Building a successful digital team is crucial for orgs aiming to thrive in today’s digital landscape. It’s an essential factor in helping drive innovation and enabling the implementation of new digital strategies effectively.
This post will explore key steps and considerations for building digital teams. More specifically, I’ll cover the basics, from defining roles and skillsets to fostering a collaborative culture and investing in professional development. The goal is to provide insights and some actionable tips (I’ll put them in italics) to help assemble and empower a high-performing digital team.
Before we delve too deep, I want to highlight some subtle differences between non-digital and digital teams.
Non-Digital vs. Digital Team Differences
For the most part, a digital team (sometimes known as a virtual team) operates virtually. For example, they primarily operate electronically and use digital tools and platforms. Also, they may work remotely or in distributed locations.
Side note: italicized sentences in the following comparisons = actionable tips or suggestions.
Digital Team Benefits:
- Global Talent Access: Virtual teams can tap into a global talent pool, allowing access to diverse skills and expertise.
- Cost Efficiency: Reduced need for physical office space and equipment can lead to cost savings.
- Flexibility: Team members can often work from anywhere, promoting work-life balance.
- Scalability: It is easier to scale the team up or down based on project needs.
(P.S. This is not a comprehensive list. Comment below if you know of any additional benefits.)
Digital Team Challenges:
- Communication: Remote work can lead to communication/collaboration difficulties and may hinder productivity. So, ensure digital team members have extensive remote work experience.
- Cultural Differences: Working across different time zones and cultures can result in misunderstandings. Of course, this takes some planning, so consider time zones!
- Security Risks: Virtual teams may face cybersecurity threats if not adequately protected. If hiring entirely remote teams, your IT department should have a comprehensive remote worker cybersecurity and data policy.
- Isolation: Team members may experience feelings of isolation and disconnection. To address this, HR departments need to create a remote worker communication plan that includes virtual social events, introductions, onboarding, and more.
A non-digital team typically works together physically in the same location, interacting face-to-face. They may be a combination of include hybrid, office-based, or on-site workers.
Non-digital Team Benefits:
- Immediate Communication: Face-to-face interactions enable instant communication, which helps to reduce misunderstandings.
- Team Bonding: Physical presence can help foster team cohesion and build stronger (or at least slightly more meaningful) work relationships.
- Collaboration: In-person meetings and brainstorming sessions can perhaps lead to more creative solutions.
(As with the above benefits, this list is not comprehensive. Please comment below if you know of any additional challenges.)
Non-digital Team Challenges:
- Limited Talent Pool: Non-digital teams may have limited access to specialized skills if located in a particular industry hub. If this happens, consider a hybrid model.
- Higher Overheads: Rent, utilities, and office expenses can be substantial. IMO, this is a no-brainer.
- Inflexibility: There is less room for remote work options, which can be a disadvantage in certain situations, such as during a pandemic. Of course, this depends on your industry, business model, and other factors. Nonetheless, have a remote work implementation plan in place. According to Airfinity, there’s a 27.5% chance of another global pandemic (equivalent to or worse than COVID-19) within the next 10 years.
Considerations for Both Types of Teams
- Team Composition: Consider the skills, expertise, and personalities required for the specific project or task when building either type of team.
- Communication: Clear and effective communication is crucial regardless of the team type. Virtual teams may require robust online collaboration tools, while non-virtual teams need well-structured meetings and channels.
- Project Nature: The nature of the project or task should dictate team type. Highly technical digital transformation projects may benefit from digital teams, while collaborative creative projects might lean toward non-digital teams. For example, I’m a project manager specializing in citizen development and focused on projects that use tech for good.
- Goals and Objectives: Clearly define your project’s goals and desired outcomes, as this will impact team formation. Also, be sure to include a stakeholder communication plan.
- Flexibility: Flexibility is vital in a rapidly changing environment. Hybrid teams that combine digital and non-digital aspects can sometimes offer the best of both worlds. Please remember that prospects know whether their jobs can be done remotely, in person, or a hybrid environment. Ultimately, if they prefer to be 100% remote, you won’t be able to change that.
Building Digital Teams: Key Components and Considerations
Define Roles and Responsibilities
Start by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities within your digital team. Identify the key positions required, such as technical project managers, digital business analysts, UX/UI designers, web strategists, citizen developers, digital marketers, or a strategy and operations professional like me. Also, clearly articulate the responsibilities and expectations for each role to ensure alignment and avoid duplication of efforts.
Identify Essential Skillsets to Build Digital Teams
Identify the essential skillsets needed for your virtual team (based on your organization’s goals and digital initiatives). These may include technical skills like programming, data analysis, marketing operations and soft skills like creativity, communication, and problem-solving. Overall, try to balance specialized skills and the ability to collaborate and adapt in a fast-paced digital environment.
Recruit and Hire Top Talent
Recruit and hire top talent for your digital team by leveraging various channels such as job boards, professional networks, and industry-specific platforms. Then, craft compelling job descriptions that highlight the skills and qualifications required. After that, conduct thorough interviews and assessments to assess candidates’ technical proficiency, experience, and cultural fit with your organization.
Foster Collaboration and Cross-Functional Expertise
Encourage collaboration and cross-functional expertise within your digital team. Create opportunities for team members to collaborate on projects, share knowledge, and exchange ideas. To do that, foster a learning and continuous improvement culture where team members are encouraged to expand their skill sets and collaborate across disciplines. Lastly, ensure your org doesn’t suffer from toxic positivity and other similar roadblocks.
Provide the Right Tools and Resources
Equip your digital team with the right tools and resources to maximize their productivity and effectiveness. For example, provide access to cutting-edge software, collaboration platforms, and project management tools. Invest in training and professional development programs to keep team members updated with the latest trends and technologies (like AI).
Establish Clear Communication Channels
Establish clear communication channels within your virtual teams to facilitate effective collaboration and information sharing. Of course, create consistent schedules to enable regular team meetings, project updates, and transparent communication to foster unity and ensure everyone is aligned with the team’s goals and objectives. (Keep time zones in mind!)
Encourage Innovation and Creativity
Nurture a culture of innovation and creativity within your digital team. Encourage team members to think outside the box, experiment with new ideas, and propose innovative solutions.
Support Professional Development
Invest in the professional development of your digital team members. Provide opportunities for training, attend industry conferences, and offer mentorship programs. Encouraging continuous learning not only enhances the skillsets of individual team members but also strengthens the overall capabilities and expertise of the digital team.
The Takeaway: Digital Teams Help Bridge Talent Gaps and More!
Building successful virtual teams requires careful planning, recruitment practices, top talent, and fostering a collaborative and innovative culture (queue change management). Furthermore, by defining roles and responsibilities, identifying essential skill sets, recruiting top talent, promoting collaboration, providing the right tools and resources, establishing clear communication channels, encouraging innovation, and supporting professional development, organizations can assemble a high-performing digital team that drives digital transformation and achieves exceptional results. Overall, building a successful virtual team is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort, nurturing, and adaptation to the evolving digital landscape.