Software development teams never only deal with ‘just’ software. Software is the undercurrent in everything that happens in a contemporary company, whether you’re in the business of finance or land referencing. We’ve seen it first-hand over and over again that the first step in capitalising on your software development team or mobile app development team is to understand that software is a business enabler: it makes processes quicker and more efficient, it allows you to see new insight, and it can give you a major competitive edge.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks on the journey to gaining this competitive edge is how teams work together to drive each other – and their targets – forward.
Team culture and working practices make all the difference to a team’s output. While these two topics may seem like buzzwords repeated in most motivational speeches at Christmas parties, there’s a reason why they're often referenced. They really do matter. The problem is, getting culture and working practices right, and truly embedded in the team, is not easy. If it was easy, everyone would nail it, and you wouldn’t be interested in reading this article.
Before we go any further and outline some practical advice, it’s worth mentioning that Synetec hasn’t missed a deadline since 2019. The culture took years to build, but once it was right, our customers could really see the difference between us and other software development partners they had used. We’ve honed our culture and methods into such a fine art that we’re now able to guarantee delivery on time and on budget.
It’s not easy to find software developers, especially in the current talent shortage. When you’ve put all that time and effort into attracting and recruiting exceptional developers and other technical talent, you’ll want to keep hold of them for as long as possible. This means keeping developers engaged and creating an environment that dictates success.
To consistently deliver projects on time and on budget, you have to manage the output. Your team members are learning and growing, which means they need you to be there constantly. Putting in place delivery checkpoints helps developers know what’s expected of them. It’s also important to foster a supportive relationship with developers; to recognise when someone is having a bad day and to make contact and offer help and genuine support.
When you put your developers in a positive environment, you are giving them the best possible tools to be successful. It’s important that your project teams are carefully put together, so consider who will work well together and make sure you have a mix of senior developers that can support and mentor juniors. Think about stretching people, so team members get opportunities to move up the ladder. Allow teams to figure out problems by themselves.
In the beginning, as team members learn from one another and establish how they’ll work together, this might mean that delivery will be slower. But longer term, teams will be much more engaged and will enjoying feeling part of a multi-level team that solves problems and achieves together. So, sacrifice that short term speed for the benefit of long-term performance.
No-one can know everything. And it’s critical to foster an environment where people don’t try to outsmart each other and aren’t scared to admit when they don’t know something. A key part of this approach is to have an true open-door policy. And whilst it’s easy to say, it isn’t always easy to implement or to make yourself available, especially in a hybrid or remote setting.
However, when teams realise that they can call or message you whenever they get stuck, and that you’re happy to pull a Tech Lead in to help them resolve a problem, they won’t be scared to say they don’t know what to do. And your project is more likely to be delivered on time.
Making time for in-house training alongside delivery is always difficult. And so many companies, especially big companies, don’t do it. In our experience, training is one of the things that makes developers want to stay so it’s well worth investing the time.
Developers will always want to learn the latest and greatest stuff and without training, they stop progressing, get bored and leave. But it is also important to orchestrate every developer’s training plan, so that employees aren’t learning something that’s not relevant to what they’re doing. And to make sure they are stretching themselves.
You can also empower your developers to do independent learning and training which helps keep them curious and interested. It’s important that they take accountability for their personal development so they feel like they’re in charge of their own career.
To recap, attracting, recruiting and retaining the team who can achieve your goals is about ensuring the right cultural fit, a positive, learning-rich environment, lots of ongoing training and development and a clear escalation policy so teams know what to do when they get stuck.
Unfortunately there’s no quick and easy way to manage a team in a way that gets you what your company needs. It’s definitely a journey, as we’ve seen with customers and with our own internal teams.
The last two years have created unexpected obstacles on this journey, and some companies have coped better than others. The reality is that the working world has changed: many of us are now hybrid or remote, and the talent shortage means that employees have the choice over where they want to work – and who they want to be managed by. You’d benefit from reviewing your processes and working practices at this point, if you haven’t already. Don’t keep holding on to working practices that leave you underperforming on your targets.
To learn how TerraQuest created a culture change and took up new processes, see the case study with comments from their senior management.
Why not speak to our delivery experts about your challenges, so they can point you in the right direction? Come talk to us to get clarity on what the root of the problem is and how to solve it to empower your team to outperform their goals.