Tips to Scale an Existing Engineering Team
28 December, 2021
When Ends Don’t Meet Due to Skills Set Gap
As the business expands, it becomes increasingly essential to scale the team to make ends meet. I joined an organization with a single engineering team, where the product was extensive and complex and served customers worldwide. Because of how the product was designed and functioning, it was cumbersome to manage and continue to evolve. I identified that we were starting to create expertise within individuals rather than groups with a single engineering team. For instance, there was a particular subject matter expert for a specific feature. It was causing much trouble from a business continuity standpoint. For that reason, if the individual were on sick leave, it would jeopardize the entire product.
Relax, and Define the Product
First things first, I sat down with the product team and started crafting out the pain points from a customer and product point of view. What were the external and internal boundaries of our solution? Identifying these factors could have made sense for us to speak internally and externally represent it to the customer.
We defined an initial group of four teams based on that, and within that, we defined four potential managers. Although we already had three of them, we discovered the fourth manager in order to start defining the logical grouping of individuals that made sense for the team. However, the structure was very flexible, where the engineers could move between groups as the company kept evolving yet maintaining a long-lived approach where we could expand expertises within the same core of individuals.
Making sure that knowledge sharing came into place, moving from individual experts to group experts. We addressed that having more than 1 person handle the technical challenges and maintain the product was important.
One last thing that I focused a lot on was defining the productivity of each team. When there’s a single engineering position, it’s easier to manage the outcome and performance of the team. However, when there are individual teams, driving metrics and measurements to scale the output becomes crucial. Therefore, finding the missing skill set of each team and focusing on the end-to-end delivery was the key.
Make Mistakes and Learn From Them
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. There is no cookie-cutter approach to a reorg. Naturally, whatever you might be producing now is going to be outdated as the company keeps growing and evolving its structure. Avoid getting into the analysis paralysis; instead, work with the team to identify the problems and be on top.
- As an engineering team, as much as you collaborate with the product team, don’t forget to join forces with other groups, such as sales. It will enable you to understand how the product is positioned to prospective customers. Also, it will give you ample insight into how you can define the products, and therefore, the teams in a productive manner.
- Make sure to analyze the skill sets and gaps within each team.
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