An efficient development team is mostly self-managed and delivers valuable software on time. Hence, the team’s efficiency is the main success pillar for both in-house software development and outsourced software development.
For the article, we’ve picked out key factors of the development team’s efficiency:
- Forming a team that fits your project.
- Creating work processes that boost productivity.
- Setting a comprehensive set of team KPIs to measure the team’s performance.
We focus on the first two factors and share related best practices along with examples of project management tools you might need to implement.
Forming a team that fits your project
1. Choose the team structure relevant to your project
There are 3 common types of development team structure: generalists, specialists, and a hybrid team. Each of them can be efficient in one project and get stuck regularly in another. To prevent the latter, consider your project’s complexity, time and budget and then decide which team structure suits it most.
2. Build small teams
Small software development teams are more productive because it’s easier to coordinate their efforts and recognize individual contributions of their members. Based on our experience in software development, 4-8 people is an ideal size for a team. And if it’s a large software development project, you can divide one team into sub-teams, each with its team lead.
3. Make sure you have a full set of informal roles inside the team
Software development teams can benefit from having such informal roles as an intellectual leader, a social leader, several idea generators, critics, and, of course, doers. Having all the roles fuels regular project discussions and helps a development team to become more self-managed. Pick up team members in such a way that you have a full set of informal roles instead of only one or two of them.
Creating work processes that boost productivity
After you pick a team structure relevant to your project and form the team, you can continue with establishing its work processes that will help avoid project bottlenecks.
4. Use project management software
Project management software automates repetitive processes. Routine tasks go through a predetermined set of actions until completion. For example, a developer starts a workflow for code changes and follows the first step: sends the changed piece of code for peer review in the project management application. Their team member approves it and proceeds with the final step: transfers changed code to QA specialists.
Moreover, this type of software visualizes the development process as a whole. Every team member can see how their work interconnects with others. Hence, they see their contribution to the project’s progress, which raises the sense of ownership and maturity of the team and helps stick to the timeline.
Tools to consider: Wrike, Nintex, Teamwork Projects, Backlog, Monday.com.
5. Keep documentation updated and easy to manage
Business and technical documentation should stay relevant to the project’s current state to keep the team informed about the direction of the project. You should also make meeting notes, coding and UX standards easy to address to, and it’ll raise the consistency of the team’s work.
A best practice is to use knowledge management software for convenient document storage, filtering and real-time collaboration.
Note: if you are working with a dedicated development team from a software outsourcing vendor, make sure they regularly provide documentation on software development process. Then, in case of changing a vendor or including another team (for example, a third-party QA team), you will not lose any important details on the project.
Tools to consider: SharePoint, Atlassian Confluence, Zoho WorkDrive, Templafy.
6. Use communication apps and establish regular offline interaction
Building transparent communication channels is a key step towards a productive communication environment.
This is where collaborative messaging apps come in handy. Instant messaging is way faster than writing emails or commenting under tasks in workflow management software, so it lets the team share ideas, concerns and discuss the working progress on the fly.
Regular offline interaction is also important to raise a team’s efficiency. Open discussions and project debriefings help close communication gaps inside the team and establish a trust-based working culture.
Tools to consider: Slack, Flock, Rocket.Chat, Ryver, Zoho Cliq, Fleep.
7. Have a policy on resolving conflicts
Instructions for handling conflicts prevent their aggravation. For conflicts and challenges, you should document an escalation process depicting contact points, levels of escalation priority, preferred means of communication, and resolution time frames. In case of conflicts between team members or sub-teams, a guidebook on a team’s culture with a section on conflict resolution always helps.
The final checklist
If you want to build an efficient team and set productive work processes, you can always refer to this checklist:
- Consider project complexity, time constraints, and available budget while deciding on a team’s structure.
- Build teams small enough (4-8 people) to recognize the personal contribution of its members.
- Pick up a diverse set of informal roles for your team (an intellectual leader, a social leader, idea generators, critics, doers) to help them cooperate more efficiently and resolve project challenges.
- Use project management software and take advantage of its routine automation features.
- Update documentation in parallel with development.
- Implement knowledge management software for convenient document storage, filtering, and real-time collaboration.
- Use collaboration apps for instant messaging and group discussions (choose the ones where it is easy to find necessary information).
- Conduct team meetings on a regular basis (daily and weekly).
- Include all team members in the communication process.
- Write an escalation policy for the resolution of conflicts.
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