nature of agile development, you always know how well your product is doing, and can quickly pivot if you don’t see your desired results. Iteration greatly reduces the risk of failure and having a team that can smartly address issues as they arise—whether it’s copy that isn’t converting or a bug in the code—means foxing them quickly and without wasting resources.

  1. Better User Experience

Cross-functional teams are laser-focused on the customer. The Product Owner views all project requirements through the lens of the end-user, and because agile teams do rigorous testing, they are able to better meet the needs of the end-user.

A benefit to having teams composed of people from different disciplines is that individuals with UX expertise are involved very early in the product development process. UX specialists are vital to ensuring a better user experience. 

  1. Greater Innovation 

Waterfall development often stifles creativity and innovation. When team members are each responsible only for what falls under their expertise at a particular point in the project timeline, the product suffers. People with different skill sets look at problems in different ways. 

For example, a graphic designer may have some ideas that could help improve the UX of a page but if they don’t get a say at the right time, their concerns may be excluded from the project requirements. Likewise, a developer may know that a workable template already exists that will be suitable for testing an iteration, eliminating time spent on building something new—time that can be better spent exploring fresh ideas for utilizing the template. 

Cross-Functional, Agile Teams Are More Engaged and Productive

According to a survey by McKinsey, more than 90 percent of respondents who work on agile teams say that their leaders provide actionable strategic guidance; that they have established a shared vision and purpose; and that people in their unit are entrepreneurial. Only half of their peers who don’t work on agile teams say the same.

Cross-functional, agile teams are more engaged, passionate, and dedicated to their work. They feel a true sense of ownership over their work, and they are more invested in creating successful outcomes. With an agile framework and WebOps, you can build a knowledgeable and productive team that gets things done efficiently and innovatively. 

 


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