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How to manage a software development team?

Dec 22, 2022

8 minutes read

Thousands of companies continue to work remotely. The effectiveness of a development team depends not so much on employees but on their effective management. A good manager can organize teamwork, while a bad one can ruin a project. What do you need to consider keeping everything intact when managing a software development team? One of the biggest challenges among new remote groups is information. Especially in such a difficult period, the situation changes almost daily. What direction is the project heading in? What is the overall goal now? What has each group to do? 

Outline a shared vision and values

The most common mistake that remote managers and leaders make is jumping right into evaluating remote employees’ performance. Give them tasks, check their performance, and assess the speed and quality of work. But the key to success is to find something that you share. It is crucial for managing a software development team.

Making money for yourself and your family is the first motive. But then why should they work specifically for you? Indeed, some firms can pay more for the same work (or at least your employees may start to think so). The manager and leader’s task is to ensure that even the most recent interns have as few temptations to begin looking for a new job as possible.

In a typical office, this is achieved, in part, by creating a corporate culture. All these conversations in a cafeteria or a bar, a room with a PS5, jokes with colleagues, team games and public events (such as team building), invitations to weddings and birthdays… As a result, you create the atmosphere characteristic only of your company. Managers and team leaders can try a little challenge. If the team is excellent and exciting, then why leave? Even if they are offered more money somewhere (in theory), such colleagues may no longer be found.

It is different from remote work. Try to unite the team and give it energy and common goals.

How to manage a software development team

  1. Define and communicate expectations.
  2. Meet deadlines regularly.
  3. Be available to the team.
  4. Use software for joint work.
  5. Set project deadlines for team members.
  6. Build relationships with team members.

Set KPIs

To avoid unpleasant surprises, you must evaluate progress at each stage and the end of the project.

Let’s say “like”/”dislike” is an unreliable criterion. To successfully manage a software development team, define contractor performance measurement parameters. In general, KPI (Key Performance Indicator) depends on the type of project. However, there are several more or less universal indicators based on which you can manage the developing team:

  • OTD (on-time delivery): this indicator measures the speed of development. It is expressed in the total number of tasks completed within a set time and reflects the implementation of agreements on time.
  • CPI (cost performance index): helps to evaluate the cost performance of a project and understand whether the costs of the work performed to correspond to the actual cost of the project.
  • QPI (quality performance index): This indicator evaluates how developers generally cope with the tasks. For example, if no bugs or problems surfaced after the launch of the MVP, then the QPI is satisfactory.
  • User satisfaction. It is the most important KPI for any project. Reviews in the Google Play and App Store help determine whether users are satisfied with the product.

Stay in touch when managing a software development team

Transferring work on the project to the development team and lying down to rest will not work. To get a product that meets your expectations 100%, you must stay in touch with the team constantly.

The ideal scenario is a meeting in the office. Today, most top IT companies work remotely. The future is already here, and everyone is happy with using Slack, Skype, and Zoom to communicate with clients: is this also possible to manage a software development team? Yes!

Don’t be afraid to talk about problems

Dozens of people are involved in product development: project managers, designers, developers, QI engineers (and not only!). Nobody canceled the human factor: the more people, the higher the chance of error.

If something goes differently, not according to plan, for example, the MVP was negatively perceived by the investor and did not receive a tranche, tell the contractor about it. Discuss everything with the development team. They will support you in difficult times and try their best not to disappoint you.

One-on-one meetings

Face-to-face communication is always more profound and personal than messaging. For simple tasks, of course, the messenger is also suitable. But from time to time, you need to communicate with people personally so that they at least understand whose tasks they are performing. It works incredibly well in stressful situations.

No need to force someone to do it under pressure. If you see that such contacts do not help an employee, you can try to do without them if he is already happy and ready to go for long-term goals. But for some team members, these meetings will become indispensable. Extremely useful for the growth of morale and productivity.

Happy Hour

The name might sound silly, but the concept is valid. After the beginning of social distancing in the US and Europe, entire communities dedicated to the so-called virtual Happy Hours have appeared on social media. People gather and communicate in companies, just like in a bar or at a board game, but online. A few years ago, such a concept might have seemed extremely strange, but now it is almost inevitable. People lack socialization. And this is an effortless way to get it, at least in a mini-dose.

Open Zoom, Google Hangouts, or the House Party app. Suggest a topic (not related to work). And relax, chat, joke, share opinions, and discuss whatever you want. After some time, the webcam seems to disappear. You find yourself in a circle of friends and like-minded people.

Now it is an intelligent way to spend time. Companies are even advised on planning and running these happy hours. Some firms organize virtual karaoke or riddle games. But in general, this is just an opportunity to rally your product team. Chat and relax with colleagues. Employees almost always need help to do this. They prefer to kill half an hour or an hour on YouTube. But with the organization, it’s no problem.

The human factor and peculiarities of hiring

Remote teams differ in the climate of relations within the team and at the stage of recruitment. If the company initially chose a remote office, then you should immediately look for people with certain qualities suitable for this format. The comfort from the lack of psychological pressure in a stationary team should be compensated by the willingness of a person to work independently. Accordingly, the choice of specialists is narrowing – someone can be an ideal candidate for technical knowledge but need to prepare for remote work. Many employees need to be given a push regularly to stimulate progress. In a remote office, such a luxury is unaffordable: it’s easier to find a person who will work on the pull system rather than push and not engage in the re-education of personnel.

Hence the emphasis on the personal qualities of employees of remote teams. Independence and adequacy of decision-making should be in the first place. In addition, there is a theory that says that adult accomplished developers will ultimately cope with any task, and only such ones should be recruited into a remote team. And among such ambitious “seniors,” it is necessary to choose those with well-developed soft skills. It is worth paying attention to them when interviewing for a remote team.

Don’t interfere too much

Once you’ve communicated your expectations and standards to the team, you must avoid getting caught up in fine-tuning every detail. If you have competent employees, they can handle micromanagement. Excessive communication about “how things are going” only adds to their stress and prevents them from concentrating.

The best idea for communicating with a remote team is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous communication styles. It is a simple strategy that, on the one hand, puts enough control in the hands of managers and, on the other hand, helps employees not constantly feel under a microscope.

Synchronous communication is like working in an office. Employees are expected to be ready to communicate with their colleagues or supervisors anytime they want. And to answer messages and calls, ideally, you need to instantly, no matter what they are doing now. It works like an office: a colleague or boss can always walk into an employee’s workplace to ask questions or initiate a conversation. When you send a message to a team member on Telegram or Slack in a remote environment, you expect a response within a few minutes.

Asynchronous communication does not guarantee such a speed of response. Here the point is not that you instantly receive an answer to what you requested but a general increase in labor efficiency. Employees devote their time to work and only communicate when it’s convenient. They don’t have to worry about someone waiting for their response and constantly check all the messengers. They can fully immerse themselves in work.

Each communication style has its pros and cons. In some positions, the speed of response is essential; in others, the main thing is to avoid making a mistake and completely immerse yourself in the details. Therefore, it is best to combine asynchronous and synchronous communication.

Building a remote team that will create a quality product and interacts well takes work, but there is a chance. New developments and tools interest employees in this work, and company owners find the benefits of such a solution for business. More than finding and organizing precious employees is required; they need to be interested, retained, and motivated to achieve results, and this rule applies to managing any software development team. If you want to know more on that matter, contact us.

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