Leadership, Product management

Team Topology

A framework that defines how teams are structured and interact within an organization to optimize product delivery and performance.

Also called: Team Structure, Organizational Design, Product Team Design, and Team Design

See also: Conway's Law

Relevant metrics: Team velocity and productivity, Reduction in communication overhead, Increase in product quality and delivery speed, Employee satisfaction and retention, and Cross-team collaboration effectiveness

In this article

What is the Team Topology framework?

Team Topology refers to the way teams are structured and interact within an organization to optimize product delivery and performance. The framework defines different types of teams and their relationships, aiming to enhance collaboration, reduce dependencies, and align team capabilities with organizational goals. Key types of teams include stream-aligned teams, platform teams, enabling teams, and complicated subsystem teams.

Types of Teams in Team Topology

There are several ways to organize product teams, each with its own set of advantages and challenges. Choosing the right topology depends on the specific needs and goals of the organization, as well as the nature of the products being developed. The common types of team topologies include:

  1. By Product or Product Line
  2. By Feature
  3. By Customer Segment
  4. By Customer Journey Stage
  5. By Internal Architecture
  6. By Value Stream
  7. By Performance Metrics
Method Description Example Best For Pros Cons
By Product or Product Line Focus on specific products or lines from development to delivery. Google (Search, YouTube) Large companies with diverse portfolios. Deep expertise, clear accountability. Requires cross-team coordination, risk of silos.
By Feature Organize around specific product features. Microsoft Teams (chat, video) Mature, feature-rich products. Clear ownership, fewer dependencies. “Feature factory” mentality, fragmented focus.
By Customer Segment Focus on different customer types. Salesforce (enterprise vs. SMB) Diverse customer bases. Tailored solutions, enhanced customer focus. Resource-intensive, potential duplication of efforts.
By Customer Journey Stage Teams handle different stages of the customer journey. HubSpot (onboarding, retention) Optimizing customer experience. Enhanced experience, focused improvements. Coordination required, potential overlap of roles.
By Internal Architecture Organized by technical components or services. Netflix (streaming infrastructure) Tech-driven companies with complex architectures. Specialization, deep technical expertise. Difficult coordination, risk of silos.
By Value Stream Align with value streams from request to delivery. Spotify (music streaming) Optimizing end-to-end processes. Customer-centric, streamlined delivery. Complex coordination, demands strong communication.
By Performance Metrics Focus on achieving specific KPIs or goals. LinkedIn (user engagement, growth) Data-driven organizations. Direct alignment with business objectives. Risk of neglecting user needs, narrow focus.

Where did the Team Topology framework originate from?

The concept of Team Topology was popularized by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais in their book, “Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow.” The framework builds on principles from software engineering, DevOps, and organizational design to address common challenges in team collaboration and product delivery.

Skelton and Pais emphasized the importance of aligning team structures with business goals and communication pathways, drawing on insights from Conway’s Law. This law states that systems tend to mirror the communication structures of the organizations that build them. By aligning team topology with this principle, organizations can create more efficient and adaptable systems.

“Organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.” - Melvin Conway

Choosing between team topologies

The detailed overview of each team topology type is missing explicit criteria or factors that readers should consider when deciding which topology fits their needs. To help readers make informed decisions, each section should include a clear “When to Choose This Setup” subsection, listing specific organizational conditions or goals that make each topology more suitable. Here is an updated version with these additions:

Detailed Overview of Team Topologies

By Product or Product Line

Organizing teams by product or product line involves assigning teams to specific products or product lines, managing everything from development to delivery. This structure is particularly beneficial for larger companies with diverse product portfolios, such as Google, which has separate teams for Search, YouTube, and Google Maps.

This setup is best for mature organizations with established product lines, where products are distinct and independent. The main advantage of this approach is the deep expertise and specialization that teams develop within each product line. Teams have a clear focus and accountability for the success of their product, which simplifies the management of feedback and customer interactions. However, it requires significant cross-team coordination, especially for integrated products, and can lead to silos if teams do not collaborate effectively, potentially overlooking broader user needs.

When to Choose This Setup:

  • Your organization has a wide range of distinct and independent products.
  • You aim to develop deep expertise within each product line.
  • You want clear accountability and focus on product success.
  • Your company can manage the coordination required for integrated products.

By Feature

Feature-based team organization involves structuring teams around specific product features. For example, Microsoft Teams has separate teams for chat, video conferencing, and file sharing features. This approach is suitable for companies with mature, feature-rich products, particularly in mid to late stages where feature enhancement is a priority.

Feature-based teams have clear ownership of their respective features, which reduces dependencies within teams and allows for focused development. However, this can lead to a “feature factory” mentality, where the emphasis is on delivering features rather than solving user problems. Additionally, there’s a risk of fragmented focus that can negatively impact the overall user experience.

When to Choose This Setup:

  • Your product is mature and feature-rich.
  • You need clear ownership and focused development for each feature.
  • Your organization prioritizes feature enhancement and detailed development.

By Customer Segment

Teams organized by customer segment focus on different types of customers, such as enterprise vs. SMB customers. Salesforce exemplifies this approach, with teams dedicated to enterprise clients versus small businesses. This topology is ideal for companies with diverse customer bases and established organizations that have a clear understanding of different customer needs.

This structure allows for tailored solutions that meet the specific needs of different market segments, enhancing customer focus and satisfaction. However, it requires a deep understanding of diverse customer needs, which can be resource-intensive. Additionally, there is a potential for duplication of efforts across segments, leading to inefficiencies.

When to Choose This Setup:

  • Your company serves diverse customer segments with distinct needs.
  • You aim to tailor solutions to different market segments.
  • You have the resources to understand and cater to various customer requirements.

By Customer Journey Stage

Organizing teams by customer journey stage means assigning teams to different stages of the customer journey, such as onboarding, adoption, and retention. HubSpot, for instance, has teams dedicated to user acquisition, onboarding, and customer retention. This approach is beneficial for companies focusing on optimizing the customer experience, particularly in mid-stage to mature organizations.

This setup enhances the customer experience at each journey stage by providing focused improvements on specific customer interactions. However, it requires robust coordination across stages to ensure a seamless user experience and can lead to overlaps in responsibilities and resource allocation issues.

When to Choose This Setup:

  • Your product requires significant customer engagement and support.
  • You aim to optimize the customer experience at different journey stages.
  • Your organization can manage the coordination needed across different stages.

By Internal Architecture

Teams organized by internal architecture focus on different technical components or services. Netflix, for example, has separate teams for streaming service infrastructure, user interface, and content delivery networks. This topology is suitable for technology-driven companies with complex architectures, particularly those in growth to mature stages.

Specialization in technical domains improves scalability and performance, as teams develop deep technical expertise within their areas. However, coordination across business lines can be difficult, potentially delaying overall product delivery. There is also a risk of creating silos and losing sight of user needs.

When to Choose This Setup:

  • Your product has significant backend or architectural complexity.
  • Your organization benefits from deep technical specialization.
  • You can manage the coordination challenges across technical domains.

By Value Stream

Value stream-based team organization aligns teams with value streams, focusing on the entire process from customer request to delivery. Spotify uses this approach to manage the end-to-end process of delivering specific types of content, such as music streaming, podcast distribution, and user-generated playlists. This topology is beneficial for companies aiming to optimize end-to-end processes, suitable at any stage but particularly for improving operational efficiency.

This structure is customer-centric, ensuring that teams are focused on delivering value from start to finish. It streamlines delivery by reducing hand-offs and delays. However, it requires complex coordination and resource management and demands strong communication and alignment across the organization.

When to Choose This Setup:

  • Your product requires smooth, integrated workflows.
  • You aim to reduce bottlenecks and hand-offs in the delivery process.
  • Your organization can handle the coordination and resource management required.

By Performance Metrics

Teams organized by performance metrics focus on achieving specific KPIs or product goals. LinkedIn, for example, has teams focused on metrics like user engagement, premium subscription growth, and ad revenue. This approach is ideal for data-driven organizations with mature products that have established KPIs.

The main advantage is the direct alignment with business objectives, allowing for focused improvements on targeted metrics. However, there is a risk of focusing solely on business KPIs at the expense of user needs and experience. Additionally, this can lead to a narrow focus, potentially missing broader context and innovation opportunities.

When to Choose This Setup:

  • Your organization is data-driven with clear KPIs.
  • Your product success is measured by specific metrics.
  • You aim to align team efforts directly with business objectives.

Choosing the Right Team Topology

Selecting the appropriate team topology depends on various factors, including the company’s size, maturity, product complexity, and specific goals. For larger companies with diverse product lines, organizing by product or product line can leverage deep expertise and accountability. For companies with feature-rich products, feature-based teams can streamline development and focus.

Customer segment-based organization works well for companies with diverse customer bases, providing tailored solutions and enhancing satisfaction. Customer journey stage organization is ideal for optimizing the customer experience at different stages. For technology-driven companies, internal architecture-based teams can improve technical scalability and performance. Value stream-based organization is best for companies aiming to optimize end-to-end processes, ensuring smooth workflows and customer-centric delivery. Performance metrics-based teams are suitable for data-driven organizations focusing on specific KPIs.

Why is the Team Topology framework relevant?

Team Topology is relevant because it provides a structured approach to organizing teams in a way that enhances collaboration, reduces bottlenecks, and aligns team capabilities with organizational goals. It is particularly useful in dynamic environments where product requirements and market conditions change rapidly.

The framework helps organizations to:

  • Improve product delivery speed and quality. By aligning teams with product streams and reducing dependencies, teams can work more efficiently and deliver higher quality products.
  • Enhance cross-team collaboration. Clear definitions of team types and their interactions foster better collaboration and knowledge sharing across the organization.
  • Adapt to change. A flexible team topology enables organizations to quickly respond to changes in the market or product requirements.
  • Optimize resource utilization. By defining specific team roles and responsibilities, organizations can ensure that resources are used effectively and avoid duplication of effort.

Understanding and implementing effective team topology can lead to improved product outcomes and greater organizational agility.

Applying the Team Topology framework

The first step in applying Team Topology is to assess the current team structures and identify any bottlenecks or inefficiencies. This involves mapping out existing teams, their responsibilities, and their interactions. Once the current state is understood, the organization can design a new team topology that aligns with business goals and optimizes collaboration.

Steps to implement Team Topology

  1. Assess the current team structure. Identify existing teams, their roles, and their interactions. Look for areas where communication breaks down or where dependencies create bottlenecks.
  2. Define desired team types. Based on the organization’s goals and product needs, determine which team types (stream-aligned, platform, enabling, complicated subsystem) are required.
  3. Design the new topology. Create a new team structure that aligns with the desired team types. Ensure that each team has a clear purpose and that interactions between teams are well-defined.
  4. Implement the new structure. Transition to the new team topology, providing support and guidance to teams as they adapt to their new roles and interactions.
  5. Monitor and adjust. Regularly review the effectiveness of the new team topology, gathering feedback from team members and stakeholders. Make adjustments as necessary to address any issues or changing needs.

Scaling Team Topologies with Organizational Growth

As organizations grow, their team structures need to adapt to handle increased complexity and scale. Scaling team topologies effectively is essential to maintaining efficiency, productivity, and alignment with organizational goals. Here are some strategies for scaling team topologies:

Splitting Teams

When teams become too large, they can be split into smaller, more manageable units. Each new team should have clear goals and responsibilities to ensure they can operate autonomously. For example, a single product team might be split into multiple feature teams, each responsible for different aspects of the product. This approach helps maintain agility and focus, as smaller teams can adapt more quickly to changes and make decisions faster. It also reduces the communication overhead that can occur in larger teams, leading to more efficient workflows.

Introducing Layered Management

Adding layers of management or coordination roles can help manage larger teams and ensure alignment with strategic goals. Introducing roles such as tribe leads, program managers, or product owners who oversee multiple teams can facilitate coordination and strategic alignment. These roles act as intermediaries between teams and senior management, ensuring that the teams’ work aligns with broader organizational objectives. Layered management helps maintain clear communication channels and provides additional support for teams as they grow.

Maintaining open and consistent communication channels is crucial for scaling. Regular all-hands meetings, town halls, and cross-team collaboration sessions can ensure that everyone stays aligned and informed. These events provide opportunities for teams to share updates, celebrate successes, and discuss challenges. Consistent communication helps build a cohesive organizational culture and ensures that all team members are aware of the company’s goals and progress. It also fosters a sense of community and collaboration, which is essential for maintaining morale and engagement as the organization grows.

Scaling Agile Practices

Adapting agile practices to scale, such as using the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) or Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS), can help manage larger teams while maintaining agility. These frameworks provide structured approaches for scaling agile practices across multiple teams. They offer guidelines for coordinating work, managing dependencies, and ensuring alignment with strategic goals. By implementing scalable agile practices, organizations can maintain the flexibility and responsiveness that agile methodologies offer, even as they grow larger.

As organizations grow, maintaining a strong culture and shared values becomes more important. Regularly reinforcing company values, celebrating successes, and promoting a collaborative culture can help teams stay motivated and aligned. Ensuring that new hires understand and embrace the company’s culture and values is also crucial. By fostering a positive and inclusive work environment, organizations can retain top talent and maintain high levels of engagement and productivity.

Impact on Team Morale and Culture

Different team topologies can have a profound impact on team morale and culture. The way teams are organized influences their sense of belonging, motivation, and overall job satisfaction. For instance, organizing teams by product or product line can foster a strong sense of ownership and pride among team members. When a team is responsible for the full lifecycle of a product, from development to delivery, members can see the direct impact of their work. This visibility can be highly motivating and lead to a greater sense of accomplishment.

However, this structure can also create silos, where teams become isolated from the broader company mission. If teams are not encouraged to communicate and collaborate with one another, they might miss out on valuable cross-functional insights and innovations. This isolation can lead to a feeling of disconnection and reduce overall morale.

On the other hand, feature-based teams might enjoy the clear ownership and focused development that comes with being responsible for specific product features. This can streamline their work processes and reduce dependencies. However, without a broader perspective, these teams might develop a “feature factory” mentality, where the emphasis is on delivering features rather than solving user problems. This can lead to fragmented focus and negatively impact the overall user experience, which can be demotivating for team members who care deeply about user satisfaction.

Aligning Team Topologies with Strategic Business Goals

Aligning team structures with broader business objectives is crucial for ensuring that the organization’s strategic priorities are effectively supported. Effective alignment ensures that team efforts contribute directly to achieving business goals. Here’s how to achieve this alignment:

Start by defining clear business goals and objectives. These goals should be communicated to all teams so that everyone understands the overarching priorities. For example, if a strategic goal is to improve customer satisfaction, teams should be aware of this and work towards enhancing user experience and addressing customer feedback. Clear objectives provide direction and focus, helping teams prioritize their work and make decisions that align with the company’s strategic goals.

Ensure that each team’s responsibilities are directly aligned with the strategic objectives. This might involve restructuring teams to focus on areas that are critical to achieving business goals. For example, if a key objective is to increase market share, creating dedicated teams for market expansion and customer acquisition can be effective. By aligning team responsibilities with strategic goals, organizations can ensure that all efforts are directed towards achieving the most important outcomes.

Conduct regular reviews to assess how well the team structures are supporting business goals. This can involve performance reviews, feedback sessions, and strategic alignment meetings. Based on these reviews, make adjustments to team structures as needed to better align with evolving business priorities. Regular reviews provide opportunities to identify and address any misalignments, ensuring that teams remain focused on strategic objectives.

Involve stakeholders from different areas of the business in the planning and review processes. This ensures that diverse perspectives are considered and that the team structures support the needs of various departments. Regular stakeholder meetings and feedback loops can facilitate this engagement. By involving stakeholders, organizations can ensure that team structures are designed to meet the needs of all parts of the business, promoting better collaboration and alignment.

Implementing OKRs can help teams align their work with strategic business goals. By setting clear objectives and measurable key results, teams can focus their efforts on high-impact activities that drive business outcomes. Regularly tracking and reviewing OKRs ensures continuous alignment and progress towards strategic goals. OKRs provide a structured framework for setting and achieving goals, helping teams stay focused and accountable.

Ensure that the company’s vision and strategy are clearly communicated to all teams. This helps teams understand the broader context of their work and how it contributes to the organization’s success. Regularly sharing updates on strategic initiatives and company performance can reinforce this alignment. Clear communication of vision and strategy helps build a sense of purpose and direction, motivating teams to work towards common goals.

Empower teams to make decisions that align with strategic goals. Providing teams with the autonomy to innovate and make decisions within their domain can drive better alignment and engagement. This requires trust and support from leadership, as well as clear guidelines on strategic priorities. Empowering teams fosters a culture of ownership and accountability, encouraging teams to take initiative and drive results.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Each team topology comes with its own set of challenges and potential pitfalls. For instance, product or product line teams might excel in developing deep expertise and accountability but can struggle with integration and alignment across different products. The challenge here is ensuring that different product teams are not working in silos and that their efforts are aligned with the overall company strategy.

Feature-based teams, while beneficial for clear ownership and reduced dependencies, can become too focused on delivering features without considering the broader user experience. This “feature factory” mentality can lead to a fragmented product that fails to meet user needs holistically.

Strategies to avoid common pitfalls are:

  • Implement regular cross-team meetings, Facilitate regular check-ins and collaboration sessions between different teams to ensure alignment and integration. This helps in sharing knowledge, addressing dependencies, and coordinating efforts.
  • Encourage a user-centric approach in feature teams. Balance feature development with user needs by incorporating user feedback and usability testing into the development process. This ensures that features are not only delivered but also meet user expectations.
  • Use clear communication channels. Establish and maintain effective communication channels to reduce the risk of silos. Ensure that teams are aware of each other’s work and how it fits into the bigger picture. Tools like shared project management platforms and regular all-hands meetings can be very effective.

Transitioning between topologies

Transitioning from one team topology to another can be challenging but necessary for growth and adaptation. Whether it’s due to changes in company size, market conditions, or strategic goals, the need to reorganize teams can arise. This process should be carefully managed to minimize disruption and ensure a smooth transition.

Steps for a Smooth Transition:

  1. Conduct a thorough assessment: Begin with a detailed assessment of the current team structure and identify pain points. Gather feedback from team members and stakeholders to understand the limitations of the current setup.
  2. Communicate the reasons for the change: Clearly articulate the rationale behind the reorganization to all stakeholders. Explain how the new structure aligns with the company’s goals and how it will benefit the teams and the organization as a whole.
  3. Provide training and support: Offer training sessions and resources to help teams understand the new structure and their roles within it. Support teams through the transition period with additional guidance and coaching.
  4. Implement the change in phases: Rather than making a sudden shift, implement the new topology in stages. This allows teams to gradually adjust to the new ways of working and provides an opportunity to address any issues that arise during the transition.
  5. Monitor and adjust: Regularly review the effectiveness of the new team topology. Gather feedback from team members and stakeholders and be prepared to make adjustments as necessary. Continuous monitoring ensures that the new structure remains aligned with organizational goals.

Measuring Success

To ensure that the chosen topology is effective, it’s important to measure its success through various metrics. These metrics help organizations understand whether the new structure is delivering the desired outcomes and identify areas for improvement.

Key Metrics:

  • Team Performance: Measure velocity, productivity, and quality of work. Track how efficiently teams are delivering products and whether there are improvements in their output.
  • Product Delivery Speed: Assess the time-to-market for new features and products. A faster delivery speed can indicate a more efficient team structure.
  • Employee Satisfaction: Monitor engagement and retention rates. High employee satisfaction often correlates with a well-functioning team structure and positive work environment.
  • Customer Feedback: Collect satisfaction and usability ratings from customers. Positive feedback can indicate that the team structure is effectively meeting user needs and delivering high-quality products.

Frequently asked questions

How does each topology affect team morale and culture?

Understanding the impact of different organizational structures on team morale and culture can be crucial. For instance, some structures might foster a strong sense of ownership and satisfaction, while others might lead to silos and disengagement.

What are the common pitfalls and how to avoid them?

Highlighting typical challenges associated with each topology and providing strategies to mitigate these issues would be beneficial. For example, how to prevent silos in product-based teams or avoid feature factory mentality in feature-based teams.

What are the real-world success stories or case studies?

Providing more detailed case studies or success stories from companies that have effectively implemented these topologies can offer practical insights and inspiration.

How to transition between topologies smoothly?

Guidance on how organizations can transition from one topology to another with minimal disruption would be valuable, especially for companies considering a reorganization.

How to measure the success of a chosen topology?

Discussing metrics and methods to evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen team structure can help organizations continuously improve their approach.


Spotify Model

Spotify is known for its squad, tribe, chapter, and guild structure, which allows for flexible team organization and effective cross-functional collaboration.

Amazon's Two-Pizza Team

Amazon’s Two-Pizza Team concept ensures that teams are small enough to be fed by two pizzas, promoting agility and minimizing communication overhead. Each team is autonomous and owns a specific service or component, allowing them to innovate rapidly and take full responsibility for their outcomes. This approach has allowed Amazon to maintain a startup-like agility despite its large size, fostering a high degree of ownership, accountability, and speed in product development.


Netflix organizes its teams around full ownership of services. Each team is responsible for the entire lifecycle of their service, from development to deployment to maintenance. This approach encourages end-to-end accountability and ensures that teams are invested in the long-term quality and performance of their services. This structure has supported Netflix’s ability to scale its services globally while maintaining high levels of performance and reliability. It also promotes a culture of continuous improvement and operational excellence.

Microsoft's Feature Teams

Microsoft uses feature teams that are cross-functional and responsible for specific features or components of a product. These teams operate with a high degree of independence and collaborate closely with other teams through well-defined interfaces and APIs. This structure has helped Microsoft to improve coordination across its large and diverse product portfolio, enhance agility, and reduce the time-to-market for new features and products.

Salesforce's Agile Release Trains (ARTs)

Salesforce implements the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) with Agile Release Trains, which are long-lived teams of Agile teams working together to deliver a continuous flow of value. ARTs align teams around shared business and technology goals, promoting synchronization and integration. This structured approach has enabled Salesforce to scale Agile practices across the organization, improving alignment, collaboration, and delivery predictability for large and complex product releases.

Relevant questions to ask
  • What are the different types of team topologies?
    Hint Common types include stream-aligned teams, platform teams, enabling teams, and complicated subsystem teams.
  • How do I choose the right team topology for my organization?
    Hint Consider factors such as product complexity, team size, communication needs, and organizational goals.
  • What is the impact of team topology on product delivery?
    Hint Proper team topology can streamline workflows, reduce bottlenecks, and enhance collaboration, leading to faster and higher quality product delivery.
  • How does team topology relate to Conway's Law?
    Hint Conway's Law states that the design of systems mirrors the communication structures of the organization. Effective team topology aligns with this principle to optimize system design.
  • What role do leaders play in shaping team topology?
    Hint Leaders are responsible for defining and evolving team structures to ensure alignment with strategic goals and to address any collaboration or communication challenges.
  • How can team topology influence organizational agility?
    Hint Well-defined team topology enables rapid adaptation to changes, promotes flexibility, and supports agile practices within the organization.
  • How do team topologies evolve over time?
    Hint Team topologies should evolve based on product lifecycle stages, market changes, and internal growth to continuously meet the organization's needs.
  • What are the challenges in implementing a new team topology?
    Hint Challenges can include resistance to change, misalignment with existing processes, and ensuring effective communication across new team boundaries.
  • How can I assess the effectiveness of my team's topology?
    Hint Regularly review team performance metrics, gather feedback from team members, and observe collaboration and communication patterns.
  • How do different team topologies affect stakeholder engagement?
    Hint Different topologies can influence how stakeholders interact with teams, affecting transparency, feedback loops, and overall satisfaction.

You might also be interested in reading up on:

Relevant books on the topic of Team Topology
  • Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow by Matthew Skelton & Manuel Pais (2019)

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