Business Leaders Achieve More with Fusion Teams

by | Jul 21, 2020

Using fusion teams, business line leaders can overcome technical and organizational barriers to innovation.

When it comes to large institutions, business unit leaders often feel hamstrung by organizational silos and IT bottlenecks. After all, these leaders manage the growth of a business line supported by different functional areas (marketing, HR, IT). They must coordinate across multiple disciplines at once. Without direct responsibility over the support teams, these business leaders can feel extremely limited in what they can accomplish.

For this reason, many executives start to see progress in terms of what is possible, versus what is ideal. Forced to manage to the lowest common denominator, leaders may invent elaborate workarounds when cheaper, more efficient paths could exist. Additional red tape or redundancy created from every business unit slows digital innovation across the whole organization.

In a post-COVID-19 world, banks and financial institutions need to speed up innovation, not slow it down. According to McKinsey, in only a few months consumer digital banking adoption has leaped forward by a couple of years. While customers demand change, organizations are faced with challenges like rapidly shifting priorities, new work environments, and disruptions in technology services.

During uncertain times, many successful businesses are rethinking the way they operate. Some are getting creative with the “golden triangle” of people, processes, and technology to create what Gartner calls “fusion teams.”

What is a fusion team?

As enterprises move toward digital business and product-centric environments, the need for cross-functional teams—or fusion teams—increases.

Unlike traditional and workplace teams, fusion teams are multidisciplinary digital business teams that blend technology and domain expertise to enable a distributed digital delivery model. A fusion team brings together people of all different disciplines and skill levels with the goal of learning and working together to execute a specific business outcome.

Instead of traditional teams, organized by function or leadership, fusion teams are structured by the business outcome or value supported. IT employees work closely with counterparts from marketing, sales, development, and other departments to quickly and nimbly deliver digital initiatives. Measure team members against the shared objective or business outcome they support and not the functional area of their expertise.

For example, an organization might create a fusion team tasked with facilitating mergers and acquisitions. When one of the largest airline companies sought to merge with another airline they suddenly needed to solve the problem of having two disparate maintenance systems. After the merger, they ended up with two sets of mechanics, aircraft, processes, and legacy maintenance systems. Instead of scrapping one or both systems, the airline decided to build a common front-end platform that took all of the complexity away. Now, mechanics from either company could type in the tail number of any aircraft and get the full history from the correct back-end maintenance systems.

With a fusion team in place to deliver a fast and seamless outcome, the right people are empowered to make the right decisions quickly. This is critical to how a digital enterprise must function moving forward.

Where do I start?

When it comes to implementing a fusion team, the best method is to define your desired business outcome and have the company CIO examine the existing IT organization and broader enterprise to identify current performance. They will need to identify where fusion teams might be an appropriate approach. Management should understand that different types of workers have different management needs and plan accordingly. Do not assume that IT staff will transition to a fusion team seamlessly.

Deploying fusion teams successfully requires a culture change and the right tools:

  • Buy-in at the top of the organization is crucial to achieving alignment of objectives and incentives across teams.
  • Nontechnical team members should use and understand tools at multiple stages of application development. This often requires shifting from high-code, technical applications and processes to low-code development platforms.
  • Creating a culture of accountability is key. Members of a fusion team should share success and accept responsibility for failure equally.

According to Gartner, 43% of fusion teams already report outside of corporate IT. The most common types of teams are ones that maintain customer-facing digital products and services, ones that facilitate customer experience or e-commerce, or data and analytics teams.

In the end, fusion teams foster autonomy and allow flexibility to self-organize and direct. A disruption like the COVID-19 pandemic exposes organizations to technical debt, sunk costs, and cultural inertia.  When it comes to the line of business leaders, multi-disciplinary teams offer an opportunity to plan, run, and manage digital initiatives on your own. It helps automate, cut operational waste, and create process viability. Indeed, fusion teams are expected to aid in attracting and retaining top talent. People enjoy taking ownership of their work and seeing that they have an impact on the organization.