Tips on How to Scale a Software Development Team with Team Extension
Are you having a tough time scaling your software development team? Need middle/senior software developers or skilled UI/UX designers, but the prospect of handling numerous hiring steps, payroll responsibilities, and staff retention concerns is a roadblock? The need to scale a software development team is a common milestone for growing businesses—whether emerging startups or established companies. This necessity can arise due to project complexity, the need for specialized skills, or mounting work volumes.
A classic example of successful scaling is the story of Spotify, the globally recognized music streaming service. It started with a small development team and now, it has hundreds of tech employees spread around the world. A crucial part of their evolution was the capability to adapt their team structure as they grew, driven by the principles of agility, ownership, and quality focus. Each squad at Spotify operates as an independent "mini-startup", ensuring high autonomy and safeguarding their strength in innovation even as they continue to scale.
Such success stories highlight the potential of efficient scaling, but keep in mind—scaling isn't simply about ballooning the number of team members. It's more about smart growth where process efficiency is enhanced, collaboration is improved, and the quality of the product is maintained. One of the strategic ways to achieve this is through team extension.
In this light, we present 15 actionable tips to effectively scale your software development team with team extension. From recognizing the need for scaling to gradually implementing it, these tips cover essential aspects designed to navigate you through the complexities of team extension.
Why Use Team Extension for Team Scaling?
Scaling a software development team is a common challenge faced by businesses as they grow. Increasing project complexity, the need for more specialized skills, and larger work volumes all contribute to this need. But scaling should also involve enhancing existing process efficiency, improving team collaboration, and maintaining high product quality. One method of effectively scaling is team extension.
The shortage of qualified workers. It appears that the shortage of tech talent will be a lasting challenge. Last year, ManpowerGroup reported that 76% of employers worldwide had trouble finding the skilled talent needed to meet their IT and technology requirements, with the US alone experiencing 78% of the IT industry's workforce shortage. In this case, the staff augmentation model helps quickly address the current scarcity of tech talent, as you have limitless access to worldwide talent pools.
The need for specialized skills and tech stacks is on the rise. The need for developers, especially those with experience in emerging technologies such as AI development, IoT development, robotics, and other automation applications, will continue as long as technological advancement continues to accelerate. This will likely trigger a 25% increased demand for niche-specific software developers, QA, and testers up until 2031.
Focus on soft skills. In addition to technical know-how, companies are increasingly valuing IT professionals who possess excellent soft skills, such as effective communication, collaborative teamwork, and adept problem-solving. According to the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) report, soft skills are becoming more demanded and important due to the effects of digital transformation, AI-enabled assistance, and automation. Human skills are what differentiates us from machines, and as these advanced technologies evolve, the demand for soft skills is increasing. Employers also expect their workers to have soft skills, as the challenging and rapidly changing environment we live in requires individuals with good problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities to deal with the challenges and opportunities they face effectively on a day-to-day basis.
Modern businesses must be proactive to remain sustainable. The pace of change in the world is so rapid that it's often described as a VUCA environment, standing for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. So, in 2023 and ahead, businesses need to be agile, responding promptly to both expected and unforeseen changes while ensuring uninterrupted operations. That’s why organizations need a flexible staffing solution that allows them to scale up or down IT staff as needed quickly.
Continuous workflow. With a globally distributed team, you can ensure a 24/7 workflow, accelerating the project completion timeline. This "follow-the-sun" model increases productivity and shortens the time-to-market.
Fresh perspectives. Diverse minds bring fresh perspectives. An extended team can offer unique insights and innovative solutions that might have been overlooked within the usual working norms.
Carefully implemented, team extension can add immense value to your software development capabilities. It not only helps align your team size with project demands but can also significantly enhance productivity, innovation, and operational efficiency. Simply put, it serves as a flexible, cost-effective, and highly advantageous solution for scaling up your software development team.
When to Scale a Software Development Team?
Choosing the right moment to scale your team depends on the nature of your business and its needs. However, recognizing these signs promptly can save you a great deal of effort and resources. Below, we detail typical scenarios that indicate when team scaling for your business is a clear “cry for help.”
Scenario 1: The team is overwhelmed by a growing workload, and tasks are piling up
This scenario perfectly describes common situations that service companies often encounter. The workload of their development teams directly depends on the number of clients and the scale of their demand.
This scenario can also be common when companies experience high seasons where their current staff resources are insufficient to cover the workload. This may occur due to employees taking vacations, sick leaves, etc.
These situations indicate the need to scale the software development team to ensure that the company can effectively meet client demands, maintain project timelines, and sustain a high level of service despite fluctuating workloads.
Staff augmentation, in this case, is a well-suited strategy as it allows you to bring in specialists for each project gap and pause the collaboration when necessary without committing to an employment contract.
Scenario 2: Launching something new that your team doesn't have the right skills for
Picture this: Your team is busy creating a feature-rich e-commerce website using the MEAN (MongoDB, Express.js, Angular, Node.js) tech tools. The company spots a growing demand for mobile apps and decides to expand its product offerings. There's just one hitch—your team isn't quite familiar with mobile app development, like using React Native, Swift for iOS, or Flutter for cross-platform development.
Now, there are a few ways to tackle this. You could hire mobile app developers or bring in a dedicated team. A smart move could be bringing in external help through scaling. This ensures your team gets the skills needed to develop the mobile app without compromising on quality or timelines.
Scenario 3: Project releases are often delayed
The sudden surge in tasks can easily create a situation where responsibilities are accumulating faster than the team can address them. This overwhelming workload puts pressure on the team members, potentially impacting their ability to meet deadlines and maintain the usual standard of work. However, the reasons for delays could be diverse, including unexpected technical challenges as well.
For example, a software development team might find it challenging to release updates to a mobile application on time due to unexpected bugs discovered during testing. These delays can have cascading effects, impacting client satisfaction, market competitiveness, and overall project timelines. The better solution would be to scale your team, providing additional resources to address unexpected technical challenges promptly.
Scenario 4: New product features come up often
This scenario is typical for businesses involved in continuous innovation, where new product features are regularly generated and proposed. These concepts may stem from market trends, customer feedback, or technological advancements. However, the swift generation of product ideas can result in a backlog of tasks, prompting the company to evaluate its existing team's capacity to manage the increased workload efficiently. Software team augmentation allows you to bridge skill gaps by hiring highly skilled software developers, turning any idea into reality as quickly as you need.
Scenario 5: Changes in technology or tools require new tech skills
The 2023 State of the CIO survey has recently highlighted the technology roles that IT executives find most challenging to fill, with cybersecurity, data science and analytics, and AI ranking at the top of the list. The evolving technology environment is prompting companies to evaluate their team's current skill set and identify gaps that need to be addressed.
Solutions may involve upskilling existing team members, hiring new talent with the required skills, or leveraging team extension to bridge skill gaps swiftly.
Scenario 6: You’re being strategic about preparing for future growth and development needs
Without having any well-grounded reason to hire new talent, you can plan for the future. You may recognize that the key to sustained success lies not just in meeting current demands but also in anticipating and preparing for future growth and development needs.
Let's say, you’re a tech startup that creates mobile apps. Your team analyzes trends and sees that there's a growing interest in augmented reality (AR) applications. Anticipating a surge in demand for AR app development, you decide to plan for this future growth proactively and engage in staff augmentation to bring in specialists for specific AR projects quickly. By taking these proactive steps, your company ensures that when the demand for AR apps spikes, you have the right skills in-house or readily available through augmentation.
15 Tips for Scaling Software Teams with Team Extension
While it's important to expand your team when you feel you can't handle new demands with your current workforce, it's equally important to make the most of your team expansion efforts and avoid situations where you're frustrated or dissatisfied with the results delivered by new hires. To ensure everything works smoothly as expected, take into account the following 15 tips.
Tip #1 Know your needs
When you're thinking about growing your team, it's like planning a journey. You wouldn't start a trip without knowing your destination, right? Similarly, before expanding your team, take a moment to outline what your project needs clearly. By understanding these needs upfront, you're setting a roadmap for the kind of experience you'll be looking for when scaling your team. This clarity makes the entire process more efficient and ensures you're bringing in the right people for the job.
Tip #2 Identify skill gaps
Take a close look at your team's skills. Assess their strengths and weaknesses to identify skill gaps within the team. By doing so, you can determine where you may be lacking in certain areas and understand what specific skills you need to bring in when expanding your team. Remember that skill requirements may also vary from one project to another.
To have a productive discussion with a potential tech partner, clearly outline the skills you're missing. Make a list of roles, experience levels, and technical knowledge required for the new team members. This not only helps you find the right talent within your budget but also ensures a smooth fit for your project's timelines and goals.
Tip #3 Set realistic goals for scaling
Team extension is not a silver bullet for every challenge. While it can help in reaching goals, it's essential to be realistic about what it can and can't do. If you need a project done faster, adding more team members can help, but it won't fix everything instantly. Set realistic goals to use team extension wisely and achieve what it's best at. Remember that staff augmentation is not a total replacement for building a strong in-house team. It is a complementary approach that allows you to scale your workforce to meet changing demands.
Tip #4 Choose the right engagement model
The team extension model comes in a variety of forms, as different situations call for different approaches. There are two primary types:
- Traditional offshore staffing service: You ask an IT provider to add skilled experts to your team with specific skills and experience. The IT provider handles hiring and once the developers are onboarded, you manage them as if they're your employees. This traditional team augmentation works well for any project needing extra experts.
- Short-term staff augmentation services: Need help for a brief period? This model is about getting extra support for one-time tasks.
- Long-term team extension services: These services are great for lengthy projects. They come in handy when you want to bridge skill gaps, save on operational costs, or find it challenging to hire someone directly into your team.
Additionally, staff augmentation can be grouped into:
- Skill-based staff augmentation: In this scenario, you bring in expertise for specific tasks with a focused skill set to fill the gaps in your team’s knowledge.
- Time-based staff augmentation: If you only need extra developers during busy times or critical project phases, this approach helps fill in when your main team members are taking time off.
- Project-based staff augmentation: Sometimes, your project requires an expert with a unique skill set. Project-based augmentation lets you bring in specialists tailored to the needs of a particular mission.
Tip #5 Explore external providers of team extension
Partnering with companies that specialize in team extension services can be a strategic move to help organizations achieve their goals. These companies have a pool of skilled professionals readily available to provide support and expertise.
By teaming up with external providers, you can easily access experienced teams without the need for a lengthy hiring process. These providers take care of the entire process, including sourcing, screening, and onboarding staff with the specific skills you require. Additionally, they offer training, support, and manage the augmented teams, thereby allowing your internal team to focus on other tasks.
Moreover, these providers often have experience working across various industries, which grants them insights to tackle unique challenges. They can also keep you updated on emerging trends, technologies, and best practices that may be unfamiliar to your team.
When considering potential partners, it is advisable to filter your choice based on the following criteria:
- Expertise match
- Established processes for sourcing, screening, and onboarding
- Support and management for augmented teams
- Industry experience
- Testimonials and case studies
- Compliance with industry security, coding, and design standards
Tip #6 Onboard and train augmented staff
This step is not only about welcoming new team members to your project but also ensuring they are equipped with the necessary knowledge about your internal workflows and corporate culture, making them ready for action.
There are various approaches you can take to onboard and train augmented staff. One option is to provide comprehensive manuals, presentations, and documentation that outline your organization's processes, procedures, and expectations. Another strategy is to pair new hires with experienced project managers who can provide guidance, answer questions, and assist in their transition into the team. One more way is to provide targeted training that focuses on specific skills or technologies relevant to your project—any way that works great for you.
Tip #7 Promote teamwork among in-house and augmented teams
Successful collaboration depends on effective teamwork, strong relationships between the parties, and the ability to either sidestep disagreements or resolve them quickly. So, you should foster a collaborative environment where your in-house team and the augmented staff work seamlessly together. The goal is to break down any silos, encourage open communication, and ensure everyone is on the same page, contributing their unique strengths to the collective success of the project.
Tip #8 Ensure you have effective cooperation tools in place
Collaboration is at the core of a successful team, and having the right tools plays an important role in developing effective collaboration. Instant messaging, video conferencing, task management, file sharing, and project collaboration platforms are essential in reducing potential barriers, even if your in-house and augmented teams are physically distant from each other.
At ElifTech, we commonly use such tools:
- Communication tools: Slack
- Web and video conferencing: Google Meet, Zoom
- Project and task management tools: Jira
- Design tools: Figma
- File management: Google Drive
- Scheduling: Calendly
Tip #9 Cultivate open and regular communication
With organizational changes underway, take a moment to reassess communication strategies, particularly about team members operating remotely. When your development team is scaling, it's essential to communicate openly and regularly because the dynamics of a growing team plus remote working mode create complexities that require increased coordination.
To ensure you have covered this need, pay attention to the recommendations below:
- Follow Agile methods to keep everyone in the loop during development
- Break tasks into smaller parts to solve issues quickly
- Hold quick daily check-ups, demos, and retrospectives to stay updated on progress and address urgent matters if needed
- Encourage team members to share their thoughts, concerns, and suggestions freely
- Foster interactions between different teams or departments
Tip #10 Ensure clear documentation and knowledge sharing
With team extension, your team can scale both up and down, making it essential to have a structured approach to knowledge management. For example, if any of your team members from outside the company leave the project, it can be challenging to share their knowledge with the rest of the team. So, documenting processes, best practices, and lessons learned ensures that valuable knowledge isn't lost when team members leave or move on to other projects.
Also, clear documentation allows new team members to get up to speed and understand established workflows quickly. It's also handy for current team members, giving them a guide to do tasks consistently and making sure everyone follows the same rules on the project.
Tip #11 Provide feedback
Ensuring that the augmented team's work meets your company's high standards can also be a real challenge. Thus, to make sure everything is done right, be clear about what you need and give the team feedback regularly to help them meet those needs.
Here are suggested quality assessment guidelines:
- Quality standards: Create a checklist of specific quality standards that need to be achieved. These standards act as benchmarks to ensure the work meets the desired level of quality. For example, you may establish criteria such as code readability, comments, test coverage, and adherence to coding guidelines.
- Definition of Done (DoD) or acceptance criteria: Clearly outline the criteria that determine when a task is considered complete. These criteria serve as guidelines, helping the team understand the expectations for each task and ensuring that nothing is overlooked.
Tip #12 Measure and analyze team performance
When scaling your team without a clear vision, you might make rushed decisions and incur financial losses. It's a good idea to align your scaling efforts with your company's overall strategy to ensure a cohesive and successful growth plan.
To monitor progress and ensure everyone is in sync, it is important to establish performance metrics for each department. Consider metrics relevant to productivity, project timelines, and task completion. Regularly check how the team is performing against the goals you set and analyze trends to identify areas for improvement. Additionally, celebrating successes and acknowledging what is working well can boost motivation and encourage continued success.
Tip #13 Provide recognition
Providing recognition and rewards is a powerful strategy for creating a positive, high-performance environment. It can boost employee motivation, leading to increased job satisfaction and retention. When employees feel appreciated and rewarded for their contributions, they develop a sense of happiness and fulfillment that encourages them to stay with the organization. Knowing that their efforts are valued and recognized can significantly boost productivity and foster a proactive approach to tasks.
Tip #14 Organize work processes
Before scaling a team, confirm you have structured and well-defined work processes in place. Ensure that necessary software and infrastructure are in place to support the work of augmented staff. This includes providing access to relevant tools, setting up necessary accounts and permissions, and establishing a seamless communication system. By being well-prepared, you can ensure a smooth integration for new team members and optimize their productivity from the start.
Tip #15 Reflect on experience and iterate
Experience is the most valuable intangible gift we receive through time and effort. Analyzing it helps avoid repeating problems and enhances future performance. Take time to reflect on past experiences, both successes, and failures, and learn from them. This reflection can help identify patterns, root causes of issues, and areas for improvement. Document and share these insights with your team to collectively learn from past experiences and make informed decisions moving forward.
How Does Team Extension Work at ElifTech?
Staff augmentation or team extension is one of the most preferred cooperation models by ElifTech’s clients. The process typically looks like this:
- Assessing client needs. Our team sets up an intro call for interactive discussions to explore your business processes, goals, budget, timescale, and staffing requirements (including the skill sets, experience level needed, and soft skills).
- Matching and selecting candidates according to the requirements. Our team's resource managers review our in-house pool of software engineers to find the right match. In cases where we do not have needed specialists, we turn to our recruiting team. Our recruitment team, using a candidate database, conducts interviews to assess skills and sends you the selected profiles for review. Additionally, we may reach out to subcontractors for available specialists.
- Conducting technical and HR interviews. We present the client with a shortlist of candidates who best match their requirements. The client has the opportunity to interview and select the candidates they believe are the best fit. If necessary, candidates can go through various interview stages. For instance, you can start with a coding challenge in the first round.
- Onboarding to the client’s team. Once the selection is finalized, we take care of all the necessary paperwork, and background checks, and facilitate a seamless onboarding process for the candidates. We make sure they have access to the client's tools, systems, and resources required for their role.
- Managing a project. Our clients have the flexibility to decide how closely they want to manage the augmented staff. They can choose to supervise and integrate the staff into their existing team themselves or use our project management expertise for oversight.
- Ongoing support. Throughout the engagement, we maintain regular contact with both the client and the augmented staff to address any concerns or challenges that may arise. For this purpose, we assign a project coordinator who will coordinate this communication as well as manage all legal, financial, and administrative aspects, including IT specialists’ vacations and sick leaves, thus relieving the client of any HR-related burdens.
Is the described partnership the kind you have in mind? Either way, we'll be glad to provide our professionals and scale up your workforce within 3-5 business days! Let's get down to business.
We hope our tips will help you in finding the ideal collaboration. As you may have already realized, hiring third-party staff and experienced service providers can greatly enhance business capabilities. This approach offers:
- Cost-effectiveness and time savings
- Access to advanced project management tools
- Efficient and transparent remote collaboration
- Exposure to rare emerging technologies
- Access to highly skilled global talents
- Flexibility and the capability to scale resources as needed
Scaling a software development team often presents unique challenges. As project needs grow, so does the requisite for a broader skill set, more resources, and an increased workforce. The dilemma that businesses face is how to handle this expansion phase effectively while maintaining product quality, team productivity, and cost efficiency.
Team extension—a strategic solution to these scaling challenges. Reach out to our team and we'll provide a more detailed consultation.