How Do I Organize Teams in a Digital Factory?
Article co-written by Aly-Bocar Cissé, Benjamin Tolaval and Michel Perfetti
You cannot build a digital factory without considering the people who will work in it in the future. One of the things that drives the success of a digital factory is human resources, and these must be clearly outlined in the road map. Aside from establishing the key responsibilities in the organization, you must also define the methods, processes, and interactions that will shape the structure’s day-to-day life.
Roles and Skills in the Digital Factory
When planning to build a digital factory, one of the first steps is to find people with the necessary expertise. This is without a doubt the most important step: it will support the strategic decisions that prompted you to launch your digital factory. After all, these people will also be in charge of the day-to-day running of the factory.
Digital Factory: Values Come First!
This post will look at our proposed organization model, and the roles we believe are necessary. But first, it is vital to define the three values that should influence your overall decisions:
- Customer first: We discussed the distinctions between a digital lab and a digital factory in a previous post entitled “Why and How to Create a Digital Factory.” We also emphasized the importance of driving the long-term goal through a succession of short iterations in a previous post on the strategy and vision of a digital factory. At all levels, the first requirement for these iterations is a defined customer target, which can be used to obtain feedback to change your strategy and maximize its ROI. A digital factory equips itself with the means to work faster and faster by constantly keeping its customers’ usage in mind.
- Operational excellence: Given that this is already a hot topic in cloud applications, it is not surprising that cloud-based digital factories are also jumping on the bandwagon. This is not about never making mistakes but rather about being at the cutting edge of building, delivering, and managing your services (and other applications) for the use of your clients/customers.
- Autonomy: Your digital factory cannot respond to the unexpected or fulfill its role as an accelerator if it lacks autonomy. It is critical to remember that autonomy does not imply a lack of control. In general, the level of autonomy for a given subject in an organization must take into account the organization’s setting and the associated risks. Having said that, a digital factory must be autonomous in its ability to define solutions. This means that your teams need to be multidisciplinary.
Key Roles in a Digital Factory
We recognize two key functions within the digital factory: the platform component and the project component for product development.
This is where we design, develop, and operate all of the products and services we intend to give to the teams in charge of developing specific solutions for the project teams.
Cloud Developers: The cloud is the technological foundation that will help speed up the creation of your digital factory. Keeping this in mind, you need to develop products and services that fulfill this purpose. This means you’ll need developers who understand the technical challenges of the cloud and the practices associated with its development, in addition to the challenges for users. We’re talking about creating products and services for other cloud professionals to use for their project needs.
Cloud Ops: The products and services referred to above need to be kept running. This is where “Cloud Ops” comes in. Again, it is critical to adopt cutting-edge methods to reduce the number of incidents while still responding swiftly. Intervention before the product and/or service development phase is strongly advised. Approaches such as DevOps or Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) are commonly used.
Incident Manager: Anyone with production experience will tell you that mistakes are unavoidable. How you resolve these and speak about them is critical in keeping your users’/customers’ trust. The architecture solutions and the quality of the work provided certainly help avoid these incidents, but more importantly, they help to respond to these incidents and limit their impact on users. An incident manager’s role mainly includes three aspects:
- Keep platform users updated on the progress of the incident resolution based on information from all teams involved
- Define countermeasures to avoid such incidents in the future
- Maintain these countermeasures over time
Digital Program Manager: “Rome was not built in a day,” and the same is true for your digital factory… so, having a clear road map with milestones that meet your digital factory’s strategic objectives is critical. This role is expected to keep track of this road map, any changes required, and the impact on the platform. The Digital Program Manager is also responsible for resolving disputes over projects that will or will not be integrated into the digital factory. This last aspect is particularly critical: the ability to decide whether to change (or not change) the road map to meet vital business objectives, or even to refuse immediate integration of a project, is necessary for performing this role in the best possible conditions. In short, this role requires an in-depth understanding of the digital factory’s services, real-world experience with cloud governance issues, and comprehensive knowledge of the business objectives underpinning the digital factory’s existence.
Security Manager: It should come as no surprise that security is a key issue here. The Security Manager’s role involves defining and overseeing security models for digital factory products and services. Depending on the organization, this role may be required to intervene at the project level as well. However, providing services and products that consider security aspects allows project teams to offload these tasks and focus on the business issues of their projects.
Onboarding Manager: Providing your services and products requires varying degrees of support depending on the projects that wish to join the digital factory. This role entails presenting the digital factory’s services, explaining how it works, and understanding customers’ business needs so you can support them with technical architecture issues.
Cost Manager: This position is primarily responsible for monitoring platform costs and controlling the pricing of digital factory services. This may seem a minor issue given the basic services available in the Cloud for this, but as your digital factory grows, managing the overall cost of the platform and the invoicing aspects will require the implementation of a global tailor-made strategy in the medium and long term.
Project-Related Roles in a Digital Factory
This is where we design, develop and operate all of the products and services we want to provide to customers (end users). Their organization varies and is adaptable to the needs of each project, although they are generally organized as a classic “feature team” or cross-functional team.
Product Owner: This role is in charge of defining the product that will be integrated into the platform. Beyond understanding the product, it is imperative to grasp the concept of the added value provided by the digital factory services.
Solution Architect: This role decides on the product’s technical architecture. In addition to understanding the cloud, this role must identify any needs related to the digital factory’s services.
Cloud Developers: This role is responsible for integrating and implementing the digital factory services.
Cloud Ops: This role is in charge of the digital factory’s product and service operations. They will be responsible for ensuring that the digital factory meets its proposed availability commitments, among other things.
Digital Factory Methods and Processes
Remember that the goal is to reduce the time to market. The time required to implement new methods can be ultimately counterproductive if this aim is not a deciding factor in your method and process selection. In this respect, we come back to the three values we identified earlier: Customer First, Operational Excellence, and Autonomy.
Therefore, the guiding principle in establishing the right processes and methods is to give your teams maximum autonomy while maintaining a sufficient level of control to monitor progress, and, most importantly, to see the problems they encounter. It goes without saying that the applications that result from what is created must meet the expectations of customers and the digital factory project teams.
Planning and Management
The Digital Program Manager is responsible for creating a global road map that will set the pace for the work of the teams and shape the capabilities of your digital factory’s entire offering. The first milestone of this road map is to define the fundamentals deemed strategically necessary. This step must be directly proportional to the original investment in the digital factory. Therefore, it is important to carry out projects during this period with reasonable ambitions, and whose ROI can be measured at the end of this milestone.
After this milestone, it is critical to evolve the road map based on business needs without jeopardizing the consistency of the services provided by the digital factory. The arbitration function for projects wanting to be clients of the digital factory, and regular monitoring of digital factory incidents, generally ensure overall control over the progress of the plan and risk management.
All this means that measuring and reviewing your teams’ performance is necessary and important. Two methods are typically used for this:
- Method 1: Implementation and regular review of KPIs related to digital factory services. These KPIs establish exact targets for expected service performance. The teams in question must then put forward solutions that will be evaluated and either implemented or not.
- Method 2: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) (see here for more information about the OKR Method). These OKRs serve as a guide for teams to prioritize the issues that need to be addressed. They are also used as a framework for creating team-level OKRs.
In general, the more experience you have with an issue, the closer you will get to the KPIs. OKRs are typically used in the context of a major shift in strategy.
Guidance and Project Support
The role of Onboarding Manager we looked at earlier is highly specialized in terms of method as the work is heavily influenced by the pace of the client’s work.
We therefore recommend you concentrate on the following areas:
- Set up regular meetings ahead of phases to present potential customer projects to the Digital Program Manager: at this stage, you can obtain a proof of concept for the client project’s integration, and business risk factors can begin to be analyzed.
- Have up-to-date documentation for the services provided by the digital factory: being able to present the digital factory based on its resources and, in particular, ensuring that clients can learn about the services on offer at their own pace is a distinct advantage given the potential complexity of the subjects.
- Provide an architecture file template to be completed with the customer to formally define their needs and expectations: this is the file you will use to evolve the services offered, as needed, and validate the security and architecture aspects. This format also allows you to make and monitor relevant proposals for customers.
Agility Within the Digital Factory
Teams in your digital factory must be self-sufficient so they can act quickly while maintaining the required level of quality. In this respect, Agile principles are the answer. We use two methods for teams responsible for implementing transversal services or projects: Agile SCRUM and Extreme Programming (XP).
However, Cloud Ops can be limited by these methods, which require a great deal of customizing when working around platforms. Indeed, the platform’s definition is often too complex to contain in meaningful iterations. Kanban allows you to avoid these iterations by working within flows. As iterations no longer govern these flows, it is easier to parallelize the work and maximize delivery.
Note: Kanban is not without problems, particularly measuring the remaining work.
Partnerships With the Digital Factory
Your digital factory should be accessible to all company departments, and, most importantly, consider interactions with its environment. These interactions differ, of course, depending on the digital factory strategies and typologies implemented.
The Digital Factory Interacts With the Whole Company
To Define Its Needs
Your digital factory product team should maintain close contact with the operational branches to understand their needs. It then establishes an appropriate structure to support the business departments in defining and discovering products. The teams frequently rely on the role of Product Manager to deliver their expertise on these subjects. The latter is responsible for the project’s road map. They work closely with the business lines and with the marketing, legal, user experience (UX), and technical teams. The Product Manager understands the market for their product and communicates its vision within the company. Depending on the digital factory’s structural choices (strategy and typology), this role can be performed by the digital factory and the business branches, or even, where one exists, by the company’s Product Department. As a result, it is essential to form the necessary steering bodies and implement transparent governance for this crucial role to ensure excellent and successful product communication.
To Preserve Its Unique Characteristics
The digital factory must also act as a link with the organizations’ so-called support teams. These are equally important for the end product. They can be found not only integrated into the IT departments, but also increasingly directly in the respective operational branches since they are being transformed to meet the company’s business model as well.
Digital Factory Interactions with Data
Every product consumes and generates data, which must be identified, sorted, and integrated. Data departments are increasingly self-sufficient and important parties in the company’s transformation. Their mission is to define the organization’s data strategy and how the data will be used. In this sense, the digital factory must map the data it generates so that it can be identified and used by the company. In addition, the digital factory uses data services and skills to create new capabilities for the future monetization of this data. The data department can also use the digital factory to develop its own product that is required for its service.
Cybersecurity and the Digital Factory
The application’s data, processes, and users must be protected, and the associated risks must be defined and quantified. The digital factory must rely on cybersecurity expertise for support with these issues.
Often integrated into IT services, cybersecurity is becoming increasingly linked to the broader risk management of the company to which it is related. As a result, cybersecurity must be integrated at all stages of product development, starting with the upstream phases, to identify and define business risks. Monitoring security-related elements must be built into the product backlog and tracked throughout the development process. The same applies to testing (configuration audit, pentest), which should be scheduled as soon as possible. Cybersecurity is also an important aspect of developing and maintaining the technical platform. It validates the company’s security, design, and architecture choices. Depending on the company’s organization and the digital factory’s integration level, cybersecurity can be included in all instances (design and architecture review) or can be addressed by handing responsibility for it to parts of the core teams. This means that close collaboration between the digital factory and cybersecurity teams is essential for creating secure, long-term solutions.
Digital Factory Collaboration with IT
The company’s IT teams are the last (and by no means least important) teams to join the program. They are responsible for keeping the information system (IS) running smoothly. They include a set of skills and processes that are absolutely necessary for your digital factory.
Firstly, from a purely technical standpoint, so they fit into the existing architecture while respecting the established guidelines. This often requires them to evolve, which is one of the critical functions of the digital factory. These changes must be reviewed with the company’s architecture teams, and decisions must be made and communicated transparently and cooperatively. Each launch of a cross-disciplinary project must be planned and involve all relevant parties. The digital factory remains the project’s creator and champion: it manages it, conducts stakeholder interviews, and presents the findings. Simple governance specifying stages, roles, and responsibilities is required to make decision-making quick and successful. This will, of course, be tailored to the organization (strategy and typology). For example, a highly integrated digital factory will need to validate the most significant technical changes. In contrast, an outsourced digital factory will need to demonstrate its level of quality and security.
Secondly, the digital factory must be integrated into the IT departments’ project life cycles and processes.
It quickly becomes a “client” of services set up by IT and must follow the rules. The digital factory requires a high quality of service for network connectivity, authentication services, and other support services (helpdesk, etc.) for its users. And that is not going to happen without the full collaboration of the IT staff. This will be easier to obtain if their restrictions are taken into account, and the processes are followed.
The Digital Factory Remains Open to the Outside World
It is critical for a digital factory that wants to be innovative and disruptive to maintain contact with its environment through various relationship types. These partnerships are a source of growth for your digital factory. They allow you to implement different levers around co-selling, finance and exchanging best practices and expertise.
Digital Factory: Opening Up To Its Sector of Activity
Your digital factory needs to monitor and foster innovation within its industry. It must research markets and study customer feedback to provide its business teams with relevant information about products, their uptake, and their market relevance. Monitoring innovation also means forming alliances with specialized organizations to add relevant new features to its products. For example, an additional service that provides forecast analysis (aging) on business assets. This uses digital factory data to provide reliable forecasting. The digital factory then expands the asset management platform it has developed for its customers.
The possibilities are numerous: a regular review and monitoring of developments in its field allow the digital factory to plan for future developments and keep relevant products on the market.
Opening Up the Digital Factory to its Technical and Organizational Ecosystem
Due to its disruptive nature, your digital factory should have its own organization and method as well as its own technical platform. This requires a network of partners, integrators, and publishers to help your digital factory achieve its goals quickly. Firstly, for developing technical skills and familiarizing teams with the new working practices and project/product management methods. Training strategies and community events to promote exchange are crucial factors to consider. Then, when you need to temporarily strengthen your teams, whether to speed up progress or meet a specific skill requirement, it is important to map your partner ecosystem to make sure you contact the right organizations at the right time.
The Digital Factory, A Strong and Powerful Organization
A digital factory is built around teams that each have their own organization and expertise. It must be capable of considering business needs and balancing them against its maturity in accordance with the strategy in place. It must also surround itself with reliable partners.
Want to know more about Digital Factories?
Read our latest publications about Digital Factories:
- Why and how to create a Digital Factory?
- What is the Best Strategy and Approach for Your Digital Factory?
- Digital Factory: Which Technical Foundation?
- Financing and Budgeting for a Digital Factory
- Digital Factory: Feedback From Saint-Gobain – Aari
- Digital Factory: Nexan’s Experience
Article co-written by Aly-Bocar Cissé, Benjamin Tolaval and Michel Perfetti