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Why cross-functional teams reign over multi-functional teams

by - ThoughtFocus | March 28, 2023 |

In today’s fast technology world, building and delivering software demands solving customer problems and providing solutions at tremendous speed. With that arises a demand for a team having versatile expertise and experience that goes into providing a solution. Here’s where the cross-functional (XF) team comes into the picture.  


Although the terms cross-functional teams and multi-functional teams are often interchangeably used, there is a bit of a difference between the two – 


Cross-functional teams
The cross-functional team comprises a group of teams that offer expert knowledge in one area and they may have diverse generalized skill sets and expertise elsewhere. They are brought together to offer unique advantages, perspectives, and expertise to accomplish a common task or project. They not only have a mixture of functional expertise, but they tend to differ even from top to bottom hierarchy. It is not unusual to find cross-functional teams team made up of both decision-makers and team members. Ideally suited for organizations operating in a DevOps setup, their value is visible in lot many ways as cross-functional teams can perform specialized work and any generalized work within their domain or area of specialization.  


PBI Assignment – The work backlog (tasks to be completed) will be assigned based on the priority backlog item (PBI)-prioritizing is done based on business needs and not based on skill bandwidth. Here the focus is more on ‘what needs to be done and how fast’ empowering team members to perform better and faster in an agile environment. Moreover, experts can work on the set specialized tasks in priority order and mitigate issues while, generalized tasks can be taken over by non-expert PBIs, freeing up experts’ time for something far more important.  


Enabling faster iterations and decision-making – As the best experts represent the cross-functional team, it becomes the best fit for DevOps. Cross-functional teams can work closely, get a better view of each other’s work, and thought process, eliminate bureaucracy, work in transparency, and collaborate effectively and decisions can be made fast without silos or waiting for anyone or any information to be passed back and forth between departments.   


Agility & Innovation – With an agile mindset, CI/CD pipelines, and constant feedback systems in place you can turn an idea into reality eliminating potential blockades. The combined effort enables faster iterations, continuous improvement and innovation results in faster, high-quality delivery of digital products and software.  


Cross-functional teams backed with relevant backgrounds and expertise bring the best of ideas to the table provisioning quality and overall customer value, which is paramount in a DevOps approach.  


Unity in diversity – Cross-functional teams echo ‘unity in diversity.’ Meaning teams coming from diverse backgrounds having varied expertise can collectively create synergy – respecting and learning from one another and working collaboratively on a common task can bring positive outcomes in a faster time. While most organizations feel deploying cross-functional teams is a bit of an expensive affair, involving high upfront costs, but is worth the effort in the long run as work can be completed fast with great accuracy and delivering high quality output.



Multi-functional teams
Multi-functional teams are largely multidisciplinary having individual siloed skillsets, while individual team members possessing specialized knowledge only and they often perform tasks lying within their specialization. Here, PBI assignments are done based on the skill requirements of PBIs plus by having special team members with those skills. Hence, PBIs are largely completed based on bandwidth availability and not on a priority basis and eventually, they’re likely to face more issues. Moreover, the teams that are grouped are likely to work based on their specialization.   


Deploying multi-functional teams may not assure faster accurate results and missing project completion deadlines. This model may fail in cases where delivery of speed and quality in a set time matters most. 



For the past two decades, cross-functional domain and technology experts at ThoughtFocus have been helping businesses across industries, in their digital and business transformation journeys. Reach out to us at to speak to our experts.