Managing software teams has a lot in common with managing people in general.
Just like anyone else, programmers are seeking that manager who will protect them from office politics and ensure career growth within a firm.
However, the specifics of managing developers differ a bit from everyone else based on the nature of the developers’ work.
This post will explore how to manage programmers effectively in order to produce better results for the firm overall. You’ll also learn how to motivate developers to step out of their comfort zones and become intrapreneurs.
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What makes managing a software team difficult?
By now it’s fairly common to have a remote team helping out with different parts of your business, including development.
According to a recent survey, the biggest concerns related to managing remote programmers are:
- A potential lack of dedication where the manager is unable to lead the remote worker
- The risk of missing a deadline if there is no consequence for doing so
- The risk of building a mediocre product that does not go above and beyond the needs of the client
- The risk of losing transparency in the working process
- The risk of remote employees doing something other than working on the project.
These concerns are legitimate. What you’ll also notice is that many of these can be remedied with better leadership and clear communication.
Without proper guidelines and standards in pace, a badly managed software development team can lead to inefficiency and the following signs:
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of trust within the team
- Fear of positive change
- Working independently with no desire to cooperate
More challenges arise when team members’ growth and autonomy are not factored into the culture.
Programmers can find the challenging tasks and flexible working hours for remote gigs appealing. However, this does not mean concerns such as career growth and autonomy fly out the window.
So, how can a leader manage programmers effectively while allowing them much-needed freedom and work benefits?
There are certain skills that any leader, and especially a programming team manager, must possess and use efficaciously.
How many of these do you embody, and which ones can you improve?
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Vital skills for a software team leader needs
A developer’s job is not just about writing code. Giving them the freedom to make decisions and learn more innovative approaches are great ways to empower them — especially if they aspire to lead teams or projects.
Empowered people are happier and more willing to invest their energy into the business if it allows them to choose how to spend their time.
A great leader knows where the team’s strength lies.
Knowing how to manage developers includes learning how to help them not worry about administrative tasks.
If a person is good at writing code, a great leader must let them do that and learn how to become better at it. Removing the burden of admin tasks and meetings, which do not have any direct impact on the coding process, will allow them to focus more on what matters.
3. A good listener
Listening is not just about hearing. It’s about responding appropriately.
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Let them be part of the managing and creating processes. Let them critique the product ideation. Ask for input on internal processes and team structure.
If they know their opinion counts, they will be more proactive and generous with their time and creativity.
An encouraging leader lets software teams spend some time focusing on their future.
This could include access to training or educational resources, supporting conference attendance or in-person events, or even setting and checking in on personal goals throughout the year.
The best encouragement a leader can give isn’t always positive feedback. Inspiring and leading teams also means challenging them to improve.
Knowing someone’s goals, motivations, and work habits can help determine what kind of encouragement that person needs.
5. Setting the right priorities
Inexperienced leaders usually focus on getting more developers onto the project thinking that it will increase productivity.
However, it’s much better to focus on the end product, get a few reliable workers, and motivating them to continuously perform with the right drivers and encouragement.
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The essence of the answer lies in assessing the right metrics.
By focusing on outcomes that matter, you can identify possible issues related to the development process, making work easier in the future.
For example, it’s not always good to force programmers to close JIRA tickets as soon as possible. Give them the freedom to apply a bug fix for which they may need more time.
Just make sure that you measure the productivity and performance with other metrics, not just ticket closure cycle time.
Multi-tasking is detrimental to the development process.
It’s important to give developers small tasks and distribute them to the group.
In development, switching from one task to another and then going back actually hurts the progress. As a result, the overall progress is delayed and the quality may be sacrificed.
How to structure a software development team
To catapult success and improve communication among the development team throughout the entire project lifecycle, it’s important to consider how you structure the team of programmers.
A perfect development team is not a large one. As research suggests, a perfect team size in programming can be 4-7 people.
However, this largely depends on the project scope and size. Of course, a larger project will require more participants, but it also means more communication challenges to watch out for.
There are generalists and specialists team types in programming.
It’s also possible to follow a hybrid model and hire developers who have a bit of experience everywhere.
Knowing how to manage a software development project means knowing what types of professionals to hire. The project may require more specialists than generalists, depending on what you’re building and what the day-to-day tasks are.
In Scrum, there are 3 main roles:
- Development team
- Product owner
- Scrum master
It is quite easy to assign participants to one role or another.
However, make sure that each role’s responsibilities and expectations are written down and communicated to the team. This approach will make it easy to assess and compare performance later on.
In any type of work, there are conflicts.
Of course, it’s ideal to mediate conflict before it actually occurs.
However, the key to managing software developers effectively lies in addressing conflicts as soon as you recognize them. This requires staying in touch with team members and spotting issues as they arise.
It’s also important to remember that conflict is healthy, and, if managed well, will result in better outcomes for the whole team.
Managing software teams comes with many challenges. Looking at several performance metrics is necessary in order to complete a valuable personal assessment.
This is why smaller teams are sometimes more effective: it’s easier to see flaws in the process and improve based on individual feedback.
In general, managing programmers’ performance is done best based on the following five metrics:
- Lead time: The time between project start and end, compared to other projects.
- Churn: A percentage of the developer’s code to the edited part of the code. When spiking, the metric indicates there are some issues.
- Impact: The cognitive load resulted in the ongoing changes in code.
- Active days: The portion of days where some code was written, as opposed to the number of days spent on meetings, planning, and other administrative tasks.
- Efficiency: Efficiency should measure the part of the code that creates business value. It should be coupled with a low churn rate.
Managing global software teams
The good news is that hiring globally has never been easier. You have access to a broad talent pool from around the world.
On the other hand, it’s not a secret that development jobs are some of the best-paid remote vocations out there. Therefore, since it’s a large cost for any business, finding and managing developers are some of the most important topics today.
Hubstaff Talent is a platform similar to Outsourcely and Upwork, all of which are focused on helping businesses find reliable developers and helping developers find a career of their dreams. What makes Hubstaff Talent unique is that it is completely fee-free; there’s no cost for finding, communicating with and hiring talent.
Many platforms have their own payment system integrations so that remote workers can be fairly reimbursed for the work performed. In essence, there is no need for in-person communication. Relationships can be clearly defined, deadlines can be set and met, and payments sent — all in a reasonable manner.
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What tools do you use to manage software development projects?
By now, you have your metrics and goals. You have your team.
Now, you need the right tools to manage software developers to success.
There are a few accepted tools in the development process tracking, including task management, time tracking, and more.
1. Developer tools
With a relatively small project, it may be inefficient to use these tools as they are not free. If not used daily, they may not provide the payback expected.
2. Time and project tracking
To keep track of work hours and team payments, you need a tool like Hubstaff that allows dev teams to track time easily. It lets the developers focus on writing code instead of having to stop and write down how long each task took. You’ll also get in-depth reports that provide a better look at how your team operates so you can know where to evolve and improve.
Finally, you’ll want a way to manage workflows and projects.
Hubstaff Tasks will help manage your best talent, projects, and deadlines seamlessly. With sprints, automated workflows and all the best parts of agile methodology, it’s a perfect project management solution for any looking to track and maximize their performance.
After all, continuous improvement is the ultimate goal of any project.
What is your best advice for managing software development teams?
Let us know in the comments.