12 Tips to Manage Your Software Team in 2024

12 Tips to Manage Your Software Team in 2024

Managing a software team, whether on-site or remote, requires strong leadership. With an estimated 4 out of 10 workers in the U.S. now in hybrid or fully remote settings, effective management is crucial for maintaining cohesive and productive teamwork.

This article will discuss 12 key strategies for managing software engineers and development teams. While many of these strategies apply to both on-site and off-site workers, we’ll focus on work management for remote and hybrid software teams.

1. Commit to a software development methodology

Since developing a software application is a multifaceted undertaking, teams need guiding principles and processes to structure their work. Software development methodologies provide these frameworks as systematic means to ensure your team’s progress.

Several popular software development methodologies exist, some with sharply contrasting core concepts. For example, the conventional “waterfall” method adheres to a sequential approach to fulfilling project requirements.

Agile methods adopt the opposite emphasis, utilizing short periods of concentrated effort to achieve specific programming outcomes aligned with customer needs. Rather than following an approach of “do, test, pass to next task,” Agile uses sprints of simultaneous activities delivering functional user-focused continuous improvement.

Variations on the Agile approach include Scrum, extreme programming, and feature-driven development. Teams using a Scrum framework prioritize self-management and efficiency as they work toward a common goal. Scrum principles include transparency, reflection, adaptation, and values (e.g., focus, commitment, and respect).

Kanban is another approach to development and task management. Teams use a Kanban board to visually display progress on each piece of work at the same time, helping to confirm and reinforce accountability, identify and eradicate bottlenecks, and streamline operations.

Each method has critics and devotees; however, each may lend itself to specific project parameters. Before choosing a methodology, evaluate your needs and research each option's merits.

You must commit to whichever software development methodology you choose, both conceptually and practically. If you deviate from your chosen approach frequently, your team won’t trust the structure you’re attempting to create. When challenges arise, attempt to solve them within your methodological framework rather than switching your approach mid-project.

2. Align on team expectations early

Regardless of whether your team is working in person or remotely, you must align on expectations early in the process. Each team member should know what you expect individually and what the group is working toward.

Maintain alignment on task execution as part of your selected methodology. For example, Kanban uses a very visible, constantly updated board, while other Agile methods use short daily stand-up meetings to keep everyone informed on progress and barriers.

Effective communication is key for promoting this type of alignment. Team members should trust one another and be willing to engage in healthy conflict. Creating a working environment that supports effective communication will help team members meet deadlines and function well together.

3. Handle nontechnical tasks on your team’s behalf

Technical talent is a valuable commodity. Accordingly, don’t squander your development team’s time on tasks you can accomplish on their behalf.

You can easily take administrative tasks, status reports, and other peripheral duties off your team’s plate. Your developers will appreciate the opportunity to focus, and you’ll like the productivity this approach can facilitate.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean your team members can spend all their time coding. They must still communicate within your team using synchronous and asynchronous methods. This expectation is critical in remote and hybrid teams, where workers across the globe must coordinate their efforts.

Think about it this way: If you handle as much administrative work as possible, your team will have more time and energy to invest in completing their own tasks and communicating effectively. Regard your team as a resource and protect it accordingly.

4. Communicate requirements constructively

Requirements for software development projects tend to drift toward one of two extremes. In many instances, a project’s requirements are documented in meticulous detail, hindering progress with mountains of intricate instructions. Conversely, some project requirements are so vague that the finished product differs widely from initial undocumented expectations.

Strike a balance between these poles. You must also translate project requirements into the framework your software development methodology provides. For example, Agile development methodologies tend to eschew exhaustive requirements, aiming to deliver a “minimum viable product” (MVP) and iterate subsequently.

You should emphasize communicating requirements effectively when working with remote and hybrid teams, including independent talent. Keeping everyone on the same page is essential when professionals don’t share the same space.

From a management perspective, one of the more effective uses of your time is to refine your project’s requirements before they ever reach your team. Consider possible pitfalls, communicate expectations clearly, and listen to your team’s hesitations and objections.

5. Use project management software to document tasks

Modern technology makes it easy for teams to work together on projects, even when team members aren’t in the same physical location. Here are a few of the best project management tools currently available to help you with task management and tracking project process:

  • Airtable. Airtable allows teams to customize their workflow and achieve collaborative outcomes together. Team members can access company data in a shared space and use the information to work on custom apps. A free version is available, and pricing for a premium plan starts at $12 per seat per month.
  • ClickUp. Using ClickUp, teams can manage tasks, workflows, and goals as they collaborate in Docs and Whiteboards. They can even enable no-code automation to save time as they work. Clickup also has a free version, and pricing for the paid platform begins at $9 per seat per month.
  • Confluence. Confluence offers a free plan that includes 2 GB of storage and supports up to 10 users at one time. The platform enables teams to share files and organize pages and attachments with keyword labels. Team members can also use an advanced search function to find the documents they need quickly. For the paid version, pricing starts at $5.75 per team member per month.
  • Monday.com. Monday.com lets each team shape and customize its workflow to enhance alignment and boost efficiency. The platform enables automation and real-time project notifications. The free version supports up to two seats, and the basic plan starts at $10 per seat per month.

Note that all of these products offer discounts for annual billing.

These and other collaboration tools will enhance team management by streamlining communication efforts and improving team collaboration throughout development.

6. Ensure your team is effective across different time zones

With so many remote teams spread out geographically, there’s a good chance workers aren’t all working in the same time zone. Many organizations function well in this type of setting, but there’s certainly a learning curve to achieve optimal productivity.

Some leaders prefer all team members to work in the same time zone. You know your whole team will be available during work hours when everyone works on the same schedule. This means team members are more likely to receive fast responses to requests for help or data, avoiding delays in project actions.

On the other hand, asynchronous work schedules can limit your flexibility in providing on-demand customer service or allowing team members to work when they’re most effective.

One of the benefits of having team members in different time zones is that you’re more likely to have someone available around the clock. Global workforces also add staff diversity and bring fresh perspectives to enhance your current operations. Hiring team members from various time zones requires clear and consistent communication to ensure everyone is always on the same page.

Many software teams like having workers in different time zones because it streamlines project workflow, offering continuous attention to the project. For example, if your developer is in an earlier time zone than you, their output will be ready early in your day. You can provide feedback on the same day and prepare any direction for them to follow the next day.

7. Don’t throw people at problems

When a software development effort hits a roadblock—or progress is simply slower than anticipated—many managers conclude that more manpower is needed. According to this rationale, developers can overcome complex technical challenges via collective effort.

Unfortunately, these solutions are often inefficient. For one thing, team members joining an effort must get up to speed. This requires the developers already working on it to take time to orient them properly.

Additionally, side-by-side problem-solving may not promote productivity. Instead, think about reorganizing your existing team’s efforts to allow for specialization, with each professional handling just one aspect of a recurring problem. This assembly-line approach can increase efficiency, whereas adding team members can complicate matters.

For example, let’s say you have an employee who does a great job at the beginning of a project but tends to lose energy as the project approaches completion. Rather than threatening the employee with negative consequences if they don’t improve their work, you could realign your task flow so they spend more time working in the area of their greatest strength. This can make them happier—and more productive.

Another potential alternative is engaging independent talent with specialized skills to resolve specific problems. Rather than asking your current team to learn a new skill for a specific project stage, find a top professional specializing in this kind of work.

8. Schedule team meetings and one-on-ones

The thought of scheduling and attending meetings can evoke strong negative feelings from many. However, meetings are an important space for employees to share ideas, offer feedback, and get on the same page with each other.

Regular team meetings will help your group build stronger relationships and establish stronger alignment. You’ll find that well-planned and executed meetings will facilitate better innovation among your team and help the group make better and faster decisions.

Team meetings are not the only important meetings to prioritize. Leaders must also regularly set aside time for one-on-one meetings with their colleagues. One-on-one meetings give leaders a chance to provide employee feedback and coaching and connect with them on a personal level.

9. Assess metrics that matter

In any management context, assessing individual and team outcomes using accurate and relevant measures is important. In software development, this intention can be complicated by the abundance of metrics you might consider. Coding generates plenty of artifacts and statistical insights, so it can be tempting to judge team members on a numerical basis.

Consider identifying a few specific KPIs to track. Common KPIs within software development teams include velocity, cycle time, code simplicity, and flow efficiency. Track two or three KPIs for a month or two and review the data as a team to see what you can improve.

While using these metrics may help identify room for improvement, ensure you’re considering the right statistics from a holistic perspective. For example, a developer who tears through tasks at an impressive clip may generate code that needs extensive revisions later. Similarly, a developer who takes a leadership role may be crucial to the team but produce fewer lines of code. Use metrics to understand your team’s nuanced dynamics, not as a replacement for managerial insight.

10. Facilitate your team’s feedback

Too often, software developers find some aspect of their project requirements unreasonable, ill-conceived, or otherwise suboptimal. But because they’re tasked with executing a vision conceived by another team, their valuable insights are never considered or implemented.

Those managing a software development team should try to advocate for team member insights. Invite them to comment on the instructions they receive, including how they might alter or improve the project’s requirements. Then, communicate their observations and concerns to stakeholders within your organization where appropriate, developing a dialogue between them and your team.

Taking team feedback seriously and endorsing it internally demonstrates your appreciation for their talents. This is especially important for remote workers or independent talent, who may question whether their contributions are truly appreciated.

11. Motivate the team

Motivated employees are more productive and committed to helping the company achieve its goals. Consider these ideas when looking for ways to motivate your team:

  • Communicate your vision. Your team should know what they’re working toward. Let them know the company’s end goal and how they play a role in the pursuit of that goal. Consider setting SMART goals that are specific and measurable.
  • Encourage teamwork (and provide opportunities). Team members working together on products often feel more engaged with their tasks (and the people they’re working with).
  • Provide professional development opportunities. This will improve your team members’ skills and knowledge and help them feel valued in their roles.
  • Share positive feedback. Validating employees who make a strong contribution to the organization will reinforce their effort and lead to future positive results.
  • Trust your employees. Employees who work for a micromanaging boss often struggle to develop creativity and work effectively. Give your employees space and let them know you trust them—they will often exceed your expectations.

12. Cultivate collaboration with the right tools

Here’s a straightforward but significant recommendation: Give your team the tools they need to stay on the same page and succeed together. In a surprising number of software development projects (especially those including independent talent), communication is scattered across several platforms.

Some conversations happen in chat, others in email threads, and still others in virtual meetings. Fragmented interactions may lead to confusion, duplicated efforts, and disconnection among team members. But avoiding these issues is as simple as investing in collaboration tools and setting expectations for using them.

To start, consider a project management system that everyone can access and update and a chat platform for real-time interaction. Many teams find that a task flow platform like Asana or Trello can keep team members informed about ongoing team projects. Email and virtual meetings will probably also be components of your communication toolkit.

Github is another popular platform for software development teams. Used by more than 50 million developers worldwide, Github is a free code-hosting site that lets teams work together when coding and reviewing projects. It’s compatible with both iOS and Windows.

Whatever tools you decide to use, specify to every team member how you expect them to utilize each option (e.g., requesting daily updates in the project management platform or availability via chat during working hours). Provide clear communication guidelines to ensure consistent and efficient collaboration.

Managing a team if you don’t have technical experience

If you don’t have a technical background, the strategy you implement for managing your technical team will look different. Those lacking related experience can still be successful and effective in this role. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Confess your limitations. Your team may have unfair expectations if you hide your lack of experience from them. Be upfront with them, and they’ll be more likely to offer you grace as you acclimate to your role.
  • Learn the fundamentals. Just as you would want to learn the basics of a language when working in a foreign country, you need to put effort into understanding the language, jargon, customs, and culture of your team and their work.
  • Don’t micromanage. Build a culture of trust and accountability, with team members working together to access progress and address technical barriers.
  • Lead by example. Act like the type of employee you would want to have. Demonstrate constructive behaviors, and your co-workers will follow suit.
  • Ask for help. Consulting with others with more experience (or those who see things differently than you) can be incredibly valuable.
  • Overcommunicate. Be upfront about team goals and expectations. In addition, create space for team members to communicate with each other (and you) honestly.
  • Invite feedback. Allow each team member to voice their opinion and tell you how they feel about their work or your leadership.
  • Be mindful of potential issues. Part of being a leader is dealing with problems. Things will never be perfect. Watch for any concerns that may threaten your team’s productivity or health.

What to consider for a remote software team

Managing a remote team brings about a whole new set of challenges and considerations. Here are five important principles to remember when managing a remote software team.

Establish regular communication

Communication is critical for all teams—especially remote teams (and even more so if this is your first time working with a group). Effective communication will keep employees informed of deadlines, resources, and any company changes.

Some companies will choose to establish regular, even daily, check-ins with their team. It may seem excessive, but daily video check-ins can be a great way to bring remote teams together and keep teammates connected and engaged.

Use technology to your advantage

We’ve seen a rise in remote work in recent years, and a number of incredible tools can improve your day-to-day operations. These include video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet and instant communication software like Slack.

Get everyone on the same page about how—and when—they will communicate with each other. Decide how you will communicate between meetings and when face-to-face interaction is preferred.

Clarify expectations

Don’t assume your team knows how they should spend their time each day when they aren’t working in the same space. Have conversations with employees about proper time management and the milestones you expect to be achieved.

Create systems and ask for feedback from employees on what is and isn’t working for each person. Provide guidelines about what goals and metrics you’ll track, and ensure employees know how quickly you expect them to respond to after-hours emails or texts.

Track outcomes, not activity

Rather than micromanaging your employees, allow them to develop and execute whatever plan best enhances their output and creativity. Since, on average, employees are 13% more productive when working from home, you’ll want to do everything possible to continue nurturing this environment where your team members can thrive.

Many organizations offer flexible hours to remote employees. In most cases, specific work hours don’t matter as much as whether they complete work before due dates. You can still use time-tracking software to ensure employees put in the expected number of hours.

Support your employees

Working remotely can be challenging. Employees may feel isolated, or they may have questions about their role or your expectations. Look for ways to support your employees by maintaining regular one-on-one check-ins and celebrating their successes and project progress. Find time to connect with your employees and empathize with what they’re experiencing.

Remember that your employees look to you to see how they should respond to situations and circumstances. Cultivate a positive and supportive culture (even when you don’t have regular face-to-face contact), and your team will likely respond with greater productivity and effectiveness.

Managing your team starts with the right talent

Integrate the above methods into your management approach to empower your software development team to collaborate more effectively. This will invite each professional to optimize their own contributions to collective goals.

Of course, while thoughtful management techniques can enhance a team’s talents, you’ll need the technical skills necessary to complete any software development effort. In this sense, effective management starts with assembling a team capable of completing the work ahead.

Let Upwork serve as your source for top independent development talent. Our platform makes it easy to attract professionals with the specific skill sets your team needs to succeed. With the right talent always in reach, your software development team can seamlessly adapt to new challenges and opportunities.

Check out our platform today to see how Upwork can transform your talent management strategy.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyse and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation. Prices are current at the time of writing and may change over time based on each service’s offerings.

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12 Tips to Manage Your Software Team in 2024
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large Fortune 100 enterprises, with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and freelancers to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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