Developing software products has numerous benefits — there are no shipping costs and trouble with logistics, there is no need to stock products and worry about storage, and there are no suppliers. You get to sell your software directly to your customers, however you want — you dictate the terms. Also, software development teams can efficiently work remotely, which is an enormous plus in uncertain times like these.
However, running a successful software development team is not easy. Sure, there are benefits, but this type of business has drawbacks, too, mostly tied to staying organized.
In this post, we will tell you how to run a successful software product team without getting overwhelmed, always staying on top of every situation. Stay tuned!
Tip #1: Define Goals And Vision
When planning the project, setting clear goals and vision is vital, and will determine the whole project’s success. If your values and goals are set right, you will give your team the freedom to do their work, and as long as they stay on track, they will have as much freedom as they want.
For instance, if you are working on an update for a government fleet management software with multiple features and you are clear with your team about your expectations for the project, it is likely that you’ll get the desired results.
Setting yearly/quarterly/monthly/weekly goals and assigning tasks to your team will help everyone to focus on the next most important thing, rather than working on random tasks as soon as they come up. Prioritizing goals with an online course platform will leave no room for guessing, and each team member will know what the next step is, but also what other team members are working on at the moment.
As for the vision — you don’t need to change it, only update it from time to time. Vision helps to clarify goals, as it determines the direction of the whole project, and all smaller steps should always be in line with it.
Team members will mostly focus on the goals and tasks, and your job will be to ensure they are aligned with the vision, as you are the one responsible for the bigger picture.
However, they should have the vision in the back of their heads too, which is why it is worth repeating to them occasionally during meetings.
Tip #2: Give Freedom But Ask For Accountability
Once you clarify the vision and set goals, you should leave the work to your team members. Don’t try to be a control freak, micromanaging everything is never good. If you the vision and the goals are clear, trust your team members to deliver results.
However, having work freedom doesn’t mean not having accountability. Every person in your team (including you) should know what is expected from them at any process phase. That way, when an issue comes up (and it will), everyone will know who is responsible for fixing the problem, which will keep the process flowing.
As with the values and goals, accountability should be clearly defined. Every single team member should know what is and what isn’t their job. This will prevent overlaps, but will also ensure that team members work on those project areas they are the best at.
Practically speaking, don’t schedule too many meetings, but when you do, make sure to check what was done and to remind team members what their roles and goals are. No micro-management, just clear values, and goals.
Dmitry Kirsha, Senior Project Manager at iTechArt had a nice point about holding employees accountable:
“Besides setting personal tasks for each team member, you need to make sure that the whole team take collective responsibility for fulfilling short-term needs. This helps bring people closer together and increase team spirit – they will try to support each other in managing the task scope, thereby contributing to the common goal”.
Tip #3: Milestones, Feedback And Updates
Defining project milestones will help the team stay on track. Milestones help aligning daily/weekly tasks with the bigger picture. Without milestones, team members might drift off and start doing work that is not that relevant to the main goal.
Your job is to create and present milestones to the team, but also to give feedback and updates to individual team members once they reach a checkpoint. Tell them if something’s wrong, but also if they are doing particularly well.
If they do make a mistake, explain how it’s not a big deal, and how everything is an opportunity to learn. After all, one of the reasons why you are setting milestones is to catch mistakes early, keeping the project on track. And always explain what the vision of the entire project is, and how those milestones lead to it, at least if it is not apparent.
Although all this might seem like micro-management, it isn’t. You are only keeping the ship on its course; everything else is in the hands of each team member. As we said, they keep their freedom, but also have to be accountable for their work.
Tip #4: Leave Buffer Room
Things won’t always go as planned, and your job is to take that fact into consideration and prepare. If you don’t leave some breathing room, you are waiting for a catastrophe to happen.
You should leave buffer room both externally and internally. If you think you need two weeks to finish an update for your software, announce that it’s going to be released in four. That will give you time to polish things, and make sure the end product is top-notch.
Also, whenever you set deadlines to team members, leave some buffer room there too. People usually take as much time as possible to complete a task, which is normal. So, if you think a team member will need five days to complete a task, give them those five days, but schedule a full week in your planner.
That way, if they are late, everything will still stay on track, and you won’t stress at the last minute. However, don’t overdo it, as you want to remain efficient.
Finding the right balance will require some trials and errors, but eventually, you will figure out how much time each of the team members needs for each task. Once you do, put an extra few days (or hours) on top of it, and you will have a perfect, stress-free schedule.
Tip #5: Schedule Reviews
Tip #1 was about planning, and the rest were about execution, but here we have the final phase, which is reviewing what was done.
As with the planning phase, you should set weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly reviews.
Review the project as a whole, but also the contribution of each member. We talked about accountability, and if you’ve set the vision, goals and gave out tasks right, you will know precisely who was responsible for what, and who contributed to the success/failure of the project.
Of course, you should do most of the team member performance reviewing individually, not in front of the whole group. But, make sure you are sharing the team/project reviews with everyone, as the entire team needs to know if they are headed the right way.
And if someone performed exceptionally well, praise them. That will let them know that good work will never go unnoticed. And of course, if someone is performing exceptionally well in the long run, make sure their contract and their pay remain satisfactory, as you don’t want to lose such a great teammate.
Tip #6: Nourish Company Culture
Lastly, not everything is about work. When creating a team, you should really aim to develop a genuine team spirit. All the effort in managing the team would be meaningless if team members never care about teamwork and team spirit, even when you have great software developers.
If a team member shares company values and cares about coworkers, they are going to be much more pleasant to work with, and more productive. If that is the case, then you won’t have to remind them about accountability, they will take ownership of the project on their own.
Developing the company culture isn’t only about having a pool table and a casual Friday. You need to define values at company-level, but never try to force or fake them, make them real.
If you value freedom, then don’t constrain employees with micro-managing. If you value transparency, don’t do anything behind their backs. If you value health, don’t just pay a gym membership for them, but make the whole office a healthy working environment.
Nourishing company culture will do wonders for employee retention. Everyone talks about customer retention, but losing employees is something that will hurt your company tremendously. By defining and nourishing company culture, you are destined to create genuine believers that won’t jump ship just because someone offered them a slight raise.
We hope that this article will help you make the whole product team management process a bit easier. Running a software development team is just one part of the equation, but it is vital. Every single successful SaaS had a great team behind it, guaranteed. In order for a SaaS product to become more successful than its competitors they need to have formal processes and a more motivate team than anyone else in their industry. For a startup having the correct mindset of being able to conquer the world is crucial to create dominance and build a household brand.
Of course, having a great team alone isn’t the only part that matters, as you still need to build a great product. But, it is the necessary first step and the foundation of your future success.
Ready to bring your product and software engineering team together in one place? Give Nifty a try for free today! 🚀