Challenges and Solutions in Scaling a Software Development Team
W hen your company is growing and all things are going well, it means that it’s time to increase the capacity or simply add another field to the existing scope. Scaling your software development team would do it. As we all know, hiring more people or establishing an extra department can assist you in covering new tasks. Of course, you may think that you have a well-defined process, experts on your side, and a detailed development strategy, so what could go wrong!
But is it that simple?
Scaling software teams, it turns out, frequently fail because of plenty of reasons. The list ranges from communication issues to innovating routine processes. But this does not mean that you shouldn’t do it. So, here we have brought you the main challenges of scaling a development team and outlined potential solutions.
- Management of Distributed Teams
- Product Architecture
- Project Management
- The CI/CD and Scalability
- Maintaining Productivity and Quality
- Manual Activities
You know quite well how things can spiral out of control when you have entire distributed teams off-site if you have at least a few remote employees. Different locations, countries, and time zones will impact even the most well-planned communication strategy. Headquarters and development center are separated by hours while each office has its preferences for organizational tools and some contractors working flexible hours can be a nightmare.
Changes are unavoidable when new teams are formed in different locations. You will have to replace face-to-face meetings with video conferences and digital analogs will have to be used instead of office whiteboards. You will have to bear up your team’s dissatisfied comments with the changes to their routine. Mainly because implementing new processes takes time and adapting to them takes more.
What we suggest is to rethink your communication channels and devise a strategy that covers your distributed team. It should be convenient for your in-house staff at the same time as well. Of course, you surely do have employees from different time zones so to respond to emergencies occurring in them, you may need to change some people’s working hours or set alerts.
The product architecture is sometimes incompatible with the scaling software development team. For that issue, we recommend you study “Conway’s Law” a little bit. It is an empirical law that elaborates on the difficulties of project structure against the organizational structure. Because we all know, product architecture reflects the structure of your company.
If your software development team would have to be scaled, go for a plan that would be the best fit for you. For that, you’ll need a software architect.
As the size of the software team grows, project management can be quite troublesome. Larger projects and complex tasks always require dedicated teams so they must be divided into smaller parts and distributed to different people.
There are few solutions, but we think it would be better to focus on a product or specific functionality, a feature, or even a platform paradigm instead of forming scaling software teams based on technology. This ensures team specialization for faster and more qualified development. The dedicated team model can be recommended as the best for separate long-term projects. Such teams are accountable, balanced, and flexible with always changing requirements.
In terms of task management, shortening sprints ensures quick response and a sense of regular progress. Shorter beats are longer in this context. We recommend you maintain a full backlog and assign a responsible person to each task. Effective and user-friendly reporting tools are the best way to accomplish this.
Typically, a one- or two-team company begins with open-source tools to build Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery pipelines. Chances are higher than the initial proof-of-concept to not be scalable consistently and effectively. When the number of teams increases, the number of CI pipelines does the same. There will be a significant raising of concerns about team communication and environment provisioning.
We believe that adequate DevOps implementation may prevent development team scaling issues.
➢ You should approach infrastructure as code. That allows for adding new infrastructure for each new project at any time.
➢ Using containers to isolate individual pieces of software from the overall IT infrastructure would do wonders in managing application pieces more efficiently, regardless of scale.
➢ Infrastructure automation tools must also integrate with CI/CD tools.
➢ Test automation is required.
You may think that scaling a software team implies that you will be able to complete more tasks faster and more effectively since have more people covering the scope. That is not a good guess, we can assure you!
“Amdahl’s Law” shows that some tasks must be completed in a specific order, which limits the number of people who can work on them concurrently. The presence of more developers does not always mean the work done will be faster or better. We all know that communication and team synchronization can reduce productivity. It may result in feedback loops and missed bugs. A certain amount of time will be needed to fix them. The other teams will have to continue to work on workarounds while the problem remains.
➢ Choosing the right programming languages and tools can sometimes increase productivity and make team communication easier.
➢ Static coding or unit tests in a dynamic language may be beneficial.
➢ You will need to establish boundaries within each team that will operate, with fewer interconnected tasks.
➢ It would be better to examine the project architecture, programming language, tools, and team skills.
➢ Identify bottlenecks where productivity or quality may be suffering.
➢ Try dividing the internal system of a product and the team.
➢ Make changes visible to all team members by using effective communication channels.
In software development, any manual activity is a bottleneck that worsens with scaling. Some manual tasks may become too difficult to handle as your software development team grows, or there may simply be too many of them. The first suspect is testing. Automation is not only necessary for DevOps and CI/CD; it is also required when scaling a development team.
Beginning with automated testing, automating as many business processes as possible would be a better solution for this.
▪ Sanity tests are performed first following,
▪ data-driven tests
▪ Stress and load tests
▪ Time-consuming and business-critical paths with visible effects for users.
You are going to need a vision for your company, where you are going, what will be your goals, your time frame, and how much you can invest in this.
What you can easily do is, create a five-year business roadmap for your company along with your plans and goals. Not overly detailed, but employees in your company must understand the company’s direction and they should be able to respond well to any changes.
For new developers joining your team, shared codebases can be a horror experience. If you don’t plan ahead of time, diving into someone else’s code can take weeks. Scaling software teams will destroy the productivity of your team.
➢ We suggest that when you code, go for the simpler and clearer ways so there will be lesser trouble.
➢ Follow the code style that your team has approved.
➢ Be specific and consistent.
➢ Keep the logic simple enough for any new developer to understand.
➢ Divide complicated calculations into smaller and more specific functions
➢ Name one concept from each class using a single word.
➢ Use descriptive names, do not go for shorthand that only you can understand.
➢ Set up CI/CD so that will assist in automating some steps and ensure the highest quality of service.
Yes, scaling your software development team is a good idea. Even though, it can arise many issues. There is a risk of losing productivity and quality rather than increasing your team’s efficiency, as it is supposed to do. There will be new challenges in communication, management, and architectural approach. You must be prepared for team expansion well in advance to face them well. Before you begin the process of scaling your software development team, consider the following:
➢ vision and strategy of the company
➢ Models and tools for project management
➢ planning software architecture
➢ CI/CD scalability
➢ Clear code
You can go for the business opportunity of scaling software, after covering above-mentioned points.