Budget, time, and resource constraints are top of mind for every organization as the economic downturn continues. The challenge is you cannot do more with less. It just doesn’t work.
With fewer people and resources, it is not a sustainable model over the long-term. From marketing and sales teams to IT and software development, teams today are learning to do less with less. And that’s ok if you are honing in on the right tasks — those best for teams, your customers, and the business that give organizations the best bang for their buck. But, how do leaders determine what those tasks are? Which projects, products, features and services should be made the priorities when you cannot do it all?
As we enter a new year, the sweet spot will be how organizations balance what leadership thinks what products and services should take top priority versus what software development teams want versus what customers say they need. When resources are at a premium, there is no secret to determining what projects and tasks make the list and which get chopped, but there are emerging trends that can help guide these tough decisions.
1. Team-Based Approach With Clear OKRs
The decision to determine which projects and products should get done begins with a software development team-based approach. Because teams are the ones doing the work, they should have the say in which get done by determining which tasks meet the needs of the majority of their users. Which tasks will inspire the majority to stay on the platform and stick with your product? These decisions can no longer be made by a single scrum master or the loudest customers. With limited resources, these decisions should be made as a team, by the team.
But it must also be based on skillsets and interests. What are the strongest skillsets you have available? What does your team want to do? Now is the time to have your team utilize the skill sets they want, increasing chances of retaining them. If there is a developer who has always wanted to be a junior scrum master and is willing to spend nights learning, cultivate that. Match your projects with your best skill sets.
Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined so that you can set the right expectation. After prioritizing the resources you have, rally the resources and set expectations for both management and customers. Team-based OKRs will become even more important with fewer resources.
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2. Consolidating Your Toolset
Five years ago, if software developers could not find the tool they needed on an open source project, he or she would go build it. Today, building a tool is feasible but maintaining it is another story. As a team, determine which tools will make you more efficient and use them to collaborate.
While collaboration is a tired and beaten-up word, with limited resources, it’s more important than ever. Now is the time to be collaborating on what you truly need to be focused on and building. When you collaborate more efficiently, you can share work and others can reuse work you have already done. You may not be able to do more with less, but you can do less with less more efficiently if you better collaborate using the same tools.
3. Greater Investment in Open-Source Tools for Teams
With the consolidation of tools, there will be a greater investment in open source projects by teams. Teach others how to use various open source tools and how to maintain these tools so they can continue to use these innovations. This is a more thorough approach to project management and the development cycles. Throwing away code is going to be less amenable to teams. What can you do that is most effective, most scalable, and the most transferable for your team?
Invest in the investments you have already made. For example, as Microsoft doubles down on some of its open source projects, its tools are already integrated. Finding those solutions that allow you to scale quickly without disrupting the business are going to be the most helpful. By doing that, you already have champions inside the business.
Rally around everyone's favorite projects. Instead of hiring a contractor or consultant to roll out those tools, take advantage of your own champions. Roll out those tools to the broader organization, and then find ways to scale the resources so that builders get to continue to build and maintainers have new tools to maintain.
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4. Lots More Data and Analytics
From operational analytics and business metrics to key performance indicators, organizations must use all the data they have available to determine which projects are the right projects. Everyone from leadership to teams will be doubling down on analytics and all their forms. There are many ways to analyze the data, including homegrown spreadsheets to free open source software. However it’s done, ensure the data is accurate and reliable.
5. Development Team Visibility
How do you make sure what you are building will meet all the goals and objective while taking advantage of all the skills team members want to utilize? OKRs are key and analytics are great, but teams need visibility into what these are and what they mean. Developers need the greatest amount of visibility into their own work, into their team's work, and into the organization's work to be successful.
Visibility works both ways with developer visibility falling on the shoulders of the teams themselves. Track your initiatives and tasks — how many are failing? How many are succeeding? Share with others. From knowing company objectives and goals to the analytics and what they mean, it is tough for success to come to fruition without teams having visibility and providing it to others.
Conclusion: Doing Fewer Tasks Better
The mountain of work and magnitude of tasks among software development teams can be overwhelming, especially with fewer resources these days. We must stop saying we need to do more with less. It’s just not possible.
Pushing that narrative is the fastest way to encourage employee dissatisfaction and burnout. With focus on a software development team-based approach first, organizations can successfully hone in on fewer tasks that will have the greatest impact on developers, customers and the overall business.
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