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Embracing cross-functional working in a tech startup

Image of Yasmine, WOLF Qanawat's AI virtual assistant

Sa’ed Anabtawi, product director, WOLF Qanawat

In the fast-paced world of tech startups, achieving and sustaining success requires adaptability, innovation and seamless collaboration. WOLF Qanawat, our London-based audio entertainment communities app for the MENA market, has recently undergone a significant transformation by embracing cross-functional collaboration as a cornerstone of its operational strategy. 

Historically, our teams operated independently, with non-optimal interaction and collaboration between departments. Acknowledging the need to adapt to evolving market dynamics and streamline internal processes, we initiated a strategic move towards cross-functional collaboration.

The transition encountered challenges, notably the gap between backend and frontend teams leading to inefficiencies in API design and development. To tackle this, we revamped our teams into cross-functional squads, uniting individuals from diverse backgrounds and skill sets to collaborate on projects. This structural shift facilitated improved communication and alignment between teams, expediting project timelines and enhancing overall efficiency.

Changing operational silos 

As a company we realised we needed to adapt our team structures and change structures to cross-functional squads to improve efficiency, create better internal communication, and create a better sense of ownership for specific projects and tasks. 

A significant challenge we encountered as a digital tech firm was the inherent tendency for backend (server) and frontend (mobile client) teams to operate independently. This division often creates issues, particularly in the design of application programming interfaces (APIs) for the mobile client. When APIs are crafted in isolation, they may not align seamlessly with the specific requirements and optimal functionality of the mobile client.

Consequently, upon receiving the API, it becomes evident that adjustments and optimisations are necessary. This realisation triggers a cycle of iterative modifications to refine the APIs, ensuring they are well-adapted and efficient for the mobile client. 

However, this iterative process can lead to delays, heightened communication demands, and potential inefficiencies in the overall development workflow.

The value of communication 

Switching from more isolated, departmentalised teams to cross-functional squads requires patience and building trust in the structure of each squad. Communicating the value behind this change is crucial for the team’s understanding and commitment. It’s important to appreciate that achieving the optimal value from a cross-functional squad will take time as growing effective teamwork takes a few months of collaborative effort. 

It’s crucial to remain patient as the organisation switches, adjusts and gradually refines its working dynamics. Emphasising the long-term benefits and instilling confidence in the team ensures sustained success and cohesive collaboration in the future.

A major cultural shift 

The benefits were significant. We saw notable improvements in project delivery times, with tasks previously taking months now completed within weeks. This heightened agility enabled us to promptly respond to market demands, introducing innovative features to users, thus enriching user experience and driving engagement.

Moreover, embracing cross-functional collaboration allowed our team to customise products and services for our target market better. Through rebranding and introducing features tailored for Arabic-speaking communities like VR experiences and AI virtual assistants like Yasmine, we strengthened our market presence, cementing our leadership in the MENA region’s tech landscape.

However, transitioning to cross-functional collaboration required a cultural shift within the organisation. Effective leadership played a pivotal role in driving this change, with key stakeholders advocating for a collaborative mindset and providing support and resources to facilitate the transition. This cultural transformation empowered team members to take ownership of their work, collaborate more effectively across departments, and pursue common goals with shared purpose and accountability.

Future integration 

At WOLF Qanawat we aim to enhance cross-functional squads further by integrating expertise from marketing and community departments. By leveraging insights from these diverse disciplines, we seek a deeper understanding of our target market’s needs, informing product development efforts and driving continued innovation and growth.

Cross-functional collaboration has been a game-changer for our app, WOLF Qanawat, enabling us to stay ahead in a fiercely competitive market. By breaking down silos, fostering better communication and alignment between teams and cultivating a culture of collaboration and accountability, we have unlocked new avenues for innovation and growth, solidifying our position as a leader in the ever-evolving tech landscape.


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