Aha! Roadmaps | Best practices for managing cross-functional requests

Teamwork leads to better outcomes. Let's imagine, for example, that you manage a large portfolio of products. In order to achieve success, you need to work with IT, services, marketing, business, and other product teams so you can optimize every aspect of the customer experience and create lasting joy. You are working towards a common purpose, which means bringing together the right skills, knowledge, and experience from different parts of the organization.

The challenge usually comes from coordinating what needs to be delivered and when across teams. Of course, each team has its own goals, priorities, and deadlines. And each team has a different process for delivering work. It might not be clear how to request work from one another and communicate updates in a clear and timely way. Establishing guidelines for cross-team collaboration is vital so everyone can effectively work together and move the business forward.

There are many ways you can use Aha! Roadmaps to manage cross-team work. The Gantt chart is ideal for coordinating big cross-functional projects such as product releases, software rollouts, and marketing launches. You can track phases, milestones, and dependencies between work items in one view to keep the team on schedule. Creating to-dos is a useful way to assign smaller tasks across teams, such as reviewing or approving a work item.

But there are times when you need to build a more structured process for managing requests across teams. This is especially important for large organizations where teams span multiple business units and functions. In this scenario, using a private ideas portal is perfect. You can capture requests in a central place, define a consistent workflow for managing them through to completion, and increase the transparency in your communications.

Cross-team efforts are most successful when you have a shared way of working. Here are the most important rules to establish upfront:

  • Submit all requests through a private ideas portal so everything is captured in a single place

  • Add the ideas portal to every delivery team's workspace so requests can be routed appropriately

  • Choose a set of required fields for each request so information is captured in a consistent way

  • Define common terms for describing the status of requests so everyone can communicate and report on progress in the same way

  • Set service-level agreements (SLAs) for how long it will take to review and respond to a request so expectations are clear

The best practices outlined below will help you set organizational standards for managing cross-functional requests. We will first explain how to best configure an ideas portal. Then we will share how you can define workflows for the team that is requesting work and for the team that will deliver it. We know that every team is unique depending on what you manage or build and the other teams you work with. So for the purposes of this article, we will simply refer to the "request" team and the "delivery" team.

Click on any of the links below for recommendations on how to manage cross-functional requests:

Step 1: Configure an ideas portal

Create a new ideas portal and set the access level to private. In the Overview tab of your portal settings, add all of the workspaces used by your delivery teams. Including the same portal in multiple workspaces makes it possible for teams to submit requests in a central location and route them to the appropriate delivery team. Then add your company domain to the Users tab. Now only users with emails matching those domains will be able to access your portal. You might want to change the terminology in your ideas portal to reflect the language used by your organization. For example, you can change "idea" to "request."

Customize your ideas form layout to capture the information needed for each request. You can add custom fields, specify which fields are required, and rearrange the layout. Setting required fields ensures that new requests always include essential details — so delivery teams can efficiently review and prioritize requests. In the example below, we added a custom date field to capture when a request needs to be fulfilled.

Create a custom workflow for managing requests based on your internal process. You can customize status names, colors, and transitions. Establishing a consistent workflow for managing requests across all teams helps everyone utilize the same approach and language. And you can quickly build reports to show the status of requests across multiple teams.

SLAs can help with setting clear expectations. If you set SLAs for how long it will take to review and respond to a request, we recommend including this information in the subtitle of your ideas portal. In the example below, we make it clear in the subtitle that the delivery team will respond to all new requests within one business day. You can also include this information in the notification email a user receives when they submit a request.

Once you have set up your private ideas portal for capturing requests, you will want to set standard workflows for request and delivery teams to follow. These workflows are vital for building a sustainable process so you can successfully track and manage cross-team dependencies.


Step 2: Create a workflow for request teams

1. Submit a request through an ideas portal

When work is required from another group, a request should be submitted via a private ideas portal. The person submitting the request should complete all the required fields on the request form. The submitter will receive an email notification containing a link to the submitted request. This link is important to track progress and will be used in the step below. If a person or team needs to request work from multiple delivery teams, they should create an individual request for each team.

2. Create a feature to track requests

The person making a request should create a feature for each submitted idea to keep track of it on their own roadmap. In the Related tab, create a record link to the request as discussed in Step 1. We recommend setting the relationship type to Depends on. This will establish a link between the request and the feature. It is important for each request to have its own corresponding feature. You can create an epic if you need to group related features.

3. Respond quickly to questions

Delivery groups may require additional information to understand the scope of the request and prioritize the work. You can ask questions by commenting on the request, keeping relevant information together. The request team should respond quickly — ideally within one business day — to keep the request on track.

4. Monitor outstanding requests

The request team should monitor the status of each request and update the associated feature to reflect progress on their roadmap. Anyone on the team can proactively check the status of the idea using the record link in the Related tab. The person who submitted the request will also receive notifications of new comments or major changes to the idea status. In addition, it can be helpful to create a dependency report to quickly view the status of all work that the request team depends on to complete their own work.


Step 3: Create a workflow for delivery teams

1. Review requests

Delivery groups should review all incoming requests via the Ideas overview page. We recommend adding a comment to each request within the predetermined SLA time frame so the request team knows their request has been looked at. You can also use comments to gather additional information needed to prioritize and scope the work. Enterprise+ customers can use automation rules to create a review to-do whenever an idea is received.

2. Prioritize requests

After the initial review, the delivery team should add a comment and update the status of the request to reflect plans for moving forward. This keeps the request team informed of what is happening. If the delivery team decides to prioritize the request, it should be promoted to an epic or feature so the work can be scheduled.

3. Communicate status updates

Collaboration is essential to drive alignment between the request team and the delivery team. The delivery team is responsible for updating the status of each request as progress is made on the work. Enterprise+ customers can use automation rules to link the status of epics or features to the request status, keeping the status of both records in sync.

4. Report on the status of requests

Delivery teams will want to keep track of requests that have been submitted. Creating a list report and sorting by the submitter is a great way to see everything in one place so you can manage what needs to be done and identify any issues. Review all requests often and add comments to inform the request team of progress.

Clear guidelines for requests will help your entire organization work effectively together. But it will take discipline and consistency for everyone to benefit. If your organization needs help getting started, contact us at support@aha.io. A member of our Customer Success team will respond fast.


Aha! Roadmaps
    Strategic roadmaps
      Account management
      Aha! Ideas
      © 2021 Aha! Labs Inc.All rights reserved