Digital is a small team sport

 Laura Watkins photo
Laura Watkins Executive Producer
5min read

“Digital is a small team sport” is a phrase we often use at 11:FS: you’ll hear us say it in keynotes, in pitches and on the podcast. But what do we really mean?

Quite apart from having a penchant for the number 11, which is obviously a popular number for sports teams - football, hockey, american football to name a few - we truly believe that to deliver truly digital products and services at scale, and to operate with agility, fewer people is more.

Small teams with a specific set of skills get better outcomes when working on digital delivery than huge squads. Think Gareth Southgate’s Young Lions, rather than the entire Team GB Olympic squad.

Transformation troubles

Too often we read headlines (and discuss them at great length on the Fintech Insider news show) about big banks spending billions on digital transformation.

Equally all too often we discover that to achieve this transformation, the banks hire big consultancies (mentioning no names) who sell them literally hundreds of employees to help them with their transformation - and suddenly it’s no surprise that it’s going to cost billions.

It’s not a coincidence that the standard team size for startups and sports is between 5-12 players

Jason Bates, Co-Founder Monzo, Starling, and 11:FS

Additionally, large teams of people doing anything at all, are always going to move slowly. Hiring 100 people at once to deliver “digital transformation” will automatically guarantee that the project will get bogged down in bureaucracy, middle management and multi-layered decision making.

Ultimately this means that the shiny, new app or transformative product you were striving for will be delivered slowly and probably late - and in the meantime the market will have moved on. Your shiny new product could quite possibly be out of date before it even launches.

Keeping the teams small creates a nimble, agile culture where decisions and products are made fast and at scale. Simply by having less people, you automatically escape the scenario outlined above where the delivery process gets bogged down in layers of decision making.

Likewise, the team is limited to the right people with the right skills to get the job done, with no unnecessary layers of middle management.

Big vs Small

Trying to drive real change at pace with hundreds of people and decision makers involved is impossible. Change will either not happen, happen slowly, (and therefore the market and best practices have moved on while you’ve been dithering), or the change you get will be so far removed from the change you wanted, it’ll be unrecognisable.

Using a small, expert team is the difference between drafting an entire field army to capture one small target, or deploying a dedicated SWAT team. Not to mention the cost involved. Paying 10 people vs 100 is just basic maths, the cost savings alone are worth considering!

The key is to find the right trade off between getting things done with more people, and slowing things down because you’ve involved more people

Jason Bates

Know your customer

We truly believe that the best way to deliver truly digital products and services that customers will love is by utilising small teams made of smart people, laser focused on the product or project they’re working on, and delivering in accordance with the customer-focused jobs to be done.

In any project we’re working on at 11:FS, all the way up to building a brand new bank, we always deploy small, SWAT teams of experts. We will never sell you hundreds of people and layers of management, we’ll give you the superstars with the expertise to deliver the best possible outcomes at pace.

Digital really is a small team sport, and like all the best sports teams, they pull together as one and rely on each other equally to achieve their goals. Allowing these small teams the trust, vision and scope to get the job done at pace is what really moves the dial.

Anyone who’s ever tried to organise anything knows that there’s a tipping point between getting a second, third, fourth opinion that can really add something new...and decision making by committee. Too many cooks spoil the broth.

If you want to know how to get the best team on your side, get in touch with us at

 Laura Watkins
About the author

Laura Watkins

Heading up the 11:FS media team, Laura leads 11:FS' content creation from the Fintech Insider podcast to video documentary series and live events to make financial services more accessible to everyone.