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There’s an easier way to create a cross-functional team.


Are you serious about increasing market share for your brand by giving consumers the option to customize your products? It’s time to start building your cross-functional team.

cross-functional team

Introducing or expanding customization options for your direct-to-consumer and/or B2B sales channel is an incredibly lucrative opportunity.

And just like most things that offer great rewards, it takes a team effort to get there. 

Success in product customization comes down to forming a formidable cross-functional team. Enough of the right players with the right skills who come together around the shared vision.

Sound difficult? It can be. But it really doesn’t have to be.

Let’s get into why this team is critical and how to put it together as efficiently as possible.

When trying to build a cross-functional team from scratch, any VP/Director of Ecommerce will face many challenges.

The VP/Director of Ecommerce typically provides the true north vision of customization. In this role, you lead the way in thinking of product customization as more than a project. It’s a game-changing business strategy.

But to be successful in the long run, you need to bring different perspectives together.

It’s like the old parable of the blind men and the elephant. Each person understands part of it and tries to interpret the whole, but it takes clear communication for everyone to perceive the elephant.

Who are those key players? These are a few of the folks that you might want to invite to the table:

• Marketing
• Finance
• Product Development
• Operations/Supply Chain Management
• Quality Assurance
• Information Technology

The VP/Director of Ecommerce has to assemble the right team of key players, each of whom may only see part of the elephant.

Creating your cross-functional team can be more complicated than necessary without guidance.

In general, some version of these steps is vital to setting your customization program up for success.

But as we’ll explore further below, every company has its own nuances. The approach will vary, especially with product customization. It has to be customized to ensure the process is as efficient as possible.

1. Establish thought leadership.

Why are we doing this?”

For this to work, you’re going to need buy-in from all the key players. Your internal brand culture makes all the difference when it comes to how to approach this. 

• Maybe you have a charismatic, Steve Jobs-like leader who can convey the message successfully.
• Maybe you need an internal communications campaign with the modern equivalent of the “company memo” – blog posts, white papers, videos, etc.
• Or, maybe all it takes is a series of strategy meetings with lots of time for Q&A so the team can pave the way forward together.

Now that you’ve given everyone context and gauged responses, you’ve laid the groundwork for selecting the members of your cross-functional team.

2. Choose the right people.

“Who has the expertise we need and (ideally) really gets it?”

First and foremost, the right people have the expertise to fully understand their piece of the puzzle, the authority needed to make key decisions, and the skills it takes to get stuff done.

In addition to knowledge, position, and skill, the X factor is attitude. Personalities are important, too. When there are options between leaders to consider, it’s often best to bring in the ones who have grasped the vision.

Tempering optimism with healthy caution is a good thing when launching a new initiative. That leads to helpful questions and problem-solving. Too much fear and pessimism, on the other hand, can halt innovation in its tracks.

3. Clarify everyone’s role.

“Who’s doing what, exactly?”

Each product customization leader probably has a well-defined role in the organization, but roles within this initiative also need to be specified.

For example, the role of Director of Operations may be broadly defined as one focused mostly on maintaining the supply chain. In this context, innovations to support product customization on the back end is the focus.

4. Create project schedules.

“How are we going to get this done?”

Once you know what everyone’s responsible for, you can begin to create project plans, timelines for research, proposals, prototype development, etc.

5. Set a budget.

“What will this cost? What we will gain?”

At this point, you can begin to estimate costs for vendors, equipment, developers, and other expenses you anticipate as part of the customization program launch or expansion.

You’ll need to build a healthy amount of flexibility into the budget, especially if you’re launching a product customization program from the ground up. Build in plenty of milestones, opportunities to check in and compare actual figures to projections.

Include long-term sales projections to demonstrate anticipated ROI. This will help keep everyone engaged and motivated.

6. Determine how you’re going to communicate.

“How will we keep each other on track?”

Using the same modes of communication that everyone uses across the organization (like email) can be distracting.

Consider using project management and team communication software like Asana, Teamwork, or Slack. These platforms help keep the conversation focused on the daily tasks, key objectives, and overall goals.

Sometimes, having a “sacred space” to focus efforts makes the difference between catching a key piece of information—or missing it and setting the project back weeks.

You don’t need to address all these steps at once, or in this exact order. Nor should you.

All the above is a generalized version of what every brand serious about product customization needs to go through to set up a team for success.

Brands that are inexperienced in building a team for this purpose find numerous unexpected complexities, obstacles, and delays when going about it on their own.

Instead, put one more critical perspective in place … someone with plenty of experience with this particular “elephant.”

JTB Custom can help you overcome the obstacles to getting your product customization program off the ground by building your team more simply, efficiently, and realistically.

Let us guide you in building your cross-functional team for product customization.

This is what we do.

JTB Custom’s product customization experts have been through countless versions of this process. Every brand is different. Structure, culture, key players, timing, scaling, target markets—it all varies.

But everyone struggles with many of the same obstacles when it comes to launching or expanding product customization.

We can answer your questions and pose several you may not have asked yet:

• Who needs to be on our customized cross-functional team?
• What project management strategy works best for us?
• What’s the optimal sequence of events?
• What supply chain resources will we need that we haven’t thought of?

And once we’ve identified resource gaps, we can help fill them with end-to-end solutions. 

• On the front end, we’ll set you up with our Silhouette™ software that provides consumers with an elegant configuration experience and you with a powerful custom order management solution.
• On the back end, if your manufacturing operations aren’t set up to support made-to-order or decoration/embellishment, we’ll either help you source new vendors or handle production ourselves, in the short term or even indefinitely.

And we do it all at a manageable pace and upfront cost for you. We call it our “crawl-walk-run” approach to help brands like yours get started, slow and steady … knowing that you’ll eventually be soaring.If you’re serious about building a cross-functional team to give your product customization program wings, have your next conversation with us. Talk to an expert today.