23 November 2023 (updated: 4 December 2023) by
EL Passion EL Passion
Building and leading engineering teams is not a piece of cake. Learn how to do it effectively.
Building great engineering teams is crucial in product and software development, as it directly impacts the quality of the product. From selecting the right framework and team structure to maintaining motivation and collaborative culture, each aspect plays a role in building successful and effective teams.
In this article, you’ll learn about building, managing, and leading teams that last. Whether you’re starting a new team from scratch, or looking to improve an existing one, you have to be aware that teams must be highly adaptable to meet the changing needs of the project, and different roles must work together to contribute to the final success of the project.
Building Effective Engineering Teams
As always in software development, there is no one-fits-all solution. It is always crucial to remember to tailor your engineering team to your project’s needs and goals. Building effective engineering teams involves factors such as adapting to change, continuous improvement, expertise and skill diversity, and fostering collaboration.
Defining Engineering Team Roles and Responsibilities
Well-defined roles within the team are essential for the project’s effectiveness. The specific roles and responsibilities may vary across different companies and projects, depending on the complexity of the project, team size, and methodology. Understanding these roles helps build well-rounded and effective teams, as each of them contributes to the project's success. The roles in the team include:
Developers - the core of engineering teams, responsible for writing and maintaining code.
Managers - Usually combine both technical and managerial oversight, ensuring that each team member adheres to technical standards.
Desigņers - Responsible for user experience and the visual aspect of the product
Project Managers - Oversee the delivery of the project, keeping it on track in terms of scope, time, and budget.
Quality Assurance - Ensure the product meets the requirements
Choosing the Right Engineering Team Structure
Choosing the right team structure is crucial to team effectiveness. There are many different approaches to the team structure. The teams may be technology-aligned or product-aligned. Different types of team structures include:
Functional teams - organized by specific functions, such as front-end or back-end. Typical for the waterfall setup. Each team focuses on its area of expertise, contributing to different stages of the project lifecycle.
Cross-functional teams, including members from different specialties, such as developers, designers, and product managers work together on one project. This structure encourages shared responsibilities and clear ownership, promoting a holistic view of the project.
Matrix organizations, where team members report to both functional managers and project managers. This dual-management system combines the benefits of functional and project-based structures, offering flexibility and resource efficiency.
Self-managing teams - small teams working together in sprints to deliver a project in an iterative manner. They emphasize autonomy, with team members collaboratively managing tasks, schedules, and decision-making processes.
A collaborative culture helps the teams thrive, boosting team morale and productivity. Regular communication helps reduce misunderstandings and conflicts and align team goals. Collaborative team culture includes:
Clearly defined roles, where each team member brings a unique perspective and skills
Balanced seniority - seniors may consider easy tasks boring, so it’s important to balance the team in terms of seniority
Responsibility and ownership - team members hold themselves accountable
Transparency - it’s clear what the team is working on and why are they doing it
Trust - people know and trust each other
Managing and Leading Engineering Teams
Managing engineering teams is not easy. Effective leaders have to balance technical expertise with leadership and interpersonal skills to inspire and guide their teams. They play crucial roles in motivating teammates, setting a vision, adapting to technological changes, and fostering innovation within the organization. Managers have to set clear expectations and goals, offer feedback, recognize achievements, but also address challenges.
Some of the most common challenges in engineering teams are motivation, burnout, and managing workload while keeping an eye on the business goals of the project. With a good manager and leader, engineering teams thrive.
Effective Leadership in Engineering
Great engineering leaders create an ecosystem of various skills, technologies, and abilities that work together for the project's success. One of the most important aspects of a team's success is fostering an environment that encourages continuous growth, collaboration, and innovation.
Innovative teams explore new ideas and solutions making the project more effective and overall, better. Professional growth is also crucial, as the development of the team members contributes to the quality of the project, that’s why engineering leaders are aware of how important it is. Combining those factors leads to successful, effective, and overall happy teams and overall organizational growth.
Best Practices for Managing Engineers
How to effectively manage engineering teams? It involves a blend of open communication, fostering collaborative team structure, and effective planning. We asked our Tech Team Leads for their tips. Some of the best practices are:
Perfecting the onboarding process - set the team up for success by developing an effective onboarding and making sure everyone is on the same page in terms of onboarding responsibilities.
Encouraging professional development - foster an environment where team members are encouraged to update their knowledge, learn new skills, and share knowledge with junior teammates.
Arkadiusz Oleksy, Tech Team Lead at EL Passion: We host weekly frontend and backend meetings, where we discuss new updates, solve problems together, and share our knowledge so that everyone, regardless of seniority, can learn something new each week.
Setting clear expectations - define clear and achievable goals for both whole teams and individual team members, aligning them with project objectives
Building a strong culture and communication - establish communication channels (like Slack) and regular meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page. To bring the team together, organize regular team integration and informal meetings.
Piotr Zawada, Tech Team Lead at EL Passion: Work meetings are not everything, spend some time talking about other matters like hobbies, movies or interesting topic. It will build an unbeatable team spirit.
Providing feedback and recognition - regular and constructive feedback helps your team members grow. Recognize accomplishments to boost morale and motivation.
Balancing the workload - prevent burnout, ensure team members are not overwhelmed, and offer your support while they’re facing challenges
Michał Kolbusz, Tech Team Lead at EL Passion: Good task delegation makes your team members feel responsible for something important, keeps them motivated and broadens their skills.
Effective Communication Between Engineering Teams and Other Departments
Engineering teams must establish effective communication with other departments. It keeps everybody on the same page and fosters mutual understanding of goals and objectives. Remember to keep the language accessible to non-technical colleagues. Understanding the priorities of other departments helps engineering align their work with organizational goals. Apart from traditional and virtual meetings, foster asynchronous communication. Make sure to have a single source of truth, and that every team knows how to find it.