Design & Technology November 02, 2018
The do’s and don’ts of putting together digital teams
The time when making your website was a well-organised project has passed. As a company, you can no longer wait years to get something live as clients expect the best experience at all times. Whether it’s about understanding client data, flexible CMS systems, smart content or the best user experience, you need an army of experts who, on top of all that, work together as a team, can change gears quickly and get things done.
Most companies with a traditional structure have a separate team for every channel. Different departments end up ‘pulling’ the client — resulting in a cumbersome, unintegrated process. The client sees you as one company or brand but, within the organisation, the contact bounces in all directions. How can you set up your digital teams so they have an impact on all facets of the processes and possess the right skills? In our experience, companies go through four phases before the roles are properly filled and everything is in the right place.
1. Accept the new way of working
The hiring policy was very rigid in the past: we need X number of people for this department. End of story. Now, the tasks move around much more and there are many different roles at different times. This means you need a different perspective when considering how you put teams together. Of course, you can bring digital skills on board, but how do you find the right people? A highly skilled UX designer, developer or data analyst can pick and choose in the current employment market and only wants a job that presents the right challenges. A company that’s in the process of going digital generally can’t offer this because the people are only working on one thing and the developments aren’t that exciting. So, these companies work with shorter contract periods compared to before or with freelancers or agencies that can provide these specific skills.
2. Ensure a consistent work rhythm
You have to create a rhythm, so the team always works in a specific way. Consequently, it’s not so bad when new people join the team regularly. After all, they know what you expect from them. So, make sure that the rhythm is right, stick to the agreements and provide the right tools. Agile/Scrum is perfect for this — it’s interactive, speeds up processes and the rhythm is always the same.
3. Measure the results
Obviously, you make clear agreements with each other about what you’ll do in the sprints. It’s important to then establish an overview of what people are working on, so you can reach that velocity – together. Ensure that the team makes a few clear decisions regarding the tools that will be used, such as Confluence to create and organise the work, Slack to communicate, etc. This way, you can easily see who is doing what and if everything is on schedule.
4. Tailor the team’s targets to the organisation’s strategic objectives
How do you ensure that the team that’s working on digital channels does the work in line with the organisation’s strategic objectives? Ideally, the first step would be to guarantee this in practice. But in reality, companies appear to underestimate just how much agile differs from the traditional working method. The focus on a specific digital component can mean that the team takes a left to arrive at a solution, while the company as a whole wants to take a right. It’s difficult for team members to constantly have to determine whether they are on track with the strategy. The person who assesses whether the work is on schedule and eliminates obstacles, if necessary, should therefore also be responsible for constantly managing the progress in line with the corporate objectives.
Once the team has accepted the need for a new way of working, there will still be a few focal areas for the remainder of the process. Firstly, on- and offboarding is a crucial process. When new team members join, you don’t want them to have to wait three months for integration or a few weeks to get access to the systems. New people should grasp the process and the culture quickly and must know what the team expects from them. However, on- and offboarding is often the neglected aspect, resulting in a lack of speed and unsatisfied employees.
That is the second focal area. It is advisable to gauge employee satisfaction levels once a week — do they enjoy their work? And are they encountering any problems? This is a non-invasive way to keep tabs on everything. Happy people are more productive and this keeps minor problems from escalating.
Thirdly, look for partners who are just as flexible as the new way of working. You don’t need a party who will provide X number of people for a predefined period but you need someone to join you in the thinking process: ‘This is what we’re going to do — who do we need for this and when do we need them?’ You must have the ability to vary the people, skills and capacity based on your company’s needs.
My fourth and final tip pertains to the quality of the teams: create a clear picture of what type of people, which skills and which experience you need for the approach. A manager then checks the soft skills, but lets people in the same role assess the proposed team member’s work. This enables you to make a much better selection and digital teams can get down to business quickly.