Being an innovative company today means using technology to improve and transform customer experiences. At Capital One, that means helping people connect with their money in new, different, and sometimes unexpected ways so they feel better about their financial futures.
Developing the right digital products in service of the customer requires a highly collaborative, high-functioning culture across disciplines – building teams that bring their unique points of view and expertise to bear in solving the customer problem. With that in mind, following are six tips and insights to consider as you build or evolve your own approach to striking the right collaborative balance to transform customer experiences.
Share the Mission – and the Decisions. Team members from each discipline provide their own expertise to solve the customer problem you’ve identified – leveraging design, research, product and data science – around one common mission. That’s a lot of great muscle being brought to bear in service of the customer. But with all of those voices, who’s the leader? Make sure that decisions, ownership and accountability are shared. Team leaders must empower and trust people at every level on every team.
Be Hyper Aware of the Organizational Vibe. The days of having one or two power centers that push decision-making around product development are on the wane. In its place, organizations are evolving, with multiple disciplines and team members with varied backgrounds building products that are truly tailored to customer needs. As a leader, that requires hyper-awareness of how you orchestrate routines and rituals. Continually monitor the pulse of your organization, and tweak and twist until you get the outcomes that you want.
Team set-up is another important factor. Look around our South Lake Union lab in Seattle, and you’ll see the physical expression of deep collaboration in action. A highly digital team across product management, UX, engineering and data science sits in a space designed for how people want to work and interact. Designers sit next to their data science and engineering partners, enabling dynamic conversations that might not happen otherwise – even in a highly Slack-obsessed, video-conferenced world.
Understand the Continuum. Every project has multiple beginnings, middles, and ends. In the beginning, research and product teams are in lockstep talking to customers to understand their needs – bringing that insight back to the rest of the organization. From there, iteration takes off – the process of determining how to create a product or experience around a specific need. Team members from varied disciplines ebb in and out to make sure iterations are feasible, have business value and meet the markers of customer-focused success. From an AI perspective, you’re tapping data-driven customer intelligence to drive the experience.
Respect, Empathize and Know Your Partners. Learn how not to make assumptions about other disciplines. A design team, for example, could be tempted to preemptively discard an approach it thinks might prove difficult for a tech or data science team to execute. Encourage the kind of tough, frank difficult conversations that confront such assumptions to uncover the ones that are foundational and those that are not. Bring your best case to all of your partners and let decisions flow from there.
Be Pragmatic About the Tools You Use. Partnering across design and data analytics while leveraging machine learning at scale are keys to building groundbreaking experiences that can influence consumer behaviors. There are many great tools and frameworks that can help get you there — be it agile development, design thinking or scrums. But it’s best to avoid the trap of picking a process for process’ sake. Pragmatism dictates that you take the tools that are valuable to you and that work for your team. Throw the rest away.
To Move Fast, Avoid Consensus and Escalate. In a culture that encourages debate and interaction – and seeks speed and rapid evolution – there will be times when collaboration can slow you down. To guide teams toward the outcomes you’re striving for, think clearly about how you gather information in the team setting. One tip is to take the shame out of escalation. If a team is working diligently but is unable to make progress, put a time box on it. Decide how long to have a discussion before pulling in people at another level or from a different discipline to help frame the decision and possibly, make a decision on the team’s behalf. There should be no embarrassment in making progress this way.
Finally, be very deliberate as you work to establish a culture of collaboration. There must be intentionality on every level – from how you think about the way you work, to the disciplines you put together, and even the physical location of team members.
The original vision of our founder was around democratizing access to credit. That meant we had to be very good risk-managers and able to use data in large volumes and to apply statistical and analytical techniques to offer credit to people who previously weren’t able to access the credit markets. That required a lot of analytical and technical thinking and forethought – mostly, it required collaborative balance.
We’re still living that same ethos, democratizing access to finance, and changing the way people interact with their money through technology. We encourage our digital and technology peers across industries to democratize in this way, to commit to modern products being built in order to delight customers. We’ve found that truly integrating disciplines is not only the most effective path to this commitment, but the most rewarding.