How to boost productivity of software development teams

Liliana Reina | September 07, 2021

In the software development industry, productivity is much more complex than it seems in general terms, which is commonly defined as a ratio between the output volume and the volume of inputs. In software development, the main “output” is to create value for the end customer. The software development process has multiple stages and often involves a multi-disciplinary team composed of developers, also UX/UI designers, product managers, and even a business strategist role. This means that defining productivity in a more dynamic environment can be more difficult, as well as considering the challenges of a software development team.

Productivity is important because it brings benefits both to the collaborator and the company who is always trying to stay on top of things, create value for the end customers and release incrementally to stay competitive in this fast-changing industry. The mantra is to balance do it fast, do it right and do It on time, but not letting aside the satisfaction of your collaborators. We will go over the latter later.

Let’s go over some productivity challenges and how the team can address them. Whether you are a director, a product manager, a scrum master, or any other team member, these challenges might resonate with situations you have gone through with your team and there is always space to contribute as an individual to achieve productivity as a team.

Clear product vision

Some development teams are aware only of the specific part of the product they are building but, are not involved in the bigger concept for the product the reason they are building certain features, or how it connects to the product’s value proposition.
A clear sense of direction on the overall product vision is essential for the team to understand the customer's need behind the product or features being built, and to keep the team aligned and motivated towards this vision. At Encora, we motivate self-managed and cross-functional teams to achieve greater results when they are involved or aware of the complete product development process and actively participate to reach the desired objectives, which in the end will create value for the end-user.

Having established processes that envision strategic product innovation in the roadmap will allow team alignment and flexibility to perform towards the product vision in a collaborative way.

Structure and Processes

High organizational complexity, processes that make the resulting slowdown by undetected bottlenecks, and tasks that do not add value to the final goal, can become a problematic environment to work in. This translates into time loss, cost increase, late release of value to the end customer, and a team that is not as productive.
In Agile, time is an essential factor. In every step of the product development process, it is important to apply agile practices, methodologies, and techniques that will boost your team's performance and the way they collaborate seamlessly. Agile has been in the software industry for a while, but we cannot lose the perspective on why it has worked so well: it is centered around customer satisfaction, but also quality, efficiency, flexibility, reducing the time to market, and keeping the team coordinated and motivated.

An agile organizational structure can achieve better results than a traditional organizational or team structure. It sets the tone on which the teams work and collaborate daily and towards the same goal. It also helps information to flow easily between areas, to achieve continuous improvement, to be flexible and adapt quickly to changes, as well as leaders being really involved in the processes and not only giving directions. That is why agile management has become a gateway to productivity.

Remote and geographical distribution teams

A Forbes article describes how now that management has changed, and more teams are fully remote, there is less need for physical “monitoring” of workers. The main challenge here is in changing the leadership style and mindset, so productivity with remote and virtual collaboration can be just as successful and visible as in the traditional work-from-the-office way if done right. It goes along with streamlining processes, tools, and communication systems that allow effective collaboration.
The most successful organizations can handle asynchronous and synchronous collaboration of teams and find a set of processes and team structures that optimize remote work efficiency while maintaining collaborators motivated and constantly reflecting on how to improve internal processes.
During this coronavirus pandemic, it has been demonstrated how companies have been able to transition to remote work, and hopefully, it becomes a starting point for many traditional companies to adapt to a full-remote or hybrid way of working and collaborating for the long run. There are many benefits companies have taken advantage of while working remotely.

Communication and feedback

Effective communication is a skill that needs to be learned. Many people struggle with this, and it is even more challenging for someone to give or receive feedback, but this soft skill is critical for teams to have an effective collaboration that at the end of the day will translate to team productivity.

This article clearly explains the forms of communication, intentional and unintentional, because not communicating can also be interpreted, have a meaning, and affect your team.

If you are in a managerial position, you will notice it is critical for teams to be coordinated and aligned to the product vision in the software development process. Coaching your team on how to communicate and enable time and space to do so will contribute to your team’s productivity. A simple daily standup can help a great deal to quickly know who is working on what task and enable your team to unblock any problems that might arise during the development process.

Tools and key metrics

Using a project management tool can indeed help the team track their progress in an ordered way, but it is not always the best tool to measure the team’s productivity and predict the team’s estimations efficiency. Team procedures and agreements, combined with the right tools will help boost your team’s productivity, avoid distorted or incomplete information.

Also, there are plenty of tools that can help your team in various stages of the software development process to engage and take productivity and accountability to the next level. Great tools can help carry out dynamic estimation sessions, daily standup meetings and retrospectives, and spice up your team’s way to collaborate.

These tools can help keep track of certain metrics, such as estimations vs real. Each software development team should choose the key metrics that can give internal value to track productivity. Some teams use the burndown chart, team velocity, throughput, cycle time, bug rates, net promoter score, and more. The key is to strategically decide which metrics will give your team real value and track them the right way. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that the team knows the overall objective, sets up the team and individual goals so everyone understands the expectations and consequently, you and your team will achieve remarkable results and productivity.

Work Culture

Looking to boost the productivity of a software development team is not only about processes, tools, or metrics but is really about the journey in which to take several actions, and that includes creating a great work environment and culture.
Paying attention to the company’s culture, from the leadership to the operational, from the customer to the collaborator, is the most important part of creating a productive software development team. If we build a great place to work, focused on being people-centered at the end it will create a customer-centric culture as well, which will get as a result greater value in the whole value chain.

Employee satisfaction is not only engaging in daily work but caring about their entire well-being. Creating internal programs such as mentorship, training that help collaborators to upskill and reskill. Also, building a community within the company, and generating valuable relationships with your colleagues will generate a stronger bond, more commitment to the work and vision, and therefore generate an effective team collaboration dynamic. Having periodical team health checks can help keep track of happiness at work on the individual level and spark change where necessary.

In conclusion, it is easier to identify where your team needs more attention and what strategies you can apply in order to boost your team’s productivity, considering the satisfaction of your collaborators.

Productivity is not only about the “output” but is really about the journey in which you will achieve that result, and that combines a series of factors that, if applied in the right way, will result in team productivity. Also, take into account that as in agile, you need to be flexible to change and adapt the processes, techniques, and strategies as you see fit in order to keep your team motivated, aligned, and productive.

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