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Cross Functional Agile Team

by StarAgile

April 06, 2020
Category Agile and Scrum


I know a school that produces a cent percent result in higher secondary school for the last 2 decades. It is a government-aided school and not a private one. I always wonder how they produce this result as students from different levels study there. One day I got the answer to this. Their teachers were the reason. Not that they teach well and give homework to make students understand concepts well, but every subject class happens every single day. Does it mean no teacher absent? No, it is humanly not possible. 

The secret is, each teacher owns one subject and they are the subject matter expert (SME) in that. But they also know more than one subject and hence they will take the class during the absence of the other. Thus students never missed any class which made them successful. Why am I talking about school in this agile and scrum blog page? There is a reason. 

What is a Cross-Functional Team in Agile?

My above explanation holds good for a cross functional agile team. Not all individual in a team is an expert in all areas but everyone is aware of all concepts but deep-rooted one concept. Yes, the agile product development team consists of a scrum master, developer, testing engineer, product owner, database expert, UX designer, domain expert, etc. Everyone with a particular name will be an expert in that. That does not mean they do not know other activities. This is one of the reasons for the successful accomplishment of agile projects. 

Cross-Functional: Team or Individual Member? 

Typically a cross functional agile team looks like a T. Yes, each individual will have a broader knowledge in more than one area but deeper expertise in one specific domain. 

Cross functional agile team – Individual

Cross functional agile team – Team

From the above image, you can see that a developer knows the database, UX design, and testing. This means he is a hardcore coding expert but can wear the cap of a DB, tester or UX designer when required. The above picture represents the skills of an individual. The collection of many such individuals in one team is called a cross functional agile team.

Understand that each team member is cross functional making the entire team cross functional. 

What does Cross-Functional Agile Team offer to the project? Advantages 

1. Executes multiple projects, multiple roles

When multiple people have expertise in different developmental activities it will let the organization get more projects. Each individual is not required to be present in one project all the time. Therefore they can contribute to different projects and can play a different role in each project. This makes the individual more equipped to become a pro in more than one area. Also makes the business expand their horizon and reach their goal successfully. 

2. Creates an empathetic environment

People work in projects and just not machines. This will always lead to chaos. Each person blames others for every mistake. Since they know how to handle multiple activities, they will also accept the pain point. No more development team and testing team will work in silos. Each one will extend help to resolve the mistakes and not push the ball to other’s court. 

3. Transparent

Scrum projects require transparency and that is special about this framework. Scrum master gets everyone to the table and the product owner explains the project scope and to-do list. Cross functional team members can better relate and thus they will also openly share their opinion. 

4. Self-managed teams

Conflicts will arise and there is no second thought when more than one individual does a work. But these people with extended skills can understand other's concerns. So they don’t require a mediator to talk to them and resolve issues. They are self-organized and suggest as well as accept mistakes to take things to the next level together. 

5. Minimize waste 

The different types of waste will not only make the development project costly but also consume the time and efforts of the resources. Those wastes are 

  • Adding extra features due to lack of knowledge and confidence. Extra features are added to keep things in addition to overcome any loss. 
  • Giving importance to paperwork. This is important when teams work in silos to let others understand what’s going on. But, in a team where people are multi-talented, they can quickly grasp and hence paperwork can be reduced. 
  • The switching of tasks frequently can be eliminated when some small jobs can be completed by one person.

6.Speed up iteration

Interdependency is reduced and hence speeding up of iteration becomes possible. Agile is an iterative process and many times people feel that organizing team is difficult. Yes, let us assume a tester role which is minimal in one sprint and hence he is allocated to another project. It will consume time to wait for him as his priority is different at the given moment. But in a cross functional agile team depending on the need for a hardcore tester another individual with testing skills can complete the task and complete the iteration. 

7. Continuous innovation

All team members can connect with others due to their knowledge in more than one area, there are rooms for innovation. People across the table can suggest new ideas that everyone can relate quickly and implement. Thus it becomes a dynamic environment.

8. Surpasses customer expectation

Having said all the above benefits, it is needless to say that a product developed by such a team will exceed customer expectations. Team with hands-on skills in multiple areas will join hands to not only speed up the process but to produce a quality product. Customers will feel glad to see their product which had beaten up their expectations. 

Final take away 

We are sure that you will now agree with the need to become cross functional. When every individual team member takes one step forward acquiring skills in more than one development aspect it will bring a successful cross functional team. 

Acquiring cross functional skills will provide you the confidence to grow in your career as you will know to deal with others. At the same time, you will respect others and value yourself too. 

Are you good at coding and want to become a scrum master? Then register for CSM certification training with us and start adding one more function to your development skills. Imagine your T-shape has deep-rooted in coding and now you will add facilitation skill in the broader aspect. 

In case you are a business analyst now and aspiring to become a product owner, then you must enrol for CSPO certification training. Software developer, tester, and project manager, anyone can take this course.