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Topics: Agile & DevOps

The drive towards Agility represents a major turning point in the way enterprise software and systems are developed. Moving away from the siloed teams traditionally found using Waterfall methodology 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 software development life cycle, 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 requires change, and change is hard. If your organization wants to implement cross-functional teams, there should be a good reason that can be easily communicated to executives in order to get buy-in and to those affected by the change.

Here are 7 impactful benefits of organizing a cross-functional Agile team that will supercharge your SDLC for success:

They Resolve Issues of ‘Conflicting Priorities’

In companies that have organized teams around siloed skill sets, releases that require a range of domain expertise will need to involve multiple departments. Different departments will typically have different priorities which will inevitably lead to bottlenecks in the release cycle.

Across the organization you will usually see multiple projects in flight at the same time. Each of them will take incremental steps forward, stall, then continue forwards or backwards depending on the review and amount of rework needed. After all of this the product will inch along slowly to a distant finish.

A cross-functional agile team will help eliminate most, if not all, of the conflicting priorities and keep everyone on the same page. Teams will be aligned, focused on a successful release and completing the next iteration of work.

They are dedicated to the release team and not just to their specific 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 potential implications for quality and rework.

Thankfully, cross-functional teams inherently improve communication and the 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.

See How Storyteller Fits Into Today's Agile Toolchain

They Ensure Consistent Focus on the Customer Experience

Cross-functional teams should be organized around delivering a particular customer intent, action or value stream. Mapping this helps the team 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. Rapid iteration leads to testing products early on, receiving direct feedback from customers, and delivering value in the marketplace before competitors.

Siloed teams can often find themselves delayed as one or more skill-sets are not available when needed. Cross-functional teams have all of the necessary resources and skills to prototype rapidly 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 agile 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 are not enough people in the organization to form the teams to address current problems and business needs. 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 through value stream mapping. The teams can then be re-constituted to address other challenges and 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. Including multiple skill sets on your agile team can often lead to business and digital 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 would not otherwise be available

Scaling an agile methodology across your organization is no easy feat. To help, we have created a complete guide to scaling Agile that walks you through 7 critical steps to successfully introduce an Agile model 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.

Updated: June 12, 2019. Originally posted: March 4, 2019

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