3 Steps to Building a Successful Software Team

by Ben Yehooda

3 min read

A software development team collaborates to build software applications by splitting a workload into manageable tasks and spreading the work between the team members. A software developer, and moreover the development team, usually makes up the largest financial cost within an IT department or software company. The efficient collaboration of a software team could add significant value to a company through increased productivity. This article shares some tips and tricks for creating an efficient software team.

1. Engage

If you fail to properly engage the members of your software development team, it can lead to frustration, resentment and resignations. Here are few rules of engagement to keep in mind:

  • “Sell” the work.

During every morning scrum meeting, strengthen the connection between the work of the day and the project’s end result. Clarify why the immediate tasks are important, why they have to be done and how they feed into the project as a whole.

  • Keep it up.

Encourage engagement throughout the day. Keep developers talking about the project by getting them to ask and answer questions amongst themselves.

  • Get down to the details.

Challenge developers’ ideas by asking them to justify their architecture and designs. Don’t accept “this is what I’m working on today”. Drill down to the “why is this the best solution”.

  • Keep them working together.

To help build team cohesion, some companies implement a four-day work week with ten-hour days and Fridays off. To keep up morale for those who stay late, companies sometimes provide complimentary pizza for dinner.

  • Be mindful of the team leader.

The challenging wizardry-like act of leading a development team requires knowing more about the tools and craft of software development than the other team members. At the same time, every good leader should have the drive and charisma of a top-tier sales person to motivate the team. These two sets of skills can be hard to find in the same person. If you’re struggling to find an external candidate with these qualifications, consider looking within the team to promote or expand the responsibilities of an existing employee. Keep in mind, however, leadership training to a senior developer might work better than technology training to junior managers.

2. Limit Distractions

Building software requires a very high level of concentration. The more complicated the solution, the more logical relations the developer needs to keep in mind. As distractions are removed from their environment, developers can reach higher levels of concentration easier and more often.

For example, the desire to check that buzz or ding coming from a mobile device can cause a diminished level of concentration. For some people, having an online network of friends, family and colleagues at the reach of a hand can be a constant distraction.

Removing distractions by asking developers to put their mobile devices in a drawer, at the front desk, or in a designated locker during work hours, can lead to higher productivity throughout the day.

3. Remove Barriers

The idea of privacy in the office is valuable for most professionals. Software developers however, often work better in a collaborative environment. A boardroom, team project room or a cubical area opened up and converted to an open space can achieve higher productivity and satisfaction amongst team members. Developers are often more motivated and interactive when they have the ability to see each other’s screens.

Working in an open environment can also keep the team more collaborative. For example, if individuals are isolated in cubicles, separate rooms, or working remotely, they may feel their job security is threatened if they share specific or privileged information with others. They may be more likely to keep exclusive knowledge to themselves in the hope it makes them more difficult to replace. Open working environments encourage discussion among team members, which can build positive rapport between individuals. By sharing and receiving feedback, developers will take pride in their work and feel more secure in their jobs.

Now that you have these tips, how should you implement them? All at once? Phase them in? If you have ever worked with a consultant before, you will not be surprised by the answer: “It depends”. Take the time to discuss these ideas with your software development team leader and build a strategy that integrates them through short-term and long-term changes. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so the key is to find a model and build a culture that works best for your team.

Photo Copyright: karelnoppe

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