Managing a software team can be challenging, especially if you do not have a background in software development. However, the foundational principle of successful software team development is similar to the construction of any other cultivated group: people first.
If You Build It…
Hiring top software talent was central to creating your development team, so you already have an idea of the personality that each team member brings. Cultivating relationships with team members is essential to success because you can garner insights about personal motivations and work habits. Know your people, and give them chances to get to know each other. After-work get-togethers, team activities, or simply taking workers out for coffee shows that you are interested in understanding them. As your insight into each person’s character and skills improves, you will begin to see how they can best fulfil their roles in your company and provide the correct types of motivation.
For example, some developers require long, unbroken stints in front of the screen to get the job done (limit the number of distractions for them), while others will need to periodically touch base with a more experienced developer to ensure that their approach is effective (provide mentoring opportunities for them).
Developers might hear sales numbers or be included in company-wide meetings, but it is still important to make them feel like they are part of your company’s larger mission. Explaining how developers are moving the company forward as part of your business’s family encourages a sense of ownership and belonging. Did their project go live last quarter? How did it affect the company/clients? What lessons were learned? How did the company move in a certain direction because of what the team accomplished?
Become Agile (Somewhat)
The Agile development methodology (an incremental software development approach) provides for a dynamic path to software development, but it is not always the best approach for every company or team. However, some parts of Agile can be useful in implementing a cohesive development strategy. For example, Agile emphasizes team responsibility for a project: developers are given the project specifications and then decide amongst themselves how to divide the work.
Allowing team members to take ownership of a project moves beyond a traditional management approach, but can pay dividends in an enhanced workflow and product development. Another aspect of Agile, pair programming, can be especially useful in diverse teams. Pair programming involves the creation of two-employee teams that manage one development task together; this can be especially effective when bringing on less-experienced programmers. More experienced programmers can work with them in tandem to bring the best of experience and newer ideas to a given project.
The Most Important Thing to Manage
Expectations. They are forged from diverse sources: experience, advice—or even what is seen at conventions, research labs, or the internet. Software development teams are required to perform to expectations and produce a quality, on-time product. Conflict in software development often arises due to the clash of expectations between non-developers and the development team. Typical clashes over software development projects come in the form of budget and time over-runs, but these are two issues that can be handled at the beginning of the project. Clear, static project specifications enable development teams to focus on core program issues—only vital changes should be allowed and limited to the scope of the project. Every effective team is built on trust and integrity, and the developers should understand that you are interested in their success. Being honest about expectations with clients or business users underpins this trust.
Unfortunately, the rapidly-evolving tech culture has encouraged programmers to limit their time at any given employer; this trend has resulted in costly hiring and training practices for businesses. Attempting team cohesion with a constant stream of new faces is challenging, regardless of the project. Software teams that have experience together can move projects forward rapidly and can help the company innovate. Successfully managing a development team involves providing growth opportunities, since these signal an interest in a long-term working relationship. Education and advancement are important to most workers, and offering a mix allows for the broadest range of opportunity. Some developers will want to manage their own teams and projects, while others will be excited to get their hands on the latest technology. Providing these incentives not only builds a stronger, longer-lasting team, but also enhances the company culture and product improvement.
Managing a software development team can be a challenge, but an interest in the productivity and well-being of others can make you a stellar leader. We’ve been partnering with successful leaders and developers for many years, and we stand with you to help ensure your success in any management or development opportunity.