Agile development: Reducing friction between startup founders and software engineers

Reducing friction between startup founders and software engineers
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As startups become successful, the founders tend to focus more on business management than product management. This is where the trouble begins to brew as founders find software engineers in their Agile development team are busy with technical work rather than coming up with important or new features that their customers are asking for. More often than not, there is an unhealthy tension between the two regarding serious gaps between promise and delivery. 

On one side we have the founders with a hunger for features that the customers want while on the other side we have a development team that knows that their performance is critical to the organisation and is being closely monitored, their success will be reviewed and celebrated and their failures will be questioned.  

3dotDigital, one of the leading cross-sector technology companies and a staff augmentation service provider to businesses in Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania, suggests ways and means by which this tension between the founders and software engineers can be turned into a healthy one. 

  1. Prioritise: The founders need to communicate with the development engineers on a regular basis about what is the highest value work and what is not. These prioritisation sessions create an equilibrium between technical aspects and business value.
  1. Agree on a delivery plan: The founders need to conduct a sprint planning meeting wherein the software developers identify how much work they can deliver during the sprint if they are left alone and if other non-priority work takes a backseat. It’s like a commitment from the developers that founders need to sign off as a plan which ensures that the high priority work agreed upon gets executed. The founders should stick to it sans any variation if they expect developers to keep their part of the promise. 
  1. Focus on the solution, not the technical detail: Founders need to communicate the requirements clearly to the developers without getting into the technical specifics of how the developers will deliver the same, or else the developers are bound to feel restricted, and eventually disengaged. Clarity in requirements circumvents solutions that need to be reworked, inefficiencies in development processes, and dissatisfied developers.

    The founders need to take into consideration the technical debt too while deciding on the timeframe or schedule for delivery of new features. Not being able to resolve the technical debt is frustrating for the developers.
  1. Allow developers to estimate delivery time: Once the work requirement has been clearly communicated to the developers, the developers should get to estimate the delivery time for the work to be done. This way, they are more likely to hold themselves accountable for delivering the required within the date suggested by them. The founders should know that they cannot change the estimated delivery time once it has been signed off. This helps developers achieve what is called consistent velocity, or the amount of work delivered per sprint, in software development parlance.
  1. Track delivery progress:  Founders and developers need to put a tool in place which clearly shows how much work is remaining and how much has been achieved. If things are not on track, the founders and development team need to meet and assess as to why they are not.

    At times, new requirements get identified and added to the priority worklist. All such additions push the delivery date further. It’s fine to have a performance tracking or measuring tool in place but the additions need to be factored in as well. The founders would want the developers to overcommit but this is where developers need to exert their influence and settle for a schedule that isn’t ‘killing’. 
  1. Presenting progress for transparency: The developers need to make a formal presentation, say every two weeks, to the founders regarding the progress made, preferably with a live demo. This allows founders to make any necessary course corrections. If the development team’s performance is not in accordance with the plan agreed upon, there should be credible explanations for the same. Consistent underperformance and lack of convincing reasons for the same warrants questioning and corrective action.
  1. Regular reviews and collaboration: In the review meetings, the founders need to consider the suggestions from the development team as to how they can enhance the speed. For example, founders provide them with text for error messages, automated replies, etc., before the start of the sprint, besides answering their queries if any faster and equipping them with tools or hardware that they may need. 

Software engineers in the development team could be a part of the in-house tech team, augmented staff across locations or a hybrid between the two, these suggestions apply on all combinations. 

Contact 3dotDigital for staff augmentation services across the technology landscape. We can help you access the right resources – be it developers, scrum masters, or QA testers, in a flexible manner with the freedom to scale up or down depending on the dynamic demand of your project.

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Do read our other blogs on staff augmentation:

(1) What works best – staff augmentation or project outsourcing?
(2) How to choose a staff augmentation provider?
(3) Hiring a data architect through staff augmentation? Here’s your ask list for the service provider
(4) Advantages of hiring a full stack developer
(5) Planning to hire a software engineer with deep expertise? Staff augmentation can help!
(6) Making staff augmentation work for your business


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