When it comes to building software, it is a collaborative, team effort. The time of the lone developer coding away in the dark recesses of an office is gone, if it ever existed in the first place. In most teams, having a group of primadonnas tends to cause more conflict than anything else. With software development teams, the situation is similar – finding the best developer for a project is only half the battle.
A software development team or engineering team needs to be aligned to business objectives and values with a positive attitude and culture. Often the best prospects are already employed elsewhere so attracting them can be a challenge in itself. This is where an emphasis on culture comes into the equation. Demonstrating opportunities for growth can be a huge driver for software development team members.
A team is all about how the different members work together. So when looking for someone for your engineering team, consider their personality. This should be the first step in evaluating suitability followed by skills.
With skills, consider what skills are present within a team and which areas need improvement. Finding the right resource is not just a matter of skills. Technical knowledge while valuable is also, with some exceptions, commonplace.
When building your team there are some key steps you need to consider if you want your team to work efficiently.
Software development team goals need to be clearly defined and achievable. A good option to use when creating goals is the SMART structure. Here you create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Oriented. Using this structure not only makes sure the team understands what they need to deliver, but also provides you with a method of measuring success.
When building a software development team or any other type of team, it is important to consider the overall team dynamic. Look at how individual people react to each other but also understand that teams take time to normalize. In fact, in the early days of team creation, you can expect to see some conflict as people learn the strengths and weaknesses of their colleagues.
This Storming, Forming, Norming process is well known and you should expect it to reoccur whenever new team members join or alternatively, leave. Team cohesion is not something that happens immediately, it takes time to form and a dedicated effect to maintain. However, once it’s in place, your team will demonstrate greater trust which will lead to improved performance.
Finally, regarding balance, it is also important to make sure that all of the needed skills are present within the team. One member cannot be expected to carry the weight of the entire project so skills need to be complementary.
Technology is changing daily and teams that rest on their laurels will quickly become redundant. Teams need to be encouraged to constantly gain new skills and knowledge both externally and internally. New programming languages and frameworks are important skills to gain, but internal team knowledge is also important.
In a software engineering team, meetings are often not the right place for individuals to voice opinions, especially for those new to the team. By creating an environment that allows for open communication and feedback, team members can reach out directly to peers and leaders. They can use this avenue to share thoughts without fear of censure or blame. If the members of your engineering team understand this, they are more likely to take risks instead of only following the process and protocol.
The scope of projects change as they are worked on so you need to be flexible about this. As the skills needed morph and transform, grow your team appropriately to better accommodate the new requirements. Understand that having these resources ready and available is half the battle as finding someone overnight can be difficult.
When building out your software development team structure, understand that there are 3 common types of roles that need to be considered. Each of them has a different role to play in a project and someone that fits in one role will not always be successful with all of the different types of projects.
The three roles are Generalists, Specialists, and Hybrid Teams. Generalists for example can wear many hats and have a good overall knowledge of the project. They can solve simpler issues but will often need to escalate to Specialists for more complex requests. While it would be good to have everyone at a Specialist skill level, it takes time and money to make that happen. Also, Specialists get frustrated with simpler issues. Hybrid teams are teams that include both Generalists and Specialists and are generally needed for larger projects.
It is important to try and understand each of the different software development team roles and how they align with the project’s goals and overall complexity. Look at the budget available and the time frame and then pick the structure that is most suitable.
Project scope can often change overnight. What might have been mapped out to be a multi-month project needs to be accelerated based on changing market conditions or technology and accelerated. If this is the case you need the right partner on your side that can scale and grow rapidly with you.
NIX has years of experience in this and has teams that can double or even triple in size in a matter of weeks. This speed is only possible due to the unique onboarding and staffing plan that NIX has in place. To understand how this works in operation consider the following sequence of events.
If a client decides that additional resources are needed, they contact the dedicated NIX account lead for the project. This individual measures the skills needed and what the person would be required to do. They also map out how long the extra resource would be needed for.
Once these questions are answered, they then start searching NIX’s extensive database of resources to find a suitable candidate able to work on the project. When the resource is identified, the client gets an opportunity to approve. The individual is brought into the team for a trial period to make sure they will work well together and learn the details of the project.
At NIX we’ve had over 25 years to streamline the process and guarantee that teams grow and shrink without impacting project outcomes. We’ve found that the ability to grow and shrink teams on demand is a critical skill and we always make sure that we have an extra 10% capacity within the project bench available just in case. These bench resources are onboarded in the same manner as the main team so if needed they are immediately available with very little time wasted.
Within a software development team, there are many different roles that are critical for project success. Some of the key ones worth noting are:
The Project Manager (PM) owns implementing the project. They manage all of the different people and share communications about project status. PMs drive a project forward by setting clearly defined milestones with specific deliverables. They share updates on project progress with other stakeholders whether it is internal stakeholders or clients.
The Business Analyst (BA) is a critical role within any project. They’re responsible for translating business requirements into project requirements. They do this by understanding the needs of the business with a focus on only the requirements that are critical for project success. They take these needs and then determine the technical requirements for success.
Quality can make or break a project. The Quality Assurance (QA) team is responsible for ensuring that the features asked for were actually provided and that they meet the business requirements. They also test to guarantee that the delivery of these features do not cause other unexpected problems with the project or product.
The Frontend or Front-End Developer is responsible for the part of the application that users actually see. They work to make sure that users have a seamless and enjoyable experience with a key focus on speed and usability. Front-End developers are also responsible for ensuring the experience is the same regardless of the platform used. In this way, whether a client is using a desktop or smartphone, the user should still get the same experience.
Back-End or Backend Developers handle the underlying engine of the application. They decide how different services connect whether it is the database or the development framework or anything in between. Backend developers are also responsible for the actual coding of the application. With their knowledge and skills they are constantly working to make sure the solution as designed is the best option.
UI and UX are two sides of a coin. UI or User Interface designers decide how an application should look and feel so that users gain the most value. UX or User Experience designers are more focused on the way users actually interact with the app. Together, UI/UX designers transform a project from simple words into a visual representation of a useful tool.
The DevOps Engineer looks after your infrastructure. As part of the engineering team, they make sure that the solution is working at the expected level. They setup and design monitoring and alerting so extra load can be accommodated without impacting the service and also look after the overall speed of the application. With today’s cloud solutions, a skilled DevOps engineer is an investment worth making.
When it comes to goals there are three criteria that need to be met every time.
The only way to ensure that this goal is met is by having a clear understanding up front amongst all parties about what was meant to be delivered and when. If changes are needed during a projects lifecycle, the impact of these changes must be clearly documented so that both groups understand what this will do to timelines and the overall project.
To ensure that teams deliver on time, regular and continuous measurement and tracking is needed. Whether a project is being run using agile or waterfall methodologies is irrelevant if teams are kept updated and informed on project progress at all times. In this way, any roadblock and bottlenecks can be addressed before they become impactful.
Regardless of timelines, ignoring quality is only a detriment. If you rush through a project without enough quality control it will end up costing a lot more in time, effort, reputation and money in the longer term. Quality is not something that is only done at the end before a project or application is released. Rather, it is a continuous ongoing process at all phases of a projects’ life cycle.
The NIX team not only meets all of these goals but many more. Our clients always say that our specialists are experienced enough to not be afraid to voice their opinion and provide their recommendations on how to improve the projects. This strategy has helped our clients achieve their goals more effectively.
Within teams, measurement is critical. Knowing what is working well and what is not working well is the only way to ensure that clients receive the service they are paying for. After all, you cannot fix what you cannot measure and this mantra is just as applicable in software as with any other team.
With Velocity you are trying to understand how many features are delivered over a specific period of time. It is best to measure this over several months or quarters to create your baseline average first and then adjustments for improvement can be implemented.
Cycle time is a measurement of how long it takes an issue to move from one state into another. In this case you could be counting the time between when an issue was opened and when it was closed. This measurement can be used for an individual and a team by finding the average across the team.
Similar to Velocity, you are measuring the amount of work done in a period of time. However, with Throughput it is not just features that are being measured but also bug fixes and tasks within that same period.
When a developer logs a request with his team for a review of completed changes, those requests are considered pull requests. If they are not actioned, they are open which means work cannot continue.
To understand the total number of tasks being worked on at any given moment in time, you would be looking at the Work in Progress indicator. If this number jumps for an unknown reason, then there are open issues that need to be addressed. Work in Progress is also a useful metric for finding inefficiencies.
Understanding how long a specific release takes is a key metric and that is what Release Cycle Time helps to identify. By looking closely at this metric, specific inefficiencies can be brought to light so that future releases are more timely.
A high-functioning software development team is one that can help drive your business to new heights of excellence. They are able to adjust to changing business and economic conditions and are able to handle more flexible business objectives. High functioning teams need to have the capability of shrinking and growing based on changing conditions and building these types of teams is something NIX excels at.
Our teams of technical specialists are not only placed on the right positions and are perfectly trained to interact with each other as a team, but are also managed by perfectly skilled Project Managers and supported by Business Analysts. All together this makes our team a reliable and robust tech reinforcement for any business.
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