Building a strong technology team

Every company today is a technology or software company. Software automation is the backbone of business operations today. The lines between business operations and software development are blurring because the two groups work together more closely than ever. Technology leaders have a tremendous responsibility of developing a futuristic digital vision, and accordingly building a strong technology team which can accomplish the vision.
vision-exercise-1
The goal of building a 5 year technology vision which translates into a solid technology road map can be lost even in companies who believe they are ‘tech’ companies. The daily pressures of production support, development operations and releases can bog down most of the technology managers. However a strong technology leader makes it her most important responsibility to build a technology vision and road map which takes the company to the next level of success step by step, avoiding major technical debts. The leader must develop a vision along with her other technology leaders who are her reports or peers so they can be the torch bearers of the vision. The vision has to trickle down and across.
The product vision and technology vision will together guide in building a team which will execute both, to a successful outcome.
A technology road map addresses technical debts, refactoring, migrations and upgrades, new technology evaluations, tool assessment and introductions, and any other relevant technology initiatives which are essential to technology growth for the company. The product vision and technology vision will together guide in building a team which will execute both, to a successful outcome.
So, what does a strong technology team composition look like ?
People talent is core to a company’s growth-  developing a team which aligns with the best technology practices and future vision is key to building a strong team. A technology leader, manager can strengthen her team by assessing what the current team composition and talent spread is. This assessment exercise should be periodically repeated until an optimal skill and experience mix is reached.
                                                      team    

A technology leader can strengthen her team by assessing what the current team composition and talent spread is. This assessment exercise should be periodically repeated until an optimal skill and experience mix is reached.

 

  1. Make a list of skill sets you want to have in your team.
  2. Determine which skill sets exist and which do not.
  3. Where are the strengths ? Where are the weaknesses- you want to induce talent in the team which will complement the existing skill set. Hire people from outside who have these new talents, when they come, they naturally rub off on the existing team. This is a huge motivator – peers who bring new ideas and skills from which one can be inspired and challenged. A natural growth occurs.
  4. Determine what experience levels exist. Too many Juniors can lack the experience and domain expertise to deliver well to your business context. Too many seniors can create Silos- they are opinionated and  often comfortable in their set old ways. Hence a careful examination of team composition is always necessary in determining team morale and growth.
  5. Attract and hire fresh talent- fresh graduates and juniors are highly motivated, open and enthusiastic. You need a good mix of Juniors, Mid-Level and Senior staff. You have to have few Senior experienced leaders and mentors, some Juniors and rest Mid-level. A 30 % experienced, 40% mid, and 30% Junior approximately can be a healthy composition which will keep the team motivated , mentored and productive. An imbalance or dominance of any category can lead to side effects which are not healthy.
  6. Form a ‘Core architecture team or function’. Break ‘Silos’ by creating a formalized core architecture team, function or platform which establishes re-usability, reduces redundancy, and builds common services.

Form a ‘Core architecture team or function’. Break ‘Silos’ by creating a formalized core architecture team, function or platform which establishes re-usability, reduces redundancy, and builds common services.

What about professional growth, nurturing home grown talent ? 

A leader has to create an impact on the team in many different ways for professional development.

  1. Lead by example : you can demonstrate that as a leader you walk the talk. Demos, presentations, proof of concepts provide actual examples of what is being proposed and evangelized. People follow examples better than persuasion.
  2. Be hands on, deep and wide technically. A technology leader when ‘speaks’ to technology very well, often can make much greater impact.
  3. Appoint coaches on topics to promote learning. For example , say you want to spread Unit testing practices. Pick people in the team who are ahead in that, as appointed coaches. Likewise for example  ‘Agile’, ‘Build automation’ or any best practices where learning needs to be facilitated.  This can also foster a culture of learning from peers.
  4. Call out, above and beyond efforts.  Provide a platform for star performers and outliers to ‘show and tell’. Interesting events like Lunch n learns, ‘Coffee chats’ or other group meetings can be organized where team exchanges ideas in a more casual setting.
  5. Consensus building: let’s face it, in technology multiple view points exist. People can get passionate about their opinions- a leader may need to be patient and persuasive which of course is not easy. Often there is one solution which suits the context most, towards which the consensus has to be built. White boarding the context and various solutions, and mapping the most suitable in that situation will help build consensus.

One article can not cover the vast topic of how strong technology teams can be built, however everything starts with a vision and a road map. The leader then aligns the team with this vision consistently.  An assessment and measure of team skill and experience spread, will help carve a plan for building a strong technology team. Stay tuned for more on this topic – happy team building !

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