The biggest challenges facing development leaders today


The software development industry is rapidly changing and evolving. With new technological advancements hitting the market every day, development team leaders need to be adaptable in their management style as well as persistent in overcoming obstacles.

As a manager, you have to deal with problems and overcome them. The real question is: What are the most common problems and how can they be overcome with the least loss of performance?

According to Ronak Rahman, developer relations manager at Quali, whose software aims to address infrastructure complexity, the biggest challenge facing executives today is learning to trust their team to avoid micromanaging.

“We have fully trained developers … and we’re trying to tell them how to do things that they’re experts at and that creates a lot of friction, especially when you have managers who don’t understand it,” he said. .

Rahman went on to explain that he sees developers as creative people. Because of this, team members often feel a heightened investment in the software they build.

According to Rahman, it’s important to give them the space to explore this creative instinct, otherwise they’ll get stuck and productivity will ultimately suffer.

“Micromanaging and telling them how they’re going to create this piece of art, what they’re pouring themselves into, can sometimes be too much,” he said.

He explained that a manager’s job is just to remove obstacles for developers on their team so they can achieve the best end results.

However, many managers fall into the trap of not fully trusting their team and thus fall into the helicopter manager trap.

Cultivating team loyalty

Josep Pratt, open source engineering manager at data infrastructure company Avien, explained this by saying that he believes a big challenge for managers to overcome is being able to build that trust.

Creating loyalty and a team mentality is no easy task for any leader, and unsurprisingly, it has become even more difficult to create such an environment in a world without physical offices.

“We’re in a hybrid or fully remote environment, so we have a team that feels like cohesion is very difficult right now, and that might be one of the biggest challenges right now,” Pratt explained.

Echoing Prats’ sentiments, Mike Morris, co-founder and CEO of remote work productivity organization Torc, said he feels building that kind of loyalty is essential when it comes to keeping good employees, a common struggle for many managers.

“[Remote work] has really opened people’s eyes to the fact that there are no boundaries,” Morris said. “They can work for any company…that flexibility has made people really appreciate the fact that they can work from anywhere and on any project … and now there is very low overhead when switching jobs.”

Communication with remote teams

The transition to remote work has proven to be a challenge for several managers as they struggle to maintain productivity and communication in a workforce that has changed so much in such a short period of time.

Morgan Logue, vice president of research and development at the low-code/no-code organization Outsystems, touched on this, saying that communication and the right context are challenges leaders must overcome to lead productive teams.

“Companies are very used to synchronous communication and face-to-face meetings… When you move to a remote workforce – even if you’re all in the same time zone – people don’t work the same hours… It requires you to make a change from processes that where context is driven by personal communication, to processes where context is driven by documentation,” he said.

Despite having written documentation, Pratt believes that intentional conversations and face-to-face meetings are critical to reminding your team’s developers that they’re not working in a vacuum.

Morris touched on this as well, saying that the human connection within a team will help developers feel less alone and also foster a culture of loyalty to the organization.

“Many times [in person] it would be ‘water cooler talk,’ or a staff softball team, or just general morale events, and that has yet to happen, even virtually,” he explained.

Morris went on to say that making that human connection also means a shift in the way meetings are organized.

He said: “You can jump in for a 15-minute stand with somebody, but you really have to take the time to say, ‘Hey, how are you? are you What is happening? What’s new in your life?” and if you don’t, you’ll miss out if something’s wrong.”

Pratt emphasized that addressing the needs and suggestions of team members helps create an environment where each team member feels appreciated and heard.

Logue added that it’s more important than ever to listen to your developers and get to know your team to learn how they can best capture and store information.

“How does your team communicate best? Some teams are very specific in how they communicate at that time [some] tend to be more visual, he said. “So making sure you understand how team members communicate and how they process information is critical to team success.”

Unfortunately, this can sometimes be a barrier to striking the right balance between maintaining active and open communication while avoiding a micromanaging style.

“It’s a fine line that every manager must tread carefully. I need to give developers autonomy, but I also need to give them the tools to do the work they need to do,” Pratt said.

Morris pointed out that one way to do this is to give developers tools that will offer them the data they need to track their performance, rather than having a manager constantly tell them.

“Just saying, ‘Here’s this developer productivity tool, it’s your data and you can do whatever you want with it, but we’re going to give you a chance to see how you compare to other developers like you.’ … It has the same effect as using an Apple Watch to track your activity,” he explained.

Morris went on to say that these types of tools are useful both for managers trying to keep developers productive while avoiding micromanagement, and for developers to see what areas of their work they really excel at and enjoy.

Measuring team success

Quali’s Rahman said the main reason some managers still struggle with finding a balance between being too tight-lipped and too hands-off is because they measure success in terms of throughput and focus only on software volume , which is put into production.

“From my experience, deadlines sometimes just don’t move,” he said, “I think it’s the wrong approach, managing to meet dates using Agile methodologies without empowering the developer.”

Pratt emphasized that the main task of the manager is to provide opportunity and opportunities to his developers.

He said: “You need to create the space and the opportunities for the team and unlock them to basically remove all the obstacles in the way of the people they manage to reach their potential.”

Rahman also said that when deadlines aren’t met, managers who micromanage are often looking for solutions to a tangible, specific pain point rather than addressing the long-term problem of a developer’s inability to be “masters of their own destiny.”

To overcome this problem, Pratt stressed the importance of reaching out to those around you for help.

“Try finding training or talking to a senior manager at your company. Find someone who can mentor you and see where you’re lacking or where you need to improve,” he said, “and talk to the people you’re managing and ask them for feedback on what needs to happen in each meeting yourself – by ourselves. alone.”

This constant feedback to team members is especially useful with the ever-changing nature of the remote workforce.

Logue explained, “There hasn’t been enough time for a best practice to evolve rapidly from agile to an asynchronous form of agile…People who are used to following patterns that are well-established in the industry are at a loss right now because for this there are no patterns.”

Dealing with developer burnout and “heroes”

The challenge Ronak Rahman, Quali’s developer relations manager, raised was preventing developer burnout.

He explained that in the past, developer burnout was almost built into the organization because after one developer burned out, another eagerly waited to take his place. However, this is not the case in today’s world.

“That burnout model doesn’t look so good anymore, and now we care about whether developers are burned out, because we can’t just throw one out and get another,” he said, “I need a full-stack developer because the world is so complex from committing to release that they have to know everything, and now there are fewer people who can do that.”

To combat these challenges, Rahman said managers need to start managing by results rather than measuring success by being able to see the amount of work being done on a daily basis.

This works to prevent developers from burning out because they won’t feel the added pressure of having to update managers every step of the way. Additionally, this style of management lends itself to a more caring approach, helping to avoid micromanaging as well.

“It’s lazy to manage based on how you see people in the office … to manage for real results that are achieved instead of who you see the most and who spends the most hours on the job,” Rahman said.

He went on to say that this management method also helps prevent employees from developing hero complexes. This is because with less attention to detail, there will be less need for a “hero” to come in at any time to perform half-way fixes to perceived problems.

“This hero actually prevents improvement. A business has no motivation to move forward when there is a hero in the way who is willing to do anything at any time of the night. You know they’re never going to do it perfectly, so you’re really accepting the worst possible outcome by letting the characters in,” Rahman explained.

Managers and the big resignation

Morris also discussed the ways in which the Great Resignation has forced many people to rethink their management style to avoid losing employees in such a flexible workforce.

“I think the Great Resignation really just proves how easy it is to change jobs. It’s not that people have stopped working, it’s that everyone is just changing jobs and a lot of people are switching from 9-5 to freelance so they can choose the projects they want to work on,” he explained.

He expanded on this saying, saying that while it was difficult at first, it can be somewhat of a positive for managers because it forces them to reevaluate their relationship with the developers on their team.

According to Morris, forcing managers to adapt to the new, transitional nature of the workforce will ultimately help them look inward to try to understand why their team continues to change.

“Right now, people can say, ‘I’m going to work on this project for the next three months and then I’m going to look for my next thing,’ so they’re in control,” he said, “I think that’s a great thing, as long as organizations feel comfortable… it’s a different way of looking at your talent.”

The biggest challenges facing development leaders today

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