Read to get ultimate insights into managing a software development team. Here you will find ideas to solve common challenges faced by project managers.
Essential Tips for Managing a Software Development Team
There exists a belief that project management is a dream occupation. You’re getting a chance to become the leader and one of the main rockstars of a software development project. But, as a company with solid experience in handling projects of different complexity, we’ll tell you that this occupation is not as attractive as it may seem. A leader of a development team should cope with conflicts, track project completion remotely, and find personalized approaches to deal with more technically skilled specialists.
And the question is: How to cope with all these troubles? Lucky for us (and our partners), there are always solutions that help overcome the challenges. In this article, we will share our knowledge on the subject. Here are useful tips for the most common challenges in project management.
How to Manage a Software Development Team with Project Management Software
Most probably, you’ve heard a lot about various project management apps. These solutions help managers automate their practices and become more efficient. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t face any challenges while working with project management tools. So, here are just a few pieces of advice to those who seek help with using innovative technologies for efficient project management.
Set Up Expectations
When you start managing a development team, you must clearly define its goals and expected deliverables. Regardless of the project management software involved, you must create a centralized place with the basic information for all team members. And it is challenging to find a more vital piece of information for the team than a list of clearly defined project expectations.
So, make sure to define the goals as clearly as possible. And make sure that all team members understand them and have access to this list as a reference book.
One of the greatest benefits of project management software is the opportunity to manage and assign tasks in virtual workflow boards. Trello, Jira, and other project management platforms provide great functionality for such task assignment and distribution. Employees can instantly access the board from their accounts to check the task and its main implications.
So, make sure to distribute the tasks as soon as possible to get an early start. Think of your subordinates’ needs and do your best to deliver convenient workflow board tickets. This includes attaching reference files and useful links. Also, the more detailed task descriptions you provide, the better.
Set Specific Deadlines
It is a vital thing for those who manage development teams. Regardless of the technologies and approaches you use. Besides, we strongly recommend you avoid long deadlines, as they can spur procrastination in your team. At least, this is what the studies show. Hence, try to focus on shorter deadlines. Make sure to revisit project dashboards a few times per day to update all tasks and set new deadlines.
Your main goal is to keep the employees in good shape. And keeping them in this shape means constantly reminding them of approaching deadlines, which helps them avoid procrastination. Also, make sure that your subordinates constantly check their task deadlines on the management platform. Without proper time discipline, the entire workflow may be easily ruined.
Monitor the Progress
In the previous part, we’ve already mentioned the need to establish specific deadlines and update them from time to time. Doing this is impossible if you don’t establish quality progress monitoring. Ideally, employees will mark the task as “completed” once they manage to finish it. And the system will notify you about such progress.
However, this works in the ideal world. In our world, you should be prepared for your staff to forget to update their task progress. Therefore, you’ll need to “ping” your team members and ask them about their task statuses from time to time.
The main things here are persistence and self-confidence. You’re the #1 person on the project, so don’t be afraid that someone will consider you too annoying. It is your obligation to know everything about the task’s progress. If you do these things well, your subordinates will soon learn to mark their updates in the system. And that’s when you’ll get the full advantage of task management software.
Create a Common File Storage
Any project involves vital resources that can be used as references or tips. Such resources might include technical documentation, standard operating procedures (SOPs), development notes, and so on. If you don’t want to deliver all of this to your subordinates in person (this may be extremely time-consuming), then you should create shared file storage.
Fortunately, most project management platforms provide you with such an option. Your task is to create a system of permissions for all team members. And make sure that no employee is left without permissions that are vital for their work.
How to Lead and Manage a Remote Development Team?
So, as you may see, the right software makes managing a software development team much less challenging. But what should you do if you are leading a remote team? This situation is pretty common nowadays, as more and more businesses deliver their tasks to remote vendors.
As software development outsourcing is on the rise, managers should master various remote-control practices. At least, it is what we, a company with significant experience in remote work, do. So, here are numerous key insights for people who are managing a software development team remotely.
Focus on Developers’ Reliability
So, this part is the most crucial when it comes to managing software development projects remotely. You may be a perfect manager, but if you’re working with irresponsible team members, there will likely be problems. So, the first and, perhaps, the most crucial step in remote projects is to find the right people for your team. Work with tried and trusted partners, rely on credible recommendations, set three-level interviews, or do anything that may help you find nice and responsible team members.
Just remember to use any means necessary when you build a remote team. As for our personal recommendation, we tend to rely on dedicated teams where all professionals know each other and, often, have solid experience in working together.
Practice One-to-One Meetings
Never underestimate the value of one-to-one communication. Stand-up team meetings are good, but they’re not enough. For many workers, those are just moments when they should quickly tell you about their task progress. Rarely, there may be a productive collective discussion. But, let’s be honest, most developers perceive such meetings as a boring formality.
If you want to engage your team members and understand their needs and urges better, a sincere one-to-one conversation is a must. You and your subordinates won’t have time and resources for daily one-to-ones.
However, make sure to arrange such meetings from time to time. If you do things right, an employee will constantly feel engaged. After all, one-to-ones can eliminate the sense of “professional vacuum” that is very familiar to most remote workers.
Adjust to Subordinates’ Time Zones
Your subordinates may live in different time zones, and it creates challenges. If the time zones are very different, creating a meeting schedule that fits you and your team members is a very difficult task. So, you need to adapt and adjust your own schedule to the needs of your colleagues.
Ideally, plan recurring team meetings during specific hours that fit both you and your subordinates. And don’t be too focused on making a compromise. Scheduling a meeting at 3 AM just because it fits your colleague with a 12-hour time zone difference is not the best idea.
Practice Tried and Trusted Methodologies
There are so many project methodologies that perfectly fit the cases where you should manage a software development project remotely. These methodologies have been developed with consideration of offshoring and nearshoring, so they will fit your remote project.
For example, you may go with Agile. In this case, all project tasks will be completed in sprints and repetitive iterations. This approach keeps you constantly updated on the project. And it allows you to roll back the progress if there are some issues with sprint results.
The key benefit is that you shouldn’t start the project phase from the very start. Instead, you should go only two weeks back. And control and flexibility are the features that make Agile a perfect solution for remote management.
Provide Constant Feedback
Feedback is vital for managing a software development team. However, its value becomes even higher when it comes to remote projects. You may easily combine this tip with one-to-one meetings. Because a personal meeting is the best moment for providing your feedback to a subordinate. It helps you keep things private and get the most honest reaction from the employee.
Also, such a meeting is a perfect moment to start a constructive discussion. Needless to say that it will help employees understand how their effort is evaluated and whether they are doing well at all. And it gives you great opportunities to keep your subordinates motivated.
Managing a Software Development Team without Technical Experience?
Are you still feeling insecure about your skill in managing a software development team? You’ve likely received such a task without having the required technical expertise.
No worries! Many people have been in the same or similar situations, so there are tried and trusted methods that will help you act as a great project manager even without technical expertise. Let’s outline the most valuable pieces of advice in this chapter.
Don’t Treat Your Subordinates Like Code Monkeys
How about the classic argument about the need to view your subordinates as personalities? Do you think that this suggestion is obvious and such assertions sound a little bit pathetic? Then, you will be surprised to know how many managers make the mistake of mistreating the developers.
By measuring your developers’ performance by the number of code lines they have written or how many bugs they have fixed, you may make a significant mistake. The right approach is to evaluate your subordinates by a combination of factors. And always remember that you’re dealing with personalities, not mindless facility robots.
Always Ask Questions
No matter how you try to hide your lack of technical knowledge, software geeks will easily understand that you’re not an expert. But don’t think that it is a severe problem! You’ll always have chances to improve the situation. Just don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Even if you think that you’re becoming too annoying, keep on asking. This will bring you some precious practical knowledge on the subject matter, helping you become a real subject matter expert. This will definitely pay off in the future!
Be Attentive to Your Subordinates’ Needs
Even if you don’t understand some technical aspects of the project, experienced developers will cover you. The key point is to build good relationships with these guys. This means that you should be attentive to their needs.
Don’t be too submissive but remain flexible enough to preserve your authority and satisfy your subordinates’ basic needs. Also, pay attention to the project aspects they really dislike. If a specific developer hates online meetings, overloading his schedule with such meetings may be an awful idea.
Think of Motivation
Motivating one’s subordinates is one of the most valuable things about managing software development teams. And you can cope with it — even if you don’t have too much tech expertise. Communicate with tech specialists (but beware of being too annoying), understand them better, and get certain clues on what keeps them motivated.
If you do things right, you will get all the information you need. The next step is taking advantage of this information. Engage your subordinates, make them passionate about the project outcome, and you will earn their commitment. Our managers will tell you that it is impossible to overestimate the value of this factor when it comes to custom software development.
Assert Your Authority
There’s always a risk that tech specialists may not perceive a person without a solid technical background as a leader. Fortunately, you can easily fix this problem with the right approach. And, one more time, communication becomes the key.
Show these guys that you’re a strong leader who clearly understands team goals and the overall purpose of the project. It is all about character, self-confidence, and dedication.
Also, make your subordinates understand that dense cooperation with you is what they need. If they are motivated to view you as a leader and understand that your leadership is profitable to them, they will act correspondingly.
Master Non-Technical Work Duties
You can easily compensate for the lack of technical understanding. Just be strong in non-technical project aspects. This means choosing the best approach to scheduling, being patient with tickets and their statuses, and showing excellent communicative skills.
In this case, you will raise your authority by showing the subordinates that you produce a really big impact. Just become an engine that drives the project. And if you do everything well, tech specialists will do their best to help you. And the project will go smoothly, up to its successful finish.
So, these were the basic tips for the most common software development team management challenges in software development. We’ve built these insights based on years of professional experience. And, believe me, we have polished all these practices. It is what makes Intetics one of the most proficient teams on the market. So, we certainly know how to efficiently manage software teams with the best tools, remotely, or even if a project manager is not a tech geek. And, again, from our rich experience, we can tell that the main pillars of successful project management are devotion, communication, and the ability to manifest authority. All other things are just technical aspects.