As a Program Executive at Salesforce, almost all customers I talk with are on a digital transformation journey, intending to improve their customer-centricity and agility. This is a vast and multifaceted journey, but I want to focus on one important change: moving from business and IT silos to product-aligned teams.

Moving from projects to products is a fundamental change in how companies organise around their digital strategy, with over 60% of companies having already adopted the model. Breaking down silos and moving to a fundamentally Agile operating model takes a lot of work but also promises plenty of benefits for both business and IT.

I’ll give you a short overview of why so many companies have adopted the model, what it means in practice, and what sort of benefits you'll get.


What are the typical pain points companies struggle with?

Most companies' digital strategy requires business and IT to have a true partnership and to work in common teams towards mutual goals. Yet in many places, business and IT are still siloed - business gives requirements to IT and takes a step back, while IT tries to build a solution to their best understanding. At the end of the project, IT delivers technology back to the business who then does a big training and change management campaign to get their salespeople, customer service reps and marketers to adopt a new way of working with new tools.

This sort of a traditional model often emphasises outputs instead of outcomes: IT is a machine to build new tools and doesn't have clear visibility into the business outcomes. Learning only happens after the project: did we build the right thing or not?

Business priorities change constantly, but if work is done in large projects, refocusing efforts takes a long time. Think about the time it takes to create a business case, project plan, get funding, and all the different gates of a typical PMO.

These are all common pains that product-aligned teams help mitigate!


What do we mean by product-aligned teams?

A product-aligned team is a cross-functional team involving both business and IT roles. It has end-to-end responsibility for digital development, from business strategy, innovations and future roadmaps to building solutions to ensuring their maintenance and adoption. No more juggling who's responsible for choosing what digital development to focus on or who is responsible for end-user adoption and change management - the team as a whole is responsible for everything!

Instead of being aligned to a specific technology or organisational silo, it is aligned to what’s called a product: on the Salesforce platform, this would be a business capability such as Sales, Marketing or Service. It’s typically a matrix team, gathering all the required competences from change management experts to IT architects, working together towards the business objectives and KPIs relevant to the capability.

Product-aligned teams are continuous, long-lasting teams that are responsible for all things digital related to their specific capability. This is in contrast to traditional project work where people are multitasking with various unrelated projects. All team members are allocated full-time. The Product Owner of the team prioritises biweekly what the team works on. The team has long-term funding, with quarterly reallocations. No more setting up complicated project plans and getting approvals from a PMO - the team shifts their focus continuously based on what's important at the moment.

The success of the team isn't mandated whether they built a specific tool or adhered to an approved project plan. The measurement is the impact on real business outcomes - the real reason companies undertake digital transformations, after all.

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Get real benefits from your digital transformation

On a strategic level, companies adopting a product-aligned team structure see:

  • Increased agility: up to 90% faster reallocation of resources based on changing business priorities
  • Increased alignment of digital initiatives with enterprise strategy: increase of up to 50% of IT budgets focused on key business priorities
  • Increased business value: less silos and more cross-functional alignment, as the whole team is working towards mutually agreed KPIs and objectives

When working with Salesforce customers, I have also witnessed plenty of softer benefits:

  • Employees are more productive due to reduced multitasking
  • Employees are happier and the work is more meaningful as they can better see how their own work affects business outcomes
  • Teams are more productive, as they have time to hitch together and learn how to work as a cohesive whole
  • Teams improve in competence as they can focus on a given business capability and gain an in-depth understanding of it
  • Leaner way of working, as decisions can be postponed until best information is available

And most of all: if you’ve been experimenting with an Agile way of working and struggle to get benefits, reorganising around product-aligned teams just might be the answer!


Break down silos to become a Trailblazer

I hope this summary gave you an overview of how many of our Trailblazer customers are fundamentally changing the way they work to execute their digital strategy. Such reorganisations are major undertakings, but the benefits are significant. Product-aligned teams are already common in companies today and I would strongly suggest you consider how this operating model could be applied in your company.

For more advice on how to accelerate your digital transformation, download our Customer Experience Transformation ebook.