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Tips For Scaling Your Software Development Team Effectively

Ed Ossawa
Senior Contributor

PM in FinTech!

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Scaling is all about bringing new people to an existing team. Attracting and hiring new employees implies that an effective recruitment strategy is developed and put in place. Experience and data have shown us that, based on geography, recruitment can be quite competitive

Since it is challenging to find and hire real professionals fast, an excellent screening process is a must for your in-house recruitment team or an external agency you use. It is also crucial to keep in mind that interviewing candidates is both demanding and expensive. Last but not least, a competent interviewing panel is required to ensure that over-indexing on technical abilities and under-indexing on attitude and cultural differences are avoided.      

Ensure Your Hiring Process Is Bias-Free

The hiring process should not be subjective as it ensures that unqualified candidates are not employed. At times, there might be adequately qualified interviewees on a company’s list. However, if conscious or unconscious favoritism is evident during the screening, there is a risk of losing excellent potential employees. 

Companies looking to scale must have a clear mission, vision, strategy, values, as well as metrics. This way, it will be in a position to formulate an excellent story. Second, the team should be led with much clarity, especially for the first half of the year. After that, they can build up on the achievements attained. Third, the company should have a clear brand positioning and should market it accordingly. Lastly, a company must carry out an effective interviewing process to ensure that it brings in excellent employees from a diverse background. 

Tips for Overcoming Team Scaling Challenges

What can one do to overcome the problems that come during the team scaling process? Below are some useful tips.

1. Scale While Aligning with Company Growth Strategy 

Companies should scale their development teams while complying with their higher-level product evolution and/or R&D strategies. Failure to comprehend the purpose of scaling and how it aligns with the company’s collective plan will make the team experience an identity crisis. While communicating the bigger picture can be tricky, it is essential to figure out what the first half of the year will be like.

Below is how to go about it:

Assess the company strategy every six months. The directors and other senior executives can lead the session. There should be a question and answer session with the CEO, COO, or the Strategy Executive. All members involved in the scaling should have a chance to converse with the senior executives to get everyone on the same page regarding the strategy. In turn, this will allow for better decision-making.

2. Scale While Keeping an Eye on Dependencies

The majority of teams in today’s world take on several functions. They handle product management, design, research, engineering, analytics, among other operations. As such, whenever a company is scaling, it should do it wholly. There is a need for a discussion with the design manager as well as other managers.

Companies should understand the needed dependencies. There should be useful references as well as cross-functional partnerships, especially with people in design and product management. All said, scaling decisions should be made collaboratively, and it can be checked every quarter. 

3. Find Out the Worth of the Company’s Values 

Companies should understand what their brand means to them. In the engineering department, for instance, there is a value referred to as “represent the company with pride.” It is what leads the establishment to allow engineers to craft blog posts and give lectures on various issues. In line with that, if a member pitches to talk at a conference anywhere on the planet and they’re greenlighted, the company will cater to their travel. It is the company’s DNA and brand. 

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When it comes to open-source, the company offers a negligible contribution because it’s just not what the organization is about. Instead, it more of a writing and speaking establishment. For Facebook, however, contributing to open source is necessary as that is crucial for its brand. 

To learn more about the worth of company values, consider asking these questions:

  • What’s the company’s brand identity?
  • What does it mean for this brand to be genuine and authentic?
  • What does this organization want to be famous for?
  • Does the company welcome the idea of having 10 fewer features each year in exchange for 15 blog articles?
  • Is the company ready to use a fraction of its budget for the conference attendance?
  • Is the organization ready to make tricky trade-offs?

A company must first be known for something to be world-class. Each organization should have a voice and be confident enough to assert their identity. This way, if the ideas the company propagates only resonate with a select group of people, it will attract them while keeping the rest at bay. An important thing to note here is the people who are not attracted are not wrong. Instead, they are just not suitable for the company. 

4. Make the Recruitment Process Better

Having the right workforce is vital. Companies should always ensure that they have a well-documented, repeatable, and flexible screening process. It is also essential to emphasize behavioral screening by identifying the company’s values and culture. This way, the organization can interview applicants with these aspects in mind. Many software engineering firms today are made up of males with ages ranging from the mid-’20s to 30s because they have not spelled out their values and cultures effectively.

5. Always Be Inclusive

Companies should strive to make their interview processes inclusive and diverse. One way to do this is by analyzing their job advertisements to ensure that no bias language is present. Apart from that, organizations must carry out inclusive but thorough screenings. In line with that, a company should even consider having a diverse interviewing panel.

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To foster inclusivity, a firm can go to a consultant. The reason for this is each person has an unconscious partiality. As such, it is crucial to work with an individual who has cultivated this skill through education and practice. 

That said, inclusivity begins with the fundamentals of fairness, openness, and usability. For this reason, all of these things must be incorporated into the screening process. In practice, providing the same exercise to every candidate shows objectivity. Moreover, ensuring that the task to be undertaken presents an equal chance to everyone is a fair practice in hiring.

Companies can make their hiring process more transparent in various ways. One is by writing blog posts that describe the activities candidates will undertake during the screening process. This way, they will know about it in advance, thus, eliminating any unfair competition during the recruitment phase. 

Steps to Scaling a Software Development Team

Here is a detailed walkthrough on how to scale a software development team. 

1. Lay Out a Framework of How to Go About It

In his book The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni gives an easy and logical guide to assist development teams in understanding, clarifying, and codifying their mission, strategies, and objectives. 

This book can be used to strengthen a newly formed team or in the stages of trying to put together a team. By performing the laid down exercises for at least half a day, the team can better understand their purpose/background and as a result, know the goals they are supposed to achieve next. It can help project managers lay out a strong foundation for making realistic decisions that their team can accomplish in a couple of months. 

2. Clarify and Communicate the Team’s Values

To make sure everyone knows and understands the values of the team, it’s always good to set aside time and do an out-of-office team meeting, for maybe one afternoon, to brainstorm and discuss together. There are several ways to handle such an activity. Among the topics that may be addressed include the lessons the different team members have gotten so far. The goal of such as get-together should be to understand the beliefs, qualities, and opinions that a new member joining the team should possess. Explore the other side of the spectrum too. 

Getting out of the work environment to talk about these things can be quite fun for the team. It can help remove misconceptions that people thought were the actual values and even clear out misunderstandings or differences. The good thing about this session is that members of the team will know each other, and everyone will have an opportunity to talk about all these issues. The result is that the team will be closer, and the team leader will make improved decisions. 


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3. Employ Candidates with a Positive Attitude

Today, there’s a shortage of IT talent, while the competition for the skilled specialists is cut-throat. So, it’s wiser to hire fresh graduates or even talented interns and invest in training them. Employ people with the right personal qualities and mindset and equip them with the necessary skills. In the end, it’s cheaper than hiring experienced senior developers and will prove beneficial to the whole team. 

4. Look For Problem-Solvers To Add To Your Team

While it is important for any engineer or developer to have tech experience, they can provide more value to the team if they are keen about finding solutions to problems and can learn and build software. So, look for people with this mentality as opposed to those who are specific about the tools and languages they’ll use. 

5. Create a Transparent, Unbiased and Practical Procedure

Document how interviews at the company are conducted. Be explicit about what the process involves and be open-minded about different ways people think. When inquiring about a candidate’s past performance, use behavioral-based questions. Some examples include:

  • “Would you give an instance when you went beyond a client’s initial demands to find a solution to a particular challenge?”
  • “What is the most fulfilling task you’ve completed in the previous 2 years?”
  • “What was your personal contribution to the latest project versus your team effort?”
  • “What is the one project you can remember that made you go out of your comfort zone? How did you go about it?”

Make sure these questions are documented together with their scoring criteria. Discuss what a great response would be and what a bad one is like. With these steps, the recruitment process can be more fair, impartial, honest, and implementable. 

6. Invest in a Rigorous Interviewing Procedure 

Don’t be afraid of the evaluation process being too lengthy, involving several individuals, administering too many tests, or asking lots of questions. It pays to be rigorous, as the job is integral to the company as a whole. If a new hire doesn’t turn out to be what the team needed, it can be catastrophic to everyone. You may be forced to go separate ways a few months down the line. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Scaling a Development Team

1. Focusing only on hard skills

Among the costliest mistake would be putting emphasis on someone’s hard capabilities and ignoring their attitude and personal attributes. So, it’s important that one understands the values and needs of the team they are recruiting for and look for the same in a new hire. 

Also, don’t make the mistake of recruiting too many inexperienced developers. In a team of ten employees, there should be at least two experienced engineers for every eight junior engineers. Otherwise, the team will not be productive. Having too many freshly graduated employees can lower the productivity of the company, and the more experienced developers will be spending much of their time training and mentoring the juniors. It can take the company up to 9 months to return to optimal performance. It is, therefore, important for one to understand how to balance the company’s strong points before adding new employees to improve the team. 

2. Failure to Invest in One’s Brand

To create a successful software engineering team, you’ll require stellar engineers. However, with stiff competition in the industry, it’s not easy to get this talent without a strong brand image. A company, therefore, must, therefore, have an impressive value proposition. 

One must know who they are and tell others about it. If not, one’s employees will receive several lucrative offers from scouting agents representing brands with better stories. And as the talent market grows even more competitive, there are greater expectations for a Development company’s brand. As such, a company should have a unique story and a compelling reason for talented people to join it instead of giant corporations such as Google or Facebook.  

Winding Up

The most important thing one can learn from these tips is that one should know who they are. The company, team members, and managers should all be on the same page about what the brand represents and should be proud of it. That way, they can make others understand the company too, and as a result, get talented individuals to join. Therefore, one should be focused on the key strategy when running the team’s activities. 

Also, implementing a rigorous recruitment procedure is vital. And it should evaluate the key quality that is attitude- as Intercom puts it. To attract and hire the best individuals, ensure the process is unbiased, truthful, and all-inclusive. With these essential things in mind, one can oversee a smooth and successful scaling process. 

Do you need help building a dedicated/extended Team or getting ad-hoc resources for your software development project fast and cost-effectively?