Explore Your Project

How to Level Up your Development Team

Chelsey Kelley

Chelsey Kelley

04 April, 2017

I personally have a deep-seated love for startups. I love the ride or die mentality that stakeholders have even when the days get long and the entire team is running on caffeine alone. I’ve worked for startups that grew to enterprise companies, startups that grew really fast and fizzled out, and startups that grew at a nice, linear rate. I’m here to tell you, it’s the steady growers who make smart moves that become enterprise companies. So what are these “smart moves” when it comes to growing a development team? I’ll give you the rundown but the jist is employing the right tools at the right time. 

Signs that Your Team is Scaling Ineffectively

Some startups (like those I have been laid-off from) get caught up in the whirlwind of startup life and look back not knowing where things went wrong. It seems ridiculous, but it happens. Here are a few tell tale signs that you may be scaling ineffectively:

  1. Teams may develop dependencies on other teams
  2. Prioritization, even at a high level, becomes troublesome
  3. Teams may begin to work in silos
  4. Team members and/or stakeholders lose sight of the overall goals

Scaling as a Process

Typically, startup teams begin with 1-2 engineers who build the MVP of a product. Because these teams are so small and work so closely, they usually have not defined processes,  systems or disciplines to support a growing development team. Many startups see process as overhead, but as the team grows, having processes in place that everyone can stick to saves boat loads of time in the long run. Not to mention, teaching a new process to one developer who has the team to train him is so much easier than training an entire team on a new process. These processes are important as they can help a startup clinch it’s quality standards and evaluate the ongoing performance of it’s developers.

Adopting an Agile process is a smart move. This Agile process can be as robust or lightweight as the team sees fit.  Try Agile principles such as daily standups, weekly sprint planning, and using an online project management tool. Our team uses (and loves) Jira. Your team may also want to consider implementing a peer code review process and a QA process. As the team continues to grow these processes will foster accountability for individuals and the company as a whole.

The Tools You’ll Need to Grow Your Development Team

You should probably know whether or not your software is viable before you start adding developers to your team. The Joel Test is a simple but effective way to understand where you’re killing it and where you may need to make some improvements.

“Recognize reality.  For example, teams are distributed, specialists are shared, and projects will cost as much time and effort as they are worth, and not what you estimate or recommend.”

Remember those Agile practices we were talking about before? Maybe your team needs a project management tool to help you stay Agile and grow gracefully.

Keeping your team on the same page is so much easier when you have a visual roadmap. You and your team can know what to expect in the next quarter if you take the time to plan it out before the quarter starts. Dashlane created this infographic explaing how quarterly planning can help your team.

Follow the Principle of Pull. By investing in an on-demand cloud server, you can automate testing and integration. Win win.

  • Team Up

Creating teams out of the developers you have and the new ones you're adding can be more beneficial than it sounds. While many startups have an aversion to formality, creating a team out of three or more people who work on the same area/function of your software can make communication so much easier. Who doesn’t love camaraderie?

Now you know what “smart moves” are. Consider implementing them into your everyday processes to grow your development team. Scaling software development teams isn’t necessarily easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Best of luck in becoming a tech startup unicorn!

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