Can building an adaptive workforce—teams that scale up and down and proactively reconfigure themselves—lead to a competitive advantage? The answer is yes, according to market research company Forrester which has straightforward advice for business leaders: Invest in an adaptive workforce to survive and thrive in the future.
This adaptive or “on-demand workforce” enables digital transformation to succeed because it’s comprised of modular teams that assemble and disassemble as projects complete or as conditions evolve, according to Nicolás Ávila, CTO of North America at Globant, which commissioned Forrester’s report.
For Ávila, digital transformation is more about changing how teams work together than just dropping the latest technology. Consider a traditional automaker, he says, “they don’t become adaptive just by manufacturing electric cars.” The marvel of Telsa, he adds, is how they have changed the concept of a car to a software-like product that can be upgraded continually, even after it’s sold. “If you don’t achieve the flexibility to make changes in your production line often and can’t instantly deploy changes on the software of your cars, you are not competing with Tesla. You are just pushing a new car in a traditional way. The pace of advancement of leaders like Tesla is what makes the difference.”
“As the pace of change accelerated last year, we saw a much bigger need for autonomous, self-contained, and flexible organizational structures that can continually iterate their approach to strengthen the delivery and innovation process.”
“As the pace of change accelerated last year,” he continues, “we saw a much bigger need for autonomous, self-contained, and flexible organizational structures that can continually iterate their approach to strengthen the delivery and innovation process.”
-Nicolás Ávila, CTO of North America, Globant
Structures of Innovation
One such organizational structure created by Globant is Agile PODs—self-organized, cross-functional, and autonomous service delivery teams that are built specifically to meet a digital project’s strategic need. These teams comprise members of Globant’s various studios, each of which focuses on specific domain knowledge, such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, and cybersecurity.
According to Ávila, modular team structures like Agile PODs allow for flexibility and adaptability. But, more importantly, they prepare their customers to prepare for profound transformations needed in a digital environment. “Adding or removing people from projects is not the biggest challenge. The key is to create a framework for these autonomous teams to distribute work and interact with each other,” he explains.
Embracing digital transformation, for instance, often requires teams to manage challenges that conflict with one another. “While operations would always want to keep things stable, development teams try to push new releases rapidly to production,” says Ávila. “And rigid, cumbersome structures can make planning for the next product release very taxing.” Flexible and autonomous structure of Agile PODs, he asserts, “creates an environment for our clients to manage these conflicts, simulate digital transformation, and reduce the time to market.”
In addition, teams interact independently with customers, which builds a sense of ownership, notes Avila. “When the team owns a module, they don’t just follow orders, they find a voice and start proposing new ideas and possibilities that the client didn’t see coming.”
When Freelancers Team Up
While Globant has organized its employees into autonomous teams to build a “podular” structure, several other companies, such as Freelancing Teams and Vicoland have created platforms to enable freelancers to team up and implement complex digital enterprise projects.
Freelancing Teams, for instance, pre-organizes about 400 market-ready freelance teams from 20 countries that offer expertise in about 1,000 areas, from mobile development to machine learning. “Finding the right talent and bringing them together is expensive and often takes months before the team can be productive, ” says Raj Kal, co-founder of Freelancing Teams. “Our ready-to-go teams, coupled with our agile project management tools, provide the flexibility digital projects need and can save significant cost and time.”
“Our ready-to-go teams, coupled with our agile project management tools, provide the flexibility digital projects need and can save significant cost and time.”
–Raj Kal, co-founder, Freelancing Teams
And they are already seeing early success among startups. For instance, one of their freelance teams helped a group of teachers to build a gamified learning platform that enables educators to reward students based on their learning and behaviors, and another created a marketing tool chest that helps small businesses strategize, plan, and execute marketing efforts. According to Kal, they will soon introduce new services, such as project planning, risk management, and budgeting, in addition to” targeting large-scale projects from larger enterprises.”
Whether a company engages with freelance teams or agile pods, transformation projects and new structures can sometimes go against an organization’s established way of working, causing deep cultural shifts. “It’s a huge journey—from J.C. Penny to Amazon,” quips Raj. For him, the solution is “better training and community building.”
Globant, on the other hand, is using AI as a lever to navigate these cultural transformations. To maximize the potential of their pod approach, they have created several AI-powered tools that Ávila believes “create the culture and connections required to drive a digital transformation.” Globant has also created augmented coding tools that improve the software creation process by helping developers learn coding from AI. “Today, when developers don’t sit next to each other in an office, this helps them self-learn and discover how code is built and implemented,” Ávila says.” In addition, their employee engagement operating system StarMeUP creates a platform to promote internal dialogue with aids, while providing leaders with insights on cultural traits that are successful at the company.
According to Ávila, this kind of augmented collaboration is the key to making digital transformation and the resultant restructuring easier. “And that’s what will enable organizations to quickly adapt and respond to customer and market changes.”