The real cost of owning a development team

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Development teams are expensive. There, I said it. If you want a high-performing development team then be prepared to invest.

I’m not just talking about salaries. You’ll also need to equip your team with high-quality hardware and the expensive software tools they need to deliver the solutions you want.

This isn’t news to many organisations. It’s actually not hard to get those bits right, and there are great benefits from having those skills on-tap in-house.

It’s about the people

What many places struggle to get right is the investment needed in the core of a development team. The people.

Development teams require leadership, mentoring, structured career paths and personal development plans. Just putting a bunch of developers in a room, shouting “Go!” and occasionally rewarding with pizza will rarely get you the high-quality solutions you desire.

Other creative disciplines beyond development perhaps have this slightly easier, as it’s seen as ‘obvious’ that those teams need the room to think and learn.

Take for example a creative design team. They have to work to understand and consume the latest design trends, so they can stay current and produce great work. In my experience this learning need is rarely questioned, perhaps because the design output from those teams is more tangible than the abstract “code” output from a development team. Regardless, the underlying learning need for each team is identical and should be addressed.

Time and direction

The real key to growing your development team is time. This investment allows the team to step back from their primary output and dive into the new technologies and ways of working that could speed up delivery or increase the quality of the technology output. Both valuable outcomes.

Time alone though isn’t enough. You also need leadership and structure. That could be achieved by having a team with a broad mixture of experience, or via a more dedicated architect / lead role helping to bridge the gap between requirements and solutions, helping drive a coherent technology vision.

Again, to those of you working in the industry the above may not seem like rocket science; and really it shouldn’t be. However there are still too many places where there is a attitude of throwing more developers at a problem to get to a solution.

It doesn’t have to be expensive

There are many ideas and ways to give your technology teams the opportunity to learn and improve. Many of them are not as expensive as you might imagine.

  1. On the job training – code / peer reviews are an ideal opportunity to not only increase the quality of the solution but also to share knowledge and build team resilience.
  2. Coding katas – give the team the ability to constantly hone and sharpen their skills by setting aside time for them to regularly practise small development tasks. There are great examples online.
  3. Open source – encourage the team to contribute to an open source project. Here they will learn how to apply their skills in a different environment and learn from fellow contributors. This is even more valuable if your organisation uses open source software. What great karma; to be giving as well as receiving.
  4. Meetups – there are a growing number of outside events encouraging like-minded people to meet up and discuss common skills, techniques and frameworks. Why not encourage your team to participate? Better yet, get them to disseminate what they’ve learnt internally to the rest of the team.
  5. Certification and training – if you have some training budget then paid-for courses not only demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to growing individual skills but are beneficial to your delivery too. Online training courses are relatively cheap and offer a wide variety of subjects.

 

There’s value to getting it right

Development teams have a very specialised need for learning and growth. Owning a team comes with a heavy responsibility to get this right.

After all, I’m guessing mediocre isn’t your ambition and you want your development team to produce high-quality bug free software? In which case, isn’t it only reasonable to support them and make sure they have everything they need to succeed?

 


This post was first published on LinkedIn Pulse on 18th September 2015 –The real cost of owning a development team

About the author

Mark Everard

Experienced senior technical manager / architect / lead specialising in digital technologies. Agency and client experience: from pre-sales, pitch and delivery, to strategy, quality assurance and support.

I've worked across the digital industry for the past ten years, helping clients and colleagues across a diverse range of sectors meet numerous digital challenges, specifically focusing on web technologies, digital marketing and content management.

I've worked on large multi-supplier projects and led and managed both in-house and geographically-disperse development teams. And I've always approached my work with a smile on my face.

Mark Everard

Experienced senior technical manager / architect / lead specialising in digital technologies. Agency and client experience: from pre-sales, pitch and delivery, to strategy, quality assurance and support.

I've worked across the digital industry for the past ten years, helping clients and colleagues across a diverse range of sectors meet numerous digital challenges, specifically focusing on web technologies, digital marketing and content management.

I've worked on large multi-supplier projects and led and managed both in-house and geographically-disperse development teams. And I've always approached my work with a smile on my face.

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