The power of data is well known these days. We are all listening every day to news about issues like Big Data but, is data worthy of the conversation? Is data changing the way we manage companies?
The most important thing to realize is that the service we provide, the product we sell, and the data we manage are only the processes by which we reach the company and market objectives. However, many companies proceed without hiring talented human resources or even without a team. And this is not a minor issue. The huge amount of global competitors that exist and the innovation race in the technological sector oblige us to lead or be part of a very special team.
What is needed is a synchronized, focused, and most importantly, an efficient team capable of adapting its work, its workflow, and its objectives as fast (or faster) than the changing market nowadays. This is why the objectives a startup has to meet have to be very clear, well defined, and ready to change.
Does this mean that only highly qualified people can be good choices for a startup team? Of course not. The most important criterion for a great team does not even have to be human.
Figure 1: The importance of the team (openexcell.com)
The human team member is executing fewer and fewer tasks. It is increasingly focused on managing, coordinating, and finding the proper ways to reach objectives. Now, there are new “team members” capable of executing tasks with a higher degree of performance than humans.
These are technological team members that function like Machine Learning. A good Machine Learning algorithm, working in the data study and observation of the startup services and processes, is the perfect partner to create incredible value for the customers and the internal organization.
This partnership can be a tremendous boost to the startup performance, learning how to automate processes and how to use every single information flow to create added value and generate new revenue income.
Remember, Machine Learning is not only a useful tool—it’s a new team member with no salary and ready to operate 24/7 in a startup.
The low value of the data itself
So far, we have considered the concept of a data-driven startup. It should also be noted that the data itself means nothing to a company. So, what is the real purpose of analyzing huge amounts of data? It is to create valuable information, intelligence, Business Intelligence, that can efficiently connect a company with the market and its customers.
This is a key point—every innovation startup knows the importance of collecting the right data to convert it into intelligence. The value of the Business Intelligence a startup provides in huge markets like the buildtech sector is the value of the service it provides.
We all know what Business Intelligence is, but it is not easy to provide an example. So, here’s an example of how a data-driven startup focuses its business evolution on the intelligence it can generate.
“Building Intelligence” is a fake company name in this example of a real startup in the buildtech sector. The vision of Building Intelligence is to avoid higher costs and overtime in construction projects due to failures.
Nowadays, this company works over a SaaS, taking photos of construction sites, creating 3D models, and comparing them with the architectural plans. It collects data from the images and it creates information by comparing plans, providing early error detection with its technical algorithms, and controlling progress.
However, they are not accomplishing their vision right now. But, as they are a data-driven company, they are in their first step toward doing so.
The next step is to collect data, not only when a construction company has to inspect the area, but constantly, in real-time, by creating digital twins.
So, the third step of this startup evolution is to create an AI system to learn about the data collected and information generated from their first step, and the real-time behavior of the construction areas collected from their second step.
After this last step, they will be able to create accurate failure predictions for their customers. They will then, respecting an AGILE startup process, accomplish their vision, using AI and Machine Learning as two new and very important team members.
A whole team integration to reach efficiency
In this article, it is clear what issues a data-driven company should consider to best accomplish its objectives. We have seen how data and information technology should be integrated as team members in the organization. But, this question is the most important one to ask. What does a team look like for startups of this generation? Can we talk about only one startup team?
According to our vision, we can say that a startup team is a group of resources with knowledge, capacity, and readiness to work together to reach some clear and related objectives. It can be comprised of humans or other technological resources. It can work together physically or connected in other ways.
A startup in every company has to achieve a lot of different company objectives, annual objectives, and even monthly objectives. So, with this team definition, we can conclude that a company can work with many different teams at one time. Also, the number of teams inside a company can be very different between different companies. It can even be very different inside the same company at different moments.
A startup doesn’t need a prefixed number of teams as it starts to talk about bringing to the company AGILE values like transparency, flexibility, and scalability. It doesn’t need a team in each area of the organization.
There can be many teams in one unique area, (for example, Product Development), or teams that involve more than one area, (for example, a marketing team related to Sales and Product Development).
A startup is a company, usually with limited resources, which has to be very efficient to reach its goals. A good way to define the number of resources/teams it needs to have a good outcome can be the following:
- Think about your final startup objectives.
- Define annual objectives to reach in the next 3 years.
- Define the areas your startup needs to develop to accomplish your actual annual objectives.
- Define the 5 most important actions each area should work on to accomplish the goals.
- Relate each actual company resource to the actions defined, respecting the ideal working conditions in your startup environment and using their best skills.
- Define any new resources you will need to finish these actions.
It is a good and needed practice to relate metrics with every startup objective so the progress of its accomplishment is well defined.
Figure 2: Advised metrics (medium.com)
As you can see, you have taken advantage of the resources you have in the most efficient way. Now is the perfect moment to think about the kind of team members you want on each team.
The magic concept here is the “Fully Fullstack Team.” To work with your teams as independent individuals in an efficient way, they should have every resource they need available with the periodicity it will be used and, if it is not always available, with emergency availability.
Teams can be made independent if they have resources in these five areas:
- Market vision
- Product experience
- Product technology
- Business development
- Legal vision
Making this a reality means that every team in an organization can work properly through its objectives. This independence will create a system in which communication inefficiencies, delays, scope, quality, time, or misunderstood cost requirements will be drastically diminished.
There is only one important thing that can make it impossible for this structure to work—forgetting to integrate between the startup teams.
According to a Prisma Consultory study, (https://beprisma.com/el-precio-de-la-mala-comunicacion-interna/), inefficient internal communications and the failure situations it provokes has a cost of over 15% of the annual company profits. Looking for efficiency and good management processes to avoid and to reduce this statistic is an entrepreneur’s duty.
To respect AGILE and cultural values in today’s startups, every team has to be well connected. These connections have to be defined through flexible, scalable, and very open communication channels.
To make this structure work, every team and every team member has to have a direct connection, following the right communication patterns, to their counterparts in other company teams. We can’t view each team as a different group but as independent groups of a unique vision.
It should be proposed to the company members a well-known and transparent communication process, generical to every employee status. No one is different from each other in an AGILE startup. Every member has its importance, responsibility, and function.