Cross-functional teams have proven their value in digital transformation initiatives. They have always been important, says Tony Saldanha, former Procter & Gamble IT executive and author of “Why Digital Transformations Fail.” But today, they play a crucial role in breaking down the silos and processes that can thwart enterprise change and productivity as you seek to improve user and customer experiences.
It takes some forethought to set these teams up for success. Certain personal attributes tend to work better than others. The most effective digital teams have low attrition rates, are co-located near business users, exhibit breadth across multiple disciplines – and depth in a few – and tend to include more experienced professionals rather than recent graduates, says Jimit Arora, partner at management consultancy Everest Group.
Just as important is making sure to staff these teams (usually 8 to 12 people in total) with the right sets of skills and personalities for delivering transformation-enabling capabilities.
“Digital teams require a different mindset. They need to think ‘outside-in’ rather than ‘enterprise-out,’” says Vinod Kachroo, CIO of business process outsourcing provider SE2. “To do this, they must exploit enterprise capabilities to reimagine business models and processes.”
The skill sets required are cross-functional, with a blend of business and technology experience as well as process skills.
[ Get answers to common digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: What is digital transformation? A cheat sheet. ]
Certain IT-specific professionals, like software developers, are a given. Following are eight other types of folks – who blend business, technology, and process expertise – to consider recruiting for digital transformation dream teams.
8 key roles in digital transformation teams
1. The digital transformation lead
This important player has good soft skills, accountability, and a proven track record of managing digital transformation, explains Ola Chowning, partner in digital strategy and solutions at ISG. The lead will have a balance of tech- and business-enabling skills to ensure both sound technical solutions and the achievement of business objectives.
2. The change champion
This unusual person should have excellent communication, cultural, and organizational change expertise. The best ones, says Chowning, have a positive presence that makes it possible both to influence enterprise leaders and connect with employees at all levels to advocate for transformation. These evangelists will market and sell digital capabilities both internally and externally, Kachroo adds.
Stephanie Welsh, senior director for IT strategy and enablement, Red Hat, calls this player an “agilist” – someone who can adapt to changes and unexpected turns. This person recognizes the need to change direction and quickly pivot to the new plan. “They model how to effectively respond to change and will help others adapt as well,” she notes.
3. The technical engineer
These folks define the IT architecture required for the initiative. They not only understand the entire technology stack today, but they also can envision what it should look like in the future, explains Prasad Kothari, vice president of analytics and client solutions at research and analytics solutions provider The Smart Cube.
“They have a good understanding of various technology architectures and integration patterns to leverage existing capabilities, and [are] able to plug-in and plug-out both internal and external capabilities,” Kachroo says.
4. The business expert
This is the subject matter expert on the particular function or process being transformed. This member of the lineup also serves as a conduit to pull additional experts on demand, says Saldanha. This person becomes the voice of the business, working hand-in-hand with the technical engineer to make sure business requirements are satisfied, Kothari says. They can articulate business problems, opportunities, and value. “They become the owners of defining required capabilities, encourage experimentation, and can quickly make decisions on what works and what doesn’t,” says Kachroo.
5. The data architect
This clutch player will outline the different uses cases for data collection and guide how analytics projects will be implemented across the organization, Kothari says. They can connect data applications with top- and bottom-line business results.
6. The UX/CX professional
New systems are only as good as their adoption rates. The user or customer experience experts focus on making sure technology solutions are developed with the end-user in mind. They are experts in the field of human-centric design, says Kachroo.
7. The financial analyst
This team member is responsible for developing the business case and financial-value framework for the initiative. He or she provides an often overlooked critical element for transformation, Chowning says.
The entire team’s relationship with this player and your organization’s larger group of finance pros should be a priority; continued digital project funding depends on it. A first step is presenting all IT projects with an ROI, as Dave Castellani, senior vice president and business information officer for New York Life, recently told us.
While many digital projects are moving targets that may not pay off until much later, you need to make the financial case. “Articulate hard and soft benefits and present the accountability matrix for how these will be realized and tracked,” Castellani advises.
8. The critical hacker
Beyond basic QA testing, these experts have a knack for breaking things and providing constructive criticism. They will ensure that the functionality is ready for pilots and meets the success criteria established by the owners of the project or program, Kachroo says.
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