How We’re Going to Kill It in 2018: Cross-functional Teams

Just over a year ago, we converted our project management and internal processes to embrace the wonderful benefits of Agile.

While we won’t ever be fully agile (due to nature of our projects), we’ve put together a truly solid approach to project, task, and time management. We have all become much more goal- and outcome-oriented. We’ve got visibility into the little and big bits of our client accounts that we didn’t have before.

We’ve come a long way.

Even so, Big Sea is an agency always looking for opportunities to level up, with an eye on better service for our clients, better results for their digital marketing programs, and better collaboration and ownership between our team members.

It’s with this great momentum that we decided to restructure to form cross-functional teams.

The way things were: functional teams.

Since we adopted Agile, we’ve been operating in siloed, functional production teams. We have a marketing team, a design team, and a development team. Each team manages their own work in their own sprint planning. Some sprints are two weeks, some are one week. Each team assigns tasks to the other teams as needed, and eagerly awaits its volley back when the work is completed.

It’s choppy. It’s inefficient. It’s been a nightmare in project management when there are dozens of tasks for dozens of clients scattered across at least three teams at any given time.

I hate to admit it, but the ball has been dropped a few times. Mistakes made.

The ownership aspect is difficult to wrangle once a task is assigned to another team. There are breakdowns in communication with regard to intent, approach, or purpose. Often the team assigned the task doesn’t have direct access to the client nor do they understand the overall goal of the task they’re working on.

We are problem solvers here at Big Sea. We looked at our own process as a challenge, and came up with a solution that makes us more efficient and more collaborative.

The next frontier: cross-functional teams.

Starting Monday, January 8, we are dividing our agency into two cross-functional teams.

Each team will manage their own clients, projects, and marketing programs. They’ll jointly manage the goals of each client, with everyone responsible for, and able to contribute to, the outcomes.

Our teams will look like this:

Account manager: This person will serve as the keeper of the client relationship. He/she will know everything there is to know about the client, about the work we’re doing for the client, about the internal and external politics that might influence our relationship. She/he is the client sherpa on their journey with Big Sea.

Marketing strategist: This person is the high-level strategist who understands the entire toolbox, and can put together marketing plans or content strategies to accommodate the goals we’re trying to achieve. He/she is responsible for the structure and work planned for each client.

Marketing coordinator: The coordinator serves as the day-to-day, boots on the ground, asset- and approval-gathering warrior. He/she wrangles HubSpot or email marketing platforms, adds and edits content on websites, inputs and formats blog posts and landing pages. The coordinator also works with the strategist on reporting and helping plan and manage marketing programs for our clients.

Search advertising strategist: There is a dedicated SEO person on each team who will also manage paid search and social campaigns. The search specialist works with the strategist, designers, and developers to make sure that creative, content, and code are all performing, and that the Facebook ad funnels or LinkedIn campaigns are converting.

Designer(s): Each team has a dedicated designer (or two) who will work on keeping and elevating brand standards for our clients across all media, from social content to full website design. He/she contributes to conversion rate optimization, email campaign performance, and the overall role of design in any of the marketing and web projects owned by their team.

Developers: There’s both front-end and back-end devs on each team who turn gorgeous designs into flawless digital experiences. They’re also responsible for suggesting ways to build better tools to enhance the user experience or provide quicker ways to achieve client goals. Again, conversion rate optimization, heat-tracking, and understanding technical SEO is in their purview.

Cross-functional teams = cross-functional solutions.

The problems we solve for our clients are not one-dimensional. There are countless ways to increase traffic, convert more leads, and close more revenue. The work we do spans a huge variety of tactical possibilities.

Having our designers, developers, and marketers all focused on reaching the same client goals will allow us to create more robust, full-funnel solutions to client problems and to create more integrated campaigns that utilize every bit of talent available across all of our modalities.  Rather than finishing the tasks assigned for their sprint, each team member is now fully aware of the task’s purpose and outcomes, and is able to contribute to its success or failure accordingly.

Keeping functional standards alive.

We are already working hard to establish practices that keep everyone on the same page with regard to standards for design, development, copywriting, and even marketing. We’re shoring up processes for each functional department and trying to form opportunities to level-up each aspect of our work as a whole.

We don’t want the teams swimming in opposite directions, and we want to know they’re sharing what works and what doesn’t so we aren’t duplicating effort. This, right now, seems like our biggest challenge.

It all comes down to trust.

We trust our people. We trust that they are going to kill it when they put their minds together to solve problems.  We trust that they’ll form and lead each other to great success.

We’re lucky to have agile, intelligent, and enthusiastic people who are fully embracing this huge change. They’ll ultimately decide their own fate, and we know they’re ready for this challenge — otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it!

2018, we’re ready for you!