Managing any team can be difficult but leading a development team is especially complex. You have your typical management challenges of understanding big picture company goals, communicating effectively with stakeholders and motivating your team to meet their objectives. You also have the critical nature of the work – without a development team you would have no product or app – and workers who want and need to only be focused on coding. However, any work environment will likely involve employees to participate in some administrative or non-coding tasks.
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure your developers have the tools and resources they need to be as productive and content in their role as possible. Rather than adding more people or forcing your employees to work longer hours to meet the intense demands of the role, here are five priorities to help you improve your development team’s efficiency.
1. Project Management
Improving your project management capabilities is one of the best ways to boost your team’s efficiency. It allows you to connect the big picture to the individual tasks developers will have to handle.
Start by developing goals – perhaps using the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) framework – and then translate them into project tasks. Take each of these tasks and break them into smaller pieces making sure everyone understands their responsibilities and the general workflow. Project management should cover resources needed, budget required, deadlines, milestones and metrics to be measured.
2. Time Management
Deadlines can feel quite pressing for development teams given the amount of work that needs to get done for each project. To make improvements to time management, it may be helpful to collect data on how your team is spending its time.
While this could be an annoying additional ask of your team, resources such as Everhour, Toggl, Timely, Timing and OfficeTime could help developers track their time easily. Once you have this data, you can identify areas for improvement.
Often, unimportant tasks such as meetings, administrative reports, quality assurance forms or emails can take up a significant part of the developer’s day. Eliminating, minimizing or optimizing these non-coding tasks could improve your team’s efficiency. If meetings are a particular culprit, consider using tools that make these important touchpoints more productive such as Do, Worklife, Minute, Minutes.io or Agenda Maker.
3. Team Commitment
The best way to get strong team commitment from your employees is to hire people who love what they do. Once you have them on board, you can continue to foster a culture of commitment by providing employees with the resources they need, respecting and trusting their work and removing obstacles that prevent them for doing their job.
Resources go beyond a working computer and adequate software. They also include a work environment that is free from distractions and that supports the long hours developers spend in front of the computer (ex: blue light filtering glasses, ergonomic chairs and desk setups, access to kitchen and break rooms). As a manager, you can also develop benefits packages and incentives to motivate employees to remain committed to the projects they are working on.
While your developers may want to just focus on coding, open and routine communication will help improve efficiency in the long-run. To save time, interactions should be direct, applicable, simple and clear. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for personality or tact, rather it means that filtering out long-winded and unnecessary filler language can eliminate time wasted.
Weekly check-in meetings are usually a good idea during projects, so everyone is on the same page, but if an issue arises before this meeting it’s best to address it promptly. GoToMeeting, WebEx and Jive are great tools for voice and video conference calls, and apps like Flowdock and Slack provide helpful ongoing chat functionality. One-on-one meetings can also be very useful in keeping employees engaged.
5. Openminded Project Leader
In addition to your leadership, your developers could benefit from having openminded project leaders, especially if your team is working on multiple projects at once. This organizational structure ensures that every employee has someone they can go to for questions related to the project as things get busy.
Openmindedness is important because there is no one perfect way to complete a project and good ideas can come from anywhere. This attitude allows ideas and suggestions for improvement to flow easily through the group and removes unnecessary blockades which could slow down work. It also encourages autonomy and empowers workers to take ownership and pride in their work.
Improving efficiency in development teams may be easier said than done. The business need for these teams to be as productive as possible is often shadowed by the considerable demands placed on them. Focusing on the above priorities can help your team be as efficient as possible and support the long-term success of your company.