7 Key Benefits of Agile Cross-Functional Teams

The drive towards Enterprise Agility represents a major turning point in the way software and systems are developed. Moving away from the siloed teams traditionally found in Waterfall or Agile 1.0, organizations are establishing cross-functional teams as a way to optimize flexibility, creativity, and productivity.

Designed to bring greater efficiency and value to the development lifecycle, cross-functional teams are the best way to provide on-time delivery of high-quality solutions while optimizing delivery and removing bottlenecks.

But transitioning from siloed teams to cross-functional teams requires change, and change is hard. If your organization wants to implement cross-functional teams, you should have a good reason for the change that can be easily communicated to executives in order to get buy-in and to the people who may be placed on those teams.

Here are 7 impactful benefits of organizing your Agile teams cross-functionally that supercharge your SDLC for success:

They Resolve Issues of ‘Conflicting Priorities’

In companies that have organized teams around siloed skill sets, any release that requires a range of domain expertise will need to involve multiple departments. Typically, different departments will have different sets of priorities, which inevitably leads to bottlenecks in the release cycle.

Across the organization, multiple projects are in flight at the same time. If each of them is taking a small step forward, then stalling, then moving forward or backward depending on the review and the amount of re-work needed, the product will inch along slowly to a distant finish.

Cross-functional teams eliminate most, if not all, of the conflicting priority issues because everyone on the team has the same priority: the success of the release and the completion of the next iteration of work.

Their loyalties are to the release team, not to their skill set or their functional manager.

They Improve Communication and Quality

Coordinating projects across multiple departments requires meetings. In many cases, lots of meetings.

Documents and processes like development specifications can introduce the possibility for miscommunication, with consequent quality and re-work implications.

Thankfully, cross-functional teams inherently improve communication and quality of work. It may seem inefficient to have a web developer or a UX designer sitting in early meetings where scope, customer audience and other important considerations for the project are discussed, but these discussions provide important context.

They Ensure Consistent Focus on the Customer Experience

Cross-functional teams should be organized around delivering a particular customer intent, action or value stream. This helps the team to remain focused on the customer experience. Although less common, companies still fall into the trap of building products for themselves, rather than for their customers.

By organizing teams around the customer experience, they inevitably become the building blocks for creating and delivering greater value to the end user.

They Iterate Quickly

Cross-functional teams can often iterate faster than siloed teams, and rapid iteration leads to testing products early on, receiving direct feedback from customers, and delivering value in the marketplace before competitors.

While siloed teams often find themselves delayed as one or more skill-sets are not available when they’re needed, cross-functional teams have all of the necessary resources and skills to rapidly prototype and deliver minimum viable products (MVPs) themselves.

Cross-Functional Teams Improve Conflict Resolution

This is one of the greatest and most overlooked benefits of cross-functional teams.

Siloed teams often spend many hours in meetings trying to reconcile conflicts, each team taking a point of view that is often biased by their formal training. In almost all cases, teams with a full plate of work and tight schedules often have veto power over a project and there is little incentive to work with other teams.

With cross-functional teams, people are rewarded not only for exercising their skills, but for the overall success of the project. If the schedule seems impossible or they disagree about a particular approach, rather than just throwing up their hands and going on to another project, they must find a way to resolve the conflict so that the project moves forward.

They Improve Alignment and Use of Resources

One common objection to cross-functional teams is that there aren’t enough people in the organization to form the teams needed to address current problems. Rather than seeing this as a limitation, this should be seen as a strength.

When forming cross-functional teams, management is forced to prioritize the most important problems to be solved and the most important customer value streams to be delivered. Teams can work rapidly to solve these problems and deliver value to customers, and then the teams can be re-constituted to address other challenges and value streams.

Organizing by cross-functional teams sends the message that people should spend their time on the tasks that uphold greater business priorities rather than on less important tasks or projects that clog up the queues. This results in a more effective use of time and resources.

They Lead to Greater Innovation

People with different formal training and skill sets often look at a problem in different ways, so including multiple skill sets on your team can often lead to innovation in unexpected ways.

For example, a developer working on a product whose audience is other developers may provide insight to the UX team members that wouldn’t otherwise be available

Scaling agile across your organization is no easy feat. To help, we've created a complete guide to scaling Agile that walks you through 7 critical steps to successfully introduce Agile enterprise-wide.

By doing so, your organization will be able to respond faster to fluctuating market conditions, improve overall organizational efficiency, and enhance customer satisfaction.

Complete Guide to Scaling Agile Software Development

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