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Virtual Affairs on fixed teams

By Virtual Affairs

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We are you regularly develops bespoke solutions for private banks and investment management firms. To speed up the development process we have invested in a component-based development culture. It enables us to repurpose knowledge acquired within the banking industry. This includes retail banking, private banking and wealth management. This accelerates the...

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by We are you
| 04/10/2018 12:00:00

Hi and welcome back to our series of videos and blogpost, where our colleagues at Virtual Affairs share their expertise surrounding (fin)tech for you to apply them in your own projects. If you missed out on our first video, here is the link to – Virtual Affairs on Scrum with our Lead Scrum Master Mariya Spasova.

This time around, Dorien van der Linden has an interview with Mariya about fixed teams and what it can add to your projects. So, without further ado, let’s get in to the interview.

Could you explain what a fixed team is exactly?
A fixed team is a group of people which are put together, based on their expertise, which are not bound to a particular project. Ideally with always the same people. It is also important that you team is scalable, so it’s as easy as possible to switch people in your team if needed. But this is not an ideal situation.

With fixed teams there are certain dynamics in the group you need to figure out first. It is important to learn how you cooperate with each other, how you communicate, how you can relate to one another and what you can expect from your team members. The smoother the dynamics within a team, the better and quicker you achieve your deliverables. I especially like to add emphasis on the human aspects when forming a team, because a fixed team is something you build up for the long term.

“It’s a very common misunderstanding that when you add a new team member to the group, the work will go faster.”

The moment you change a team member you change the dynamics again, and building a team that works starts all over again. The new team member needs to find his place within the group and this brings a hiccup to the process. It’s a very common misunderstanding that when you add a new team member to the group, the work will go faster. That is not true. Especially on short terms, it takes more time to integrate the new person to the team and brings the velocity of the work process down. It can disrupt the dynamic, because the new person needs to get used to working with the team.

What would be the benefit of working with a fixed team structure as opposed to setting up a team from available resources per project, because it sounds like it takes more effort and planning to set up a team that is engaged in a project as a whole. It could be less flexible. What are the benefits of having a fixed team?

Working with fixed teams has multiple benefits. You have a team with established dynamics that stay together over a longer period of time. Over time, the team gets better and better, and more efficient. The acceleration may take a bit more time, but the top speed is much higher.

“By opting for fixed teams, we achieved more product development and even serve more customers at the same time.”

Also, you have higher predictability of what your team can do, which makes estimations for new projects much more precise and manageable because you know the capabilities of your team. For example, at Virtual Affairs we have a product called BankingRight Mobile, which has its own roadmap and a pretty good basis for a (digital) product. But the resources, the amount of mobile developers, weren’t sufficient enough to work on both the product development of BankingRight and the products for customers. When we got a new project, the focus of developers would be on delivering on customer projects. So, we decided to start setting up fixed teams. We reorganized our backlog to include product development in between projects. By opting for fixed teams, we achieved more product development and even served more customers at the same time. This solved a big resource problem, which resulted in higher satisfaction for both the customers and our teams. Fixed teams were a win-win situation for us.

What are the main challenges you face with fixed teams?
There is a big reason fixed teams aren’t widely spread. From the organizations point of view it can be difficult to set up fixed teams, especially in terms of budget. You commit to keeping the team together for a long time. It is possible there is a project that doesn’t need the whole team, but only one specific person with a set of skills. When you don’t work with fixed teams, this results in dismantling a team. Committing to fixed teams means keeping the whole team without a project. So, it can be hard for a company to commit to this idea. You take a risk by keeping your team together which can result in a longer down-time.

It was important for us to have our team also work on product development, resulting in higher productivity and a better product for the upcoming projects and less idle time for the team.

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