Organizing Technical Teams


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Another talk I gave in Dakar in my "Back to Basics" series. We discuss what are the challenges when growing the technical teams in an agency context. I also included a practical example for a quickly-growing startup.

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Organizing Technical Teams

  1. 1. Organizing technical teamsThomas Sarlandie2013 02 26
  2. 2. Should my developers specializeon one technology ?When is more meetings a waste of time?How do I keep the team motivated?How to deliver on time ... more often?How to stop working nights?
  3. 3. Your Goals as CTOIt’s easy to get lost if you are not sure whereyou are going ...
  4. 4. Business GoalsDeliver projects on timeMaximize productivity with existing resources
  5. 5. Productivity in an agencyproductivity: Productivity is an average measure of the efficiency of production. Productivity is a ratio ofproduction output to what is required to produce it. (Wikipedia)In the teams of a service business,productivity can be defined as the numberof man-days sold for each actual work dayOne of the worst thing that can happen to you is to have unused resourcesin the team.
  6. 6. On-time deliveryis a vast subject ...Let’s assume the following helps:Start project on timePut enough resources on the projectProductivity and on-time delivery both require planing and lots of time tocommunicate with the other teams in the company (sales, project management,hosting, etc)
  7. 7. Human R. GoalsKeep the team highly motivatedAdapt the team to the business: Size and skillsImprove the team
  8. 8. Motivation Motivation is literally the desire to do things.(Psychology Today)Communication is essentialTeams want to know what is going on in the companyThey can “rush” if they understand whyCareer planIf you do not make one for each of your employee, they will make one that doesnot involve you ...One on one meeting and Annual reviews are great tools for the manager!A minimum of stabilityDo not reorganize everything - every two months!
  9. 9. GrowthTo increase the revenues of the company, your team will have to growWhat is the forecast growth of revenues this year? What does that mean foryour team at the end of the year?What are you selling?What are the most demanded skills? How is that changing?External resourcesWho are they? When are they available? When is it better to hire?
  10. 10. ImprovementIt is not a substitute to hiringI have yet to meet a company where there is room for 50% improvement...Is required to manage growthYour problems are getting bigger, everything moves faster: you and yourteams need to develop new tools to deal with that growthThere is always room for it...
  11. 11. How to organize the team(s)?
  12. 12. You need ...To meet your business goalsCommunication with the rest of thecompanyProduction planingGood estimatesMake sure that everyone is busymost of the timeTo keep the team motivatedWeekly communication with youremployees and annual reviewsTrainingAn organization that works todayand at least for a yearGloballyConstant improving of your toolsand process
  13. 13. Experience shows ...It is really hard to manage largeteamsBut each added manager to thestructure will reduce productivity
  14. 14. Experience shows ...It is really hard to manage largeteamsBut each added manager to thestructure will reduce productivityTeams larger than 7 shouldhave a dedicated manager incharge of the team planing,weekly communication andannual review
  15. 15. Experience shows ...Specialization increasesproductivityBut then one team will be verybusy and the other one not
  16. 16. Experience shows ...Specialization increasesproductivityBut then one team will be verybusy and the other one notStart specialization when youhave groups of 4/5 peopledoing the same thing
  17. 17. In practice
  18. 18. Step 0CTO / Dev /Project ManagerDev WebDev iPhone +WebDeviPhone +WebHC: 4
  19. 19. Step 1CTO is directly in charge of a team of 6 people - probably does not have muchtime to code anymore ...Some developers are specialized - Some have mixed talentsOne weekly meeting with everyone on the team ... probably a little too longCTODev Web Dev WebDev Web +LearningiPhoneDev Web /Project ManagerDeviPhoneDeviPhoneHC: 7+3/+75%
  20. 20. Step 2Team is split in two specialitiesCTO is “acting” as leader of the newteamOne guy in the web team steppedup to be Web team manager(planning+weekly review)CTO still takes part in annual review(training time for the new manager)HC: 11+4/+57%CTOTechnical Team Leader Web(still doing a little dev)DevWebDevWebDevWebDevWebDevWebDevWeb (+iPhone)Technical Team LeaderCTO ActingDeviPhone (Sr)DeviPhoneDeviPhone
  21. 21. Step 3Two full times technical leaders in charge ofplanning, weekly meetings, annual reviewsSenior in Web team helps with salessupport and backups the team leader whenhe is awayCTO is now doing mostly crisismanagement, sales support, recruitment,etcTools are starting to be really important :planning, bug tracking, etcTraining is also a challenge at this scaleHC: 17+6/+54%CTOTechnical Team LeaderWebDevWeb (Sr)DevWebDevWebDevWebDevWebDevWebDev + PMWebTechnical Team LeaderAppsDev iPhone Dev iPhoneDeviPhoneDeviPhoneDeviOS/AndroidDevAndroidDevAndroid
  22. 22. Step 4Three team leaders in charge ofplanning, etcSeveral Senior members in theteams for sales support, training,commando-style jobsBiggest problems now arerecruitment, employee retention andlack of flexibilityHC: 23+6/+35%CTOTechnical Team LeaderWebDevWeb (Sr)DevWeb (Sr)DevWebDevWebDevWebDevWebDevWebTechnical Team LeaderiOSTechnical Team LeaderAndroidDeviPhone (Sr)DeviPhone (Sr)DeviPhoneDeviPhoneDeviPhoneDeviPhoneDeviPhoneDevAndroidDevAndroidDevAndroidDevAndroidDevBlackberry
  23. 23. A few tips and FAQ
  24. 24. Write job descriptions for everyrole in your organigramBuild your organigram with Rolesin mind - Put people in the roleslaterBuild your organigram for theheadcount expected at the endof next yearUse “Acting” people if you do nothave enough staff yetDo not multiply the number ofspecialtiesGive time to the new managers -Increase their responsibilitiesprogressivelyCreate space for technicalexperts that are not managing
  25. 25. FAQWhere do I put product/framework development? In a dedicated R&Dteam?Pro: It is the only way to make sure that the R&D actual gets done withoutinterference from customer projects.Con: It will give the rest of the teams the feeling that they are not “goodenough to be in the R&D team” - The R&D team will quickly forget what it islike to work on customer projectsUse your good judgement. Apply the other rules: if the dedicated team is notgoing to be at least 3/4 people then it is probably too early. Be careful of yourcommunication on that new team.
  26. 26. FAQWhat about external resources?Long time resources (2+ months)They should fit in your organigram just like anyone else. Apply the same managementpractice to them.If you need external resources for more than 2 months, you should probably considerhiring.Short term resourcesThey can be very helpful when the teams are overwhelmed (aka crisis-mode).Use them in “project mode”, under the management of project manager. They shouldwork in of some internal resources who will make sure that the processes of thecompany are respected (code is commited, best practices are followed, etc).
  27. 27. FAQMy team has to manage 7 different types of technology with only 5people. How should I manage specialization?No teams can be efficient if it cannot focus on a small set of technology.If you have 7 different technologies to deal with on a daily basis, then youhave a big problem.You need to rationalize: work with the sales team and global managementto reduce this to a more manageable number.
  28. 28. FAQWho has time to think about that and make slides of next year’sorganigram? I am too busy taking care of projects ...Building an organization in which you have space and time to think aboutthe organization is your #1 responsibility. If you do not do it, you will beoverwhelmed by the flow ...The company will fail to grow - or worse crash due to the pressure ofcompetitionOr your partner/boss will kindly ask you to step away as a real CTOsteps in
  29. 29. FAQRecommended reading for new managers?Behind Closed Doors (Johanna Rothman / EstherDerby) is excellent and highly recommended.
  30. 30. Final wordsDo not worry if you do not get it right - theworst thing would be to do nothing.
  31. 31. Final wordsIf you are not busy being born, you are busy dying... (Dylan)And expect to do it all over again next year’s part of the fun!Do not worry if you do not get it right - theworst thing would be to do nothing.