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Fusion Teams are the Future

As digitization changes the way the majority of the world's employees work together, CIOs must learn how to structure their teams, budgets, and reporting lines accordingly

Google spent four years and millions of dollars attempting to create the perfect team, and while the scale of Google’s investment may be unique, its focus certainly isn’t.

CIOs around the world report that the way they want to build and reorganize teams is undergoing fundamental change. Helping the business make the most of business-led IT, meeting the demands of a complex and volatile business environment, and supporting digitization is driving demand for fusion teams.

Traditionally, IT teams would form within discrete parts the IT function (like Applications, Infrastructure, or Enterprise Architecture), they would collaborate with that structure in mind, and hand off a project from one team to another, once they had completed tasks requiring their expertise – much like a production line in a factory.

But line managers increasingly need to form “fusion teams” that cut across domains, business areas, and channels, and to do so at short notice. And so a traditional model that requires multiple hand-offs and fails to integrate technical and business expertise leads to duplicated effort and missed deadlines throughout the process.

Fusion Team Structure

The emerging fusion-team structure differs from existing models in four ways.

  1. Fusion teams form across traditional boundaries: These teams intermingle staff from different functions, business lines, and third-party partners.

  2. Fusion teams integrate business and technical skills: Team members are expected to contribute both technical skills and business skills.

  3. Fusion teams deliver technology via continuous collaboration: These teams are more likely to use an iterative delivery structure.
  4. Fusion teams draw leaders from across the enterprise: Team members report to leaders who sit outside their function or outside their established reporting line.

Existing examples of fusion teams include those to be found working in DevOps, martech, and fintech. The fusion team model will likely grow more prevalent in coming years as “product IT” (or business-led IT) expands, DevOps methodology becomes more common, and demand for technical expertise grows more rapidly in functions outside IT.

Three Things to Think About

CIOs should think about the following changes needed to support a fusion team model.

  1. Changes to budgeting and workforce planning: Fusion teams require processes that allow managers to easily identify and share resources.

    For this to work, business leaders must implement a new approach to internal budgeting and workforce planning that accounts for the growing segment of employees and other resources being imported and exported across existing functional boundaries.

  2. Updates to collaboration competencies: Fusion teams generate greater innovation by mixing areas of expertise and disparate capabilities.

    To make this happen, business leaders must introduce new collaboration competencies that assess how well staff can cope with having to collaborate across much broader operational and cultural divides which separate how individual team members analyze problems, how they structure their work, and what technical language they speak.

  3. Changes to reporting lines: Fusion teams are designed to solve the types of broad, interdisciplinary problems brought about by digitization. This produces blurred reporting lines.

    Business leaders must find a new approach to owning, co-owning, and acting as a stakeholder for initiatives and formally and informally managing performance and evaluating staff.


More On…

  • Digital Enterprise 2020

    These resources will help you understand the future role of digitization at your firm, and the implications for the corporate IT team.

  • Corporate Agility

    Learn more about CEB's work on how IT teams can become sufficiently agile to help their companies compete amidst so much change.

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