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16 ways to build a better dev team

Paul Heltzel | June 21, 2016
The secret to building and maintaining a great development team requires transparency, flexibility, and yes, good vibes

“On the technology side, we value an API-first culture,” Whaley adds. “This encourages development teams to build APIs so that it is easy for other teams to build integrations and leverage each other's projects.”

5. Know when to cross-train -- and when to specialize

Shaking up roles in the short term may build a team that’s better trained to handle unexpected problems on the fly. Here, cross-training can be essential to getting the most of your team.

Redfin’s Frey says the company uses cross-training widely. “Within engineering, most of our engineers work with multiple technologies, and we run a series of engineering training classes that are open to anyone.”

“Within engineering, most of our engineers work with multiple technologies, and we run a series of engineering training classes that are open to anyone.” -- Bridget Frey, CTO, Redfin

But there can be an upper limit on cross-training where the returns no longer justify pulling specialists off their domain to increase versatility. John Paliotta, co-founder and CTO of Vector Software, says while important, cross-training can go too far.

“Specialization results in huge productivity gains versus having a team of generalists.” -- John Paliotta, co-founder and CTO, Vector Software 

“For a development group you clearly want redundancy so that multiple developers can work on the same area of the product, but you also want each developer to have a deep specialization,” Paliotta says. “Specialization results in huge productivity gains versus having a team of generalists.”

6. Mix it up

Another way to facilitate cohesion and break down barriers is to expose team members to fellow tech colleagues they might not typically interact with in their daily duties.

Zubin Irani, founder and CEO of cPrime, emphasizes the need to mix it up: “At our last all-hands meeting, instead of breaking into our usual teams, we actually mixed different teams together so they could talk about cross-team issues, and come up with solutions together about how to improve things,” Irani says. “For example, our mobile team, our ecommerce team, and our API team all met together with the goal of talking about what's working well and what's not between the teams, then they spent time coming up with ways to improve where they had challenges.”

“Teams have individual daily stand-ups for efficiency, but teams also meet each other in short ‘Scrum of Scrums’ several times during the week to share progress and where they need help from each other.” -- Usha Parsa, product director for Yahoo Cloud Services

Usha Parsa, product director for Yahoo Cloud Services, says interteam cross-pollination is all about creating common goals.

“We believe in an agile approach … across different reporting boundaries that come together for execution toward a common goal,” Parsa says. “Modular teams share a common goal. Teams have individual daily stand-ups for efficiency, but teams also meet each other in short ‘Scrum of Scrums’ several times during the week to share progress and where they need help from each other.”

 

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