This article shares tips and the best practices of software team scaling from business and technical perspectives.
At rinf.tech, we have firsthand experience with building highly efficient client-tailored dedicated development teams and managed teams in Eastern Europe. This makes us well-placed to share some Team Scaling tips and tricks drawn from many lessons learned. That’s what this article is going to address.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s define when it’s high time to consider software team scaling.
Tech team scaling is directly related to how your business is doing. In order to decide if you need to scale, you must understand the current state of your company.
The service company provides custom software development services to other businesses. The size of your team completely determines the number of developers that you can provide to the client, and your income, accordingly. If you don’t have enough in-house resources, you have several options to scale your custom-tailored team. To name just a few:
That’s the practice of hiring additional staff remotely from offshore/nearshore talent pools and integrating them into the in-house team or using them as a standalone software development division.
You can literally rent the missing skills from your partners who have better access to talent or keep developers on the bench waiting for new projects to come. You can rent specialists on a full-time or part-time basis, depending on your client’s needs.
A product company focuses on developing a product and launching it to the market. As such, your software team size and its technical expertise determine your product development speed and its unique value proposition compared to the competition.
These companies may need to scale when the team misses another project’s release date or when product development is progressing as expected, and more engineering talent is needed to keep up with the schedule.
Scaling is an option worth considering if you’re experiencing one of the above cases.
Suppose you need additional software developers. Intuitively hiring new team members may seem like the best solution. It is indeed, but there is something to think about. This step should be carefully planned in advance and in line with the company’s business strategy. Otherwise, the onboarding of new employees can lead to the following problems:
Team growth leads to problems with division of responsibility, team management, and excessive communication.
As the number of projects grows, project support time increases.
In the end, reckless scaling leads to a drop in efficiency, an increase in costs, and, as a result, business shake-ups.
Let’s take a closer look at why these issues occur and how to avoid them when planning your product scaling project.
Start by focusing on the core elements of your particular business. Without a clear understanding of your business mission, target audience, and where you are going, building a successful product is next to impossible. Even if you do not have any issues now, this does not mean that they will not appear down the road.
The completion of the mission and vision statements determines the company’s product development strategy. Scaling must match this strategy. Lack of understanding of “why” you are scaling from the strategic perspective will lead to wrong decisions and losses in the long run.
To track progress and stay on the same page as your teammates, define performance metrics and key performance indicators.
As the number of projects grows, it’s a good idea to expand the responsibilities of the project manager to include the product owner so that this person becomes a kind of “mini-CEO.” These additional responsibilities include analyzing the market and finding ways to add value to the product for customers, leading to business growth.
Scaling brings about changes in the structure of your company. Keep in mind that smaller teams are much easier to manage.
Ideally, teams should be kept to 7-10 people. Jeff Bezos’ “Two Pizza Rule” is a perfect example of how it should work. It states that the team must be large enough to be fed two pizzas. If your team exceeds this number, you better split it up and create several subteams or employ the Spotify model and build feature-based squads.
Small teams are the basis of flexible scaling. However, the number of teams should not grow just like that. It makes no sense to create a separate team if it is not an independent unit. This will only exacerbate communication and management problems.
Ideally, a structured team should be able to execute project increments while being completely independent or as little dependent as possible on other teams. Each team member must be fully committed to and accountable for the results of the project.
Small teams keep people focused and dedicated, providing a better idea of how they contribute to a common goal.
The growth of the company and changes in the organizational structure require a revision of communication channels. This is especially true now that many employees work remotely.
If you’ve ever worked with remote employees, you know how easy it can be to lose information. Redesign communication channels so that each team member gets the information they need quickly with minimal digital noise.
Any manual process is much more difficult to scale. With the growth of the development team, some tasks become too expensive and, at the same time, bring minimal effect.
Try to automate your business processes as much as possible. This will allow you to allocate your resources in the most efficient way.
Setting up CI/CD will help automate some steps and ensure the maximum quality of your service.
Now let’s dive into how product development teams can be synchronized.
When scaling a product development team, coordination issues can arise. For example, one team has already completed its part of the project, and the second is still in the process. As a result, the whole development process is slowed down because all the parts are interconnected, and you can’t move further without finishing the second part.
To avoid this, scale the team by the scope of work it can do. Discuss plans with other team leaders and resources as needed.
People are the backbone of any company. All of the above tips will not give the expected result without the right people.
Understanding the “right candidate” can be tricky. Therefore, it’s critical for any company to invest money and efforts into brand development and determination of the corporate values, mission, and vision. Once you put them in place, it’ll be easier to stack up your expectations against the above elements of your brand identity.
Don’t underestimate the importance of corporate culture. The scaling stage allows for serious culture testing.
Most people find it difficult to accept change. Sudden changes can severely disrupt your team morale and productivity. It is, therefore, important to consider the human factor when making scaling decisions.
Due to the redistribution of the workload among team members at the scaling stage, it often becomes necessary to quickly add a developer to the project for a short time.
Dedicated developers are ideal for this purpose. Instead of hiring a full-time developer, you can manage your workload with far fewer resources if needed.
Dedicated developers are not an alternative to full-time developers; rather, they’re an “organic extension” of your team sharing the same project goals and objectives.
Sometimes team scaling does not lead to the desired results due to poor infrastructure and software architecture.
You start building new functionality and realize that the infrastructure can’t cope with the new load. Alternatively, the architecture can be designed in such a way that certain parts of the application simply stop functioning.
In this case, try implementing Kanban, which is perfect for visualizing the entire development process. Each employee can see what needs to be developed and when. In combination with daily standup meetings, this allows you to evenly distribute the workload among employees.
Your code quality directly affects the performance of the application. Therefore, in the initial stages, it is important to create a high-quality MVP. In the case of poor code quality, the project will turn into a nightmare at the scaling stage.
Ideally, MVPs should be created by experienced professionals who are well versed in the best practices of the chosen programming languages and tools.
Use common tools, libraries, and processes to increase overall productivity and reduce product support costs.
Team scaling significantly increases the time spent on fine adjustments. A separate team can be formed to solve this problem.
Change your team members every two weeks or once a month, gradually adding and removing developers from other teams. Do not change the whole team at once – better aim for a smooth transition. This will enable the rest of the teams to focus on the main tasks.
To minimize the challenges of onboarding new team members, use pair programming. The essence of this technique is that a more experienced developer works together with a newcomer during the first weeks of the project. Collaboration allows a beginner to quickly get used to the processes, tools, and team style of writing company code. This helps flatten the learning curve and bring rookies up to speed fast and efficiently.
People should feel comfortable working together. When selecting developers, personal qualities and temperament should be taken into account. Otherwise, this approach will not work.
Shared codebases can be a real nightmare for new specialists joining your team. Diving into someone else’s code can take weeks if you don’t think about coding ahead of time while scaling software development teams will devour your team, not drive it forward.
The clearer your code is, the smoother your software development team will scale. Stick to your team-approved coding, be persistent in your code, and keep the logic clear so that any new developer can grasp the concept easily.
Separating teams by areas of expertise (front-end, back-end) is considered to be a bad idea because you don’t have a single team that could fully provide some kind of functional gain. This creates fragmentation, complicates communication, and makes teams dependent on each other.
There is no problem that each specialist in the team is responsible for personal tasks and areas of expertise. Problems begin when some part of the team has done its job and the second part is still working. Everyone on the team must understand that they are collectively responsible for their part of the product. Therefore, sometimes it is worth stepping out of your comfort zone to help the team achieve results on time.
Long sprints break the rhythm of software development. The optimal sprint duration is two weeks. Short sprints provide quick feedback and changes to the project, as well as give a sense of gradual, constant progress, leading to faster results.
No doubt, hard skills are important, but soft skills should not be underestimated.
When scaling, your teams will constantly change, as new people will come and someone will go, so it is important to select candidates with good soft skills who can adapt to changing conditions.
Flexibility, curiosity, and the ability to work in a team and solve non-standard issues are as important as the knowledge of tools and programming languages.
This mistake is often found among “non-techies.” Application development is like building a house. Up to a certain point, an increase in the number of developers speeds up development, but there is a limit.
There’re several models that show how to optimally allocate resources in the course of a project. One of them is the optimal scheme of resource allocation based on the Constructive Cost Model (COCOMO).
Tech team scaling is a process closely related to all processes taking place in the company. It shows how well-structured your company is and reveals problems that aren’t on the surface.
To scale your software development team smoothly and efficiently, you need a solid foundation in the form of corporate mission, vision, and culture, well-established processes, and a technical foundation that is ready to scale.
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