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Learn why more companies are turning to cross-functional teams

How to Structure Your Team for Digital Transformation Projects

March 29, 2023 1 minute read
Facilitating a digital sea change for your organization demands new processes, teams, and technologies
Stock color photo of a red-haired woman laughing with her male colleague in front of a monitor at an office

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on organizations worldwide, accelerating digital transformation efforts by several years. From cloud computing and e-commerce to virtual teams and remote learning, almost every aspect of our lives now has a digital counterpart. Remaining competitive now requires adapting to a remote and digital-first environment.

Consumer expectations have risen as a result. Organizations today must deliver frictionless, personalized digital experiences across an expanding array of channels or pay the price — literally. Organizations of all sizes forfeit an average of $4,500 per minute that their site is down, while sites that load in 1 second convert at a rate 5x higher than those that load in 10 seconds.

Plus, 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions. Fail to provide that in the digital experiences you deliver, and you’ll frustrate 76% of consumers.

Organizational challenges create obstacles

In today's business landscape, organizations increasingly rely on digital projects to meet customers’ demands. At the same time, a turbulent global economy has created headwinds, affecting organizations’ ability to meet their digital transformation goals.  While marketing budgets climbed from 6.4% of company revenue in 2021 to 9.5% in 2022, they still lag behind pre-pandemic spending. With budgets still lower than before the pandemic, teams increasingly lean on in-house resources, with 29% of work that would have gone to advertising agencies now pushed onto internal teams. In short, marketers have more to do but must meet higher customer expectations with limited resources. No surprise, then, that 76% of digitalization teams can’t deliver with the speed and elasticity that their organizations require. 

Shrinking budgets and shifting resource allocations are just a couple factors, though. Organizations may also struggle to achieve digital transformation when they stick to traditional staffing allocations and processes. In the conventional model, for example, departments work separately, and workflows are sequential, leaving projects vulnerable to bottlenecks. Frustrated teams will sometimes sidestep the issue by contracting with external partners, like agencies. Tighter budgets may do away with such workarounds, however, leaving stressed marketers to seek new technologies or platforms to regain agency, adding complexity to workflows and introducing security vulnerabilities. The disruptions can slow time to market and create animosity between teams. It might be why 84% of digital transformation projects fail, according to Forbes.

A new approach: Fusion teams

There’s another path to success: fusion teams. So named by Gartner, these groups are sometimes called “tiger teams,” “SWAT teams,” or, more commonly, “cross-functional (XFN) teams.”

Whichever moniker you choose, what matters is the approach that such teams take. Instead of the compartmentalization that other processes follow, fusion teams encourage cross collaboration between business functions. Fusion teams emphasize the importance of collaboration, agility, and innovation in fast-paced business environments. They’re strengthened, not threatened, by multidisciplinary expertise, drawing talent from engineering, customer experience (CX), marketing, and business development teams or whichever combination is needed for the particular digital transformation project. By bringing together experts from different areas and focusing on delivering results that meet the needs of customers, these teams can help organizations stay ahead of the curve and succeed in the digital age. 

Employee experience (EX) is another crucial component of a company's overall success, impacting employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity. By incorporating the principles of EX into the formation and management of fusion teams, companies can create a more positive and engaging work environments. Drawn together by a shared business outcome versus a single team objective, fusion teams shoulder wins and losses together, with collaborators learning from one another along the way. Working in tandem, fusion teammates take a distributed, broad-based approach that Gartner has found progresses 2.5 times faster than a linear, centralized method.

Supporting fusion teams through technology

Introducing fusion teams to your organization only gets you halfway to your digital transformation goals. You also need to invest in technology that can support their work. Indeed, the 2021 McKinsey Global Survey on digital strategy found that more than 50% of respondents cited technology as a differentiator, with top performers notable for their tech spend. The ROI is clear: Double down on technology to reap economic rewards.

The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) should also be taken into account when discussing fusion team technology. Without a doubt, AI already has impacted the way organizations and individuals work together. As it stands today, most organizations use AI in some shape or form, such as personalization tools or chatbots. It’s true that AI can automate routine tasks, analyze large amounts of data, and improve customer experience. As automation and AI become more prevalent, there’s still a critical need for human skills in devising, implementing, and validating these technologies. As the role of AI expands into our everyday life, the combination of AI and a composable DXP can drive efficiency, productivity, and better decision-making for fusion teams in the modern business landscape.

But automation and AI aren’t the only technologies you’ll need. More and more, enterprise-level organizations are turning to solutions that facilitate composable architectures — another shift in mindset. Rather than working with tools only available in a closed, monolithic system controlled by a single vendor, progressive companies are choosing to go the composable route.

What is composability exactly? A composable digital experience platform (DXP) offers both content and customer data management capabilities. Its building blocks allow users to assemble it to their liking, combining services, libraries, custom code, and packages as they see fit. This flexibility empowers users to quickly add, remove, or alter parts of the architecture as business needs change. Put another way, composability can be applied at both the platform and solutions levels, allowing businesses to configure and reconfigure each solution within their DXP to meet evolving requirements. In short, a composable DXP positions organizations to be future-ready.

A composable architecture in practice

Well and good, you say, but how does it work in practice? Let’s take a look at how a content management system (CMS) with a composable architecture sets fusion teams up for success. 

First, let’s identify typical members of a fusion team, which Gartner separates into business users, IT professionals, and one that straddles both worlds — “business technologists.” This emerging role best describes someone with tech know-how as well as an understanding of the organization’s business goals and strategy. It’s important for organizations to work closely with HR to identify, acquire, and retain the skills and talents to deliver the digital strategy. Fusion teams act as a bridge between IT and the business, and they’re directly responsible for leading digital transformation. Someone occupies the role in most organizations even if their job title doesn’t exactly match.

Color graphic of potential members of a fusion team as envisioned by Gartner
Source: How Innovative Cross-Functional Teams Are Delivering Better Customer Experiences

So, in this team structure, each member has pretty different needs. In our example, we’ll place a marketer in the role of business user, a developer to represent IT, and introduce a business technologist to the team structure to learn how a composable architecture can work for all.

For the marketer, a low-code approach will work best. It allows them to coordinate the assembly, build, and optimization of content, while a developer can take a headless approach that allows them to produce omnichannel experiences. In a headless, composable architecture, content can be delivered to different devices across channels in a range of contexts. By empowering marketers so that they’re no longer overly dependent on IT, both IT and marketing departments benefit.

A business technologist may prefer a hybrid architecture that allows for both low- or pro-code options. ("Pro-code" refers to coding performed by veteran developers.) In this framework, some content may be rendered and managed with a low-code platform, while other content is produced via a fully headless back end and rendered via a front-end framework of your choosing. 

Members of a fusion team — marketer, developer, business technologist (keep in mind that numbers and ratios of each will depend on project parameters) — thus equally enjoy different elements of a hybrid CMS solution.

Exploring fusion teams and composable architecture for digital transformation

What we’ve covered here is a quick introduction to the concepts and practices of fusion teams and composable architectures. For a more in-depth look at this important topic, check out our free e-book How Innovative Cross-Functional Teams Are Delivering Better Customer Experiences, which includes specific examples from well-known companies.

After all, companies that took a bold approach to innovation during the pandemic were the top economic performers in McKinsey’s survey. Don’t let your organization fall behind; download the e-book today!

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