The Formstack Product team works in cross-functional teams where teams are formed around specific areas of our business. We’ve only been working in this way for a couple sprints but we’re already seeing big payoffs!
Not long ago we worked without much structure at all. When new projects came down the pipeline we’d grab who ever was available to do the design work. We would get a lot done, but it was of no thanks to our old process. Because designers worked on small projects across the entire app, they lacked a sense of ownership in any one area. This lack of ownership continued to be an issue after a feature was released. For each new project, team members would need to shift focus and update themselves on the current state of that part of the app and its history. This proved to be very inefficient and caused unnecessary confusion. We needed to get to a place that was more nimble and scalable.
After being in these cross-functional teams for a while now here are a few quick take aways.
In the busy world of building and maintaining a product, focus is incredibly valuable. Focus has been improved around all areas of our work.
Communication has never been better. A lot of this has to do with focus. At first we thought the new teams were causing there to be too many meetings. It turns out that we just weren’t talking nearly enough before.
Growing in team size and application size is much less scary with cross-functional teams. If the app grows, we know how to build a team around an aspect of it to be able support it well. It’s now also much easier to see where we need to allocate more or less resources.
When everyone was working on different parts of the app there was little ownership.
Now each team knows what they’ll be working on and will have responsibility for their part of the app. This helps teams know what they’ll be working on next and what needs to be improved. They also take a lot of pride in maintaining and improving things after they are released.
Easier to Manage
Cross-functional teams seem to manage themselves. OK, it’s not quite that simple. They do require daily stand ups, sprint planning and lots of focus that takes care of a lot of it. I still manage design across all cross-functional teams. The difference now is the project management is handled by the teams as a group. I’m now able to focus more of my attention on the welfare of my team.
So, all in all things are going great. Of course, it’s not perfect, but that’s ok. We’re happy as long as things are improving and we’re learning something new everyday. Expect to hear more about our teams once we’ve been at it for a while longer!
Originally published at designstack.io on November 17, 2015.