Cross-functional or Dysfunctional

Using cross-functional teams to deliver projects is a no-brainer. So why do many organisations get it wrong, and how well does your organisation do?

In a recent survey of senior leaders, 53% said that UX and Design was not currently located in cross-functional teams even though they believe it would significantly improve the customer focus of the business.

When it comes to delivering digital products, expertise in UCD (User Centred Design) and an understanding of how digital design works across channels and devices (as well as development) is essential. Many organisations struggle to get this team set up right. But when it’s done well, your customers are looked after, retention and acquisition increases and profit goes up.

How customer focused is your business?

Here’s a quick survey you can use to check how seriously you take customer centricity based on your digital product teams.

Answer the following questions and check out the diagnosis at the end.

1/ Does your organisation have it’s own design team?
A - No, we outsource all our design work
B - Yes, they sit in their own department
C - Not its own team, but we always have a designer work alongside developers
D - Yes, we have a good team who are interspersed among the product teams

2/ Do you have specialists in customer research, usability testing and UI design?
A - What’s research?
B - No, we have one person who does it all
C - Yes, we have separate customer research and design teams but do not sit with the product teams
D - Yes, we have a researcher and a designer dedicated to each team

3/ As a senior decision maker, what is your view on investing in design?
A - It’s important to have some wireframes
B - Design allows us to make good business decisions that impact positively on our customers
C - Design should be involved at all stages of product development
D - We infuse design throughout the business to remain competitive

4/ How much experience does your design team have in working in cross-functional teams?
A - Not sure, they just get on with delivering the brief
B - Not sure, a lot of them have had lean UX and Agile training
C - Quite a lot in their previous roles
D - They are always working in a lean way, reducing waste in the process wherever possible and continually learning from each other and working together

5/ Do you use prototypes?
A - We base our roadmap on the prototype
B - There is always some version of a prototype floating around, they are great for powerpoint presentations
C - Prototypes are ok, but we rely on them a bit too much
D - We occasionally use lightweight prototypes to quickly prove out concepts or to do usability testing

6/ Do your creative team possess technical prowess?
A - They don’t need to, the developers do all that stuff
B - We don’t really considered it essential
C - Some know basic HTML and CSS
D - All our designers respect and appreciate the realities of designing for technical implementation

7/ Have you ever measured the ROI of design work?
A - No Design is seen as an expense and not an investment
B - We ‘do’ data analytics
C - We occasional run MVT or A/B testing
D - The design of customer centric digital products has such a big impact for our customer base we would be mad not to measure it

8/ Does your team know how to access common components and design patterns?
A -
B - We have brand guidelines
C - Some components are shared among the team
D - We have a very useful library that is shared and used by developers and designers alike

Score / Results - How do you rank?

(Mostly A’s)
Cross dysfunctional, your customers are not your priority.

The good news is that you are not alone. In a recent survey of 750 senior decision makers, 49% said that their project teams are dispersed across functional silos. There is every chance that you know what you should be doing, but implementing change is a challenge. These challenges come from departmental or functional heads, but sometimes, it can come from the uncertainty it means for people in positions of power.

(Mostly B’s)
Embryonic, realisation that happy customers bring retained business.

You probably have some cross functional teams working well but have shared resources which means that teams do not have dedicated cross functional capability when they need it most, e.g. when there are unanswered questions, when you are waiting for a product owner to make a decision, or when you are waiting to hear back from legal and compliance teams. You are missing out on the opportunities that arise from teams working and learning together day in day out.

(Mostly C’s)
Hopeful, just one step to nirvana.

21% of people surveyed (100 digital leaders with orgs of 500 people or more) said lack of UX and Design was a cause of project delays. It is also a common occurrence that cross functional teams are set up as traditional scrum teams that do not include design. If this is the case then you are just one small step away from nirvana. Fully formed, cross functional collaboration working like a well oiled machine.

(Mostly D’s)
Masterfully customer focused.

Congratulations, you are giving your business the best opportunity to increase revenue and enhance your customer experience. Companies have woken up to the benefits of infusing digital customer experience into their businesses for a few years now. Capital One is one of the first big financial institutions to get serious about it when they acquired Adaptive Path, an experience design consultancy. Ever since, the M&A space has been busy with large corporations buying specialist design firms.

Of course, as we have seen here, it takes more than simply having the right skills to make great customer centred digital products. The specialists have to be embedded into the delivery teams and that means sitting together, around the same desk, for the duration of the project.

This is how you get true just in time design in harmony with expert technical execution.

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We are currently studying how other companies solve the challenges of cross-functional product teams. We would love to hear from you if you have stories to share.

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