What Are Fusion Teams: Definition and Core Attributes

What are fusion teams?

Fusion teams are multidisciplinary squads that blend together technology, analytics, and domain expertise, and organize their work by technologies or functions. Rather than a structure that includes traditionally separate or independent teams, interests, or organizational roles, fusion teams are linked and share accountability for business, technology, and customer outcomes.

Gartner estimates that at least 84% of large and midsize companies have already set up multidisciplinary teams.

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What do fusion teams do?

Fusion teams bring together talent from different business areas and from formal IT organizations, as well. This pool of digital talent works together and shares business objectives and outcomes, rather than their functional business area. 

Together, a fusion team will work to digitalize business capabilities and provide technology solutions to deliver better outcomes for the business and customers. 

Who do they report to? 

Because fusion teams bring together IT and business, the reporting structure is a little different.  

Traditional team structure typically includes relationships between activities, leadership, and team members. 

According to Gartner: “Fusion teams do not have a prescribed reporting structure. Team leaders or members may report to either dedicated IT departments or business areas outside of IT.” 

What sets fusion teams apart from traditional teams?

Fusion teams oversee the end-to-end execution of a business or technology capability, which includes developing and acting on strategies, delivering outcomes, and continuous improvements and process optimizations.

Because fusion teams bring together cross-domain experts and exist outside of traditional business rules or departmental silos, it’s common for fusion teams to be involved in digital transformation projects like updating legacy systems or processes.

Core characteristics and dynamics of fusion teams

A fusion team is made up of various people with different areas of expertise across many focus areas. A fusion team’s members vary depending on the business or the outcome, but it’s not unusual for teams to include talent from business areas like:

  • IT
  • Sales
  • Legal
  • Marketing
  • Data security 
  • Business operations
  • Change management 
  • Research and development
  • DevOps (business architects, analysts, and technical professionals)

Some other key members include external consultants like subject matter experts. The characteristics that define fusion teams are: 

  • Agility
  • Speed
  • Precision
  • Data driven
  • Digital dexterity
  • Business area expertise

While they can become a permanent part of a company (think: center of excellence), fusion teams can also be temporary “solutions” built to facilitate digital transformation and implement technology solutions. 

How cross-functional expertise fuels innovation

Diversity in thought, experience, and expertise ultimately leads to better solutions — and this truth is at the heart of what propels fusion teams and fuels innovation. 

By bringing people together to collaborate in a way that’s multidisciplinary, companies can maximize their talent pool’s skills, cut back on duplicated efforts (which ultimately leads to greater cost savings), creating smarter, more user-friendly solutions, increasing overall business agility and competitiveness.

And because fusion teams are one part business teams and one part IT, value delivery is faster, and much more scalable. Technology is not only democratized, it’s also distributed much more efficiently. 

Role of digital judgment in fusion teams

Much like any team, there needs to be a driving force that balances the people and the work to ensure that collaboration runs smoothly and deadlines are met. For fusion teams, that force or mindset is known as digital judgment. 

Gartner defines digital judgment as a “set of beliefs, mindsets and behaviors that lead to sound risk management among frontline technology decision makers throughout the enterprise.”

Digital judgment is required to achieve team success and balance the needs and goals of the enterprise at large and the fusion team. A lack of good digital judgment can lead to delayed delivery, costly development, and under-resourcing that can introduce risks for the business.

By one estimate, fusion team leaders with good digital judgment are five times more likely to successfully deliver outcomes, so it’s essential that leaders possess good digital judgment. 

Examples of fusion teams

According to Gartner, fusion teams fall under the following categories: digital product teams, digital channel teams, digital operations teams, and data and analytics teams. 

Depending on the task or desired outcome, the fusion teams will focus on key capabilities like speed, customer journeys, automation, cost cutting, or decision-making and knowledge transfer.

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Strategies for cultivating digital judgment in fusion teams

When it comes to fusion teams, the evidence is clear: they work. For businesses with fusion teams already in place, 63% of senior IT leaders report that they are very effective in helping the business reach its goals. 

But for them to work, teams and leaders need to cultivate their digital judgment; they need to adopt a fusion mindset. 

Before teams can come together, leaders must first adopt a fusion team mindset — as well as the members that make up the fusion team. What that means is that leaders and employees need to embrace the risk, uncertainty, or new and interesting ways of working together. 

With these characteristics in mind, here are some strategies used to cultivate digital judgment.

Destroy silos for better team alignment

Silos — whether in terms of data, systems, or collaboration — often result in splintered views or results, in addition to creating misalignment and lack of visibility across roadmaps which leads to unfulfilled business outcomes. By addressing these silos early on, teams can work better together and utilize their strengths, skills, and knowledge in a more productive, efficient, and effective manner. 

Integrated digital business governance

Shadow IT is the greatest challenge for IT teams to manage, especially because 70% of fusion team leaders believe existing data and technology standards apply only to IT, not to their teams’ work. That belief is not only risky, it’s costly.

No-code platforms are an ideal solution for obtaining digital business governance because they come with built-in guardrails and features that provide IT teams oversight without limiting business team autonomy or agility. This makes no-code process management a great tool for collaboration and communication across disciplines, making it easier to manage and share information. 

Distributed leadership for technological agility

A key benefit of building a fusion team is the ability to move and act quickly. Take that one step further by distributing leadership for greater technological agility. This concept is known as digital dexterity. 

When leaders can quickly rethink and redistribute responsibilities, they can better leverage team skills and achieve results or outcomes faster and with more precision. Examples of this include: 

  • CIOs leading the charge to modernize IT foundations 
  • CIOs becoming digital orchestrators and making fusion teams an essential part of completing digital work 
  • Fusion teams leading changes to people, processes, or technology while CIOs serve as digital strategists for digital transformations

Focus on the human side of digital judgment

In order for CIOs to manage digital business risk and foster digital judgment, they need to focus on the people and not just the technology. To foster digital judgment, teams need to be empowered to take ownership over their work and be trained to develop digital judgment attributes to gain the ability to:

  • Challenge decisions constructively to advance learning and update standards and ways of working. 
  • Own risks and embrace risk management as a part of their job, not just IT’s. 
  • Build for growth by being proactive, thinking ahead, and managing interdependencies.

Tips for an effective fusion team

Start small

While it can be tempting to build a large fusion team to maximize skills and knowledge, too many hands on a project can lead to delays, redundancies, and ultimately 

We recommend keeping fusion teams to 10 people or less.

Recruit people with expertise relevant to the goal

The success of a fusion team solely depends on how well the team is built. Because of the hybrid and cross-disciplinary nature of fusion teams, digital knowledge and business acumen are top priorities for this. 

Share insights and lessons learned across the organization

Gartner reports that half of change initiatives fail, and only 34% are a clear success.

Knowledge is power, and disseminating changes, lessons learned, or best practices is as necessary as the work that fusion teams do. 

Maximize value by fostering multidisciplinary fusion teams 

Embracing the fusion team model can maximize business value and lead to gains in competitive advantages. For teams to excel and provide positive business outcomes, it’s essential to provide teams with the tools they need without compromising IT requirements. 

By bridging the boundaries between IT departments and business teams with a no-code process automation and management platform, leaders can capture the full potential and value from this emerging digital delivery model. 

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