In order to create great products, know how is needed. Interdisciplinary or cross-functional teams are the way to make people with different expertise create a common solution. Here’s a puzzle piece for cross-functional teams: 6 generic areas of expertise needed in a product development.
Clearly, it’s not quite agreed what cross-functional teams are. Have a look at this image search for cross-functional teams. But it actually doesn’t matter. Much more important than having a definition of a cross-functional team is having an organization where the experts are actually working together in a productive way. To find the expert, you can get started with this map:
- Business and strategy (B): That’s the upper managements perspective. Business plans and cases, strategies, business visions and such go here. It’s all about high-level decisions, strategic direction, and putting all the pieces together so the company thrives.
- Market (M): That’s the product and marketing people’s perspective. Value proposition, market story, product market segments, market communication and such things go here. It’s all about finding the right combination of price, place, product, and promotion.
- Domain or subject area (D): That’s the lingo physicians, audiologist, banking experts, and many more speak. It’s what a product actually does and it’s all about the increased benefit of new solutions.
- User Experience (X): That’s the still quite new perspective on the customers and users. Personas, experience maps, user needs, processes go here. It’s all about designing products and the customer experience in general, so customers not only get a product but something of value to them and that they have a great time all the way through.
- Technology (T): Finally the favorite perspective of engineers: processor cycles, SOA, wiring, housing materials, enterprise buses, DBMS and other stuff. It’s all about how to build it (in the coolest way).
- Corporate Abilities (A): The internal perspective of how a company is ever going to deliver the great inventions made. It’s all about resources, organization and processes from invention, intellectual property, development, production, sales, support and more.
How much expertise is needed?
The areas cut along typical fields of expertise. In general, you will find experts especially capable in one of the fields. So, how difficult are the challenges going to be? Is it a completely new and complex market and are your top shots from marketing on board? Is this a top-notch hi-tech project and are the best engineers in the team or will it rather offer a good learning experience to a few juniors? The generic areas of expertise provide a quick sanity check.
Combine to shape the future
The purpose of creating a cross-functional team, in whatever way the term is defined, is to shape the future. How will business look like once the product is developed? How will the market look like, the customers experience, the subject area, the technology and the company itself?
It is an often made mistake to involve expertise in a sequential manner. Some people first include the strategy, then think about the target audience and later about the technology. The ability of delivering something comes last. Usually as an outcry from the sales and distribution staff. However, in almost any product company, constraints and opportunities exists in all of the areas. And they do not easily combine. It can be a hard bargaining between what can be sold, what experience customers love, what is feasible, what the company can produce and sell, etc.
This bargaining needs to take place from the early stages up to the end. And that’s the reason for a cross-functional team: include the people with enough expertise to make a story become reality.
Seeing on how fantastically some masters of the trade are able to combine products, services, user experience, technological inventions, assembly of parts, refurbishing and more: It’s not just the experts in a company that matter. It’s how the skilled people work together so they can actually excel in seeing and shaping the future is what makes the difference!