How to Scale a Tech Team by 30% in 3 Months: Step-by-step Case Study
Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine that one can easily hire a team of five to ten in-house developers with the required skillset. Fierce fighting for talent in the market and lucrative offers from competitors do not make it simpler.
Why? The key issue lies in the IT talent shortage that has become one of the fast-growing bottlenecks modern businesses face. Hiring tech specialists is now a real challenge. And no surprise there. In the last ten years, the number of B2B SaaS companies has increased 50-fold and is still snowballing. There are more than 15,000 such businesses in the US alone. What’s more, the giants like Google and Amazon keep cherry-picking the tech labor market.
On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in rampant business digitalization. Thus, the proliferating startup market has turned into a real struggle for hiring and retaining top tech talent to join non-IT companies and startups. As a result, offering the candidates too high salaries causes market chaos.
The truth is that even if your startup has managed to raise impressive funding, your staffing challenges are far from being solved.
However, it’s not a good reason for giving up. The world has gone remote. Your in-house staffing opportunities no longer limit you. What’s more, your location isn’t an obstacle either.
Here, I will share an actual case where our company, Aspirity, has helped to scale the tech team in the shortest time and reveal the experience both sides have gained.
In-house VS. Remote VS. Distributed Teams
Nowadays, many new approaches and staffing models have emerged, making access to the global talent pool a real perspective for those looking for more flexible and efficient solutions.
Let’s look at the most common development team types in terms of their location.
In-house Teams: How Things Have Changed
Many companies consider in-house teams the most stable, manageable, and reliable solution to opt for. Here are the most widespread arguments in favor of the in-house model:
- Direct control over the workflow.
- An opportunity to build a trusting and transparent office environment.
- Face-to-face communication.
- No time zone differences and language barriers.
However, during the pandemic, the people’s mindsets changed. Today, the concentration of all teamwork in one office can be considered obsolete. According to the Gartner research, after the COVID-19 outbreak, 82% of employers let their staff work some of the time remotely, while 47% of company leaders support completely remote work.
Due to these changes, the cons of in-house development significantly outweigh their benefits. With a much poorer talent pool, you will find it hard to compete with the giants that hire all the best local specialists. Thus, scaling your in-house development team and adding the necessary expertise may be too challenging.
Remote Teams: the New Reality
Remote solutions are a great alternative to in-house development. You can find the required talent with access to the global IT market. Also, you can choose the time zone that suits you best and hire the professionals you need.
The potential risk of hiring remote employees is that you may find it difficult to quickly integrate them into the team that’s already working on the project. In addition, some remote employees may require more time for onboarding as they won’t instantly feel like an integral part of your in-house team.
Distributed Teams: an Alternative Solution
So, what can a business do to hire skillful remote specialists and address the potential challenges regarding their onboarding and engagement? Based on our experience, building a distributed team is a great solution.
First of all, a distributed team consists of professionals who already have mutual understanding and can effectively interact with each other. They know each others’ strengths and weaknesses and can build the collaboration process in no time without requiring any effort from you.
Moreover, such teams probably have well-established and tested methods for maintaining databases, and they won’t have any problems onboarding new employees if you need to scale up fast.
Also, when hiring a distributed team, one should conduct efficient onboarding. It’s essential to communicate your project’s core idea and make the new members feel passionate about your product.
Of course, the adaptation process will take some time. A business turning to the distributed model should consider the time zone difference and cultural specifics. However, if you need effective scaling, all these factors are unlikely to become obstacles. For such a purpose, you will hardly find a more result-driven option.
The development cost depends on multiple factors. And the qualification level of the developers involved in the project is not the only thing that matters. Another important aspect is your development team’s location. Mostly, this depends on the region’s economic conditions, average wages, taxes, and more.
Here, we will compare the cost of particular development services in different parts of the world. It will give you a rough idea of average software engineers’ average rates if you decide to outsource your product development to another country or hire specialists on your own.
Note that if you hire remote workers, you will have to deal with many pitfalls, such as the tax system in a particular country. Meanwhile, if you turn to the distributed team model, the vendors will likely cope with these issues without your effort. Such factors significantly affect the project’s scaling and budget.
|North America||Eastern Europe||South America|
In-office vs Remote: Our Experience
Our company, Aspirity, has gained solid experience working remotely and applying distributed team model. During the pandemic, our employees have adjusted to the new reality of working from home. So now, no more than 10% of them return to work in the office. In our experience, remote work is even more productive since it eliminates office noise and other distractions, allowing employees to immerse themselves in the working process.
Curiously, some of our employees decided to start working remotely and join distributed teams even before the pandemic outbreak. In autumn 2019, a startup from Silicon Valley approached us to join their project. At that time, they wanted to build an innovative product yet understood it would take much time and resources they lacked. So the client was looking for three to five employees at a time who had the skillset to cover the front-end part, including design. And we decided to start working together.
For us, it was also a new experience to be responsible only for a specific part of the project. As a result, we have established the format of work that we now call a distributed team.
Usually, onboarding in such a project takes several months. However, our team managed to do it much faster. Now, I will reveal what we have learned while working together in a distributed team.
The Search for a Team
The first question a business or startup is likely to face is how to find a distributed team that will meet their goals and expectations. Here are a few key factors to consider.
- Pool of talent. To build an exceptionally innovative product, you will likely need to access at least 1-2% of the best talent worldwide. However, finding and retaining skillful professionals in the USA is quite challenging due to the IT talent shortage. The distributed team model will enable you to access top specialists in other regions like Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America.
- Personal connections. Do not neglect the feedback of people you know and trust. A good reputation often goes ahead of the best teams, regardless of their location.
- Cultural similarities. It’s crucial to consider the mentality and values of the team you hire. Finding partners who can immerse themselves into your business ideas and become an integral part of your project is necessary. It will help you establish better communication with the team, not even noticing the difference between the remote specialists and your in-house employees.
- Time zone impact. For many companies, time zone differences may seem like a significant drawback of hiring a distributed team. However, you can turn it into a benefit. For example, when hiring an Eastern-European vendor, you may run particular processes almost 24/7. Most importantly, find time for calls and meetings that will be convenient for everyone.
How to Validate a Team
After finding a team that seems to be appropriate, it’s time to validate their reliability. There are numerous ways to check if the candidate is relevant to your needs. The following ones are the most common:
- Check the company’s portfolio and case studies.
- Read their clients’ reviews.
- Pay attention to the vendors’ reputation rating on specialized websites like Clutch and GoodFirms.
Also, it’s better not to rely on the candidates’ promises to correspond to the highest standards. There are hundreds of vendors out there, and each claims to offer the best services.
That’s why a technical interview is crucial. It will help you estimate the candidate team’s technical capabilities, knowledge in a particular field, and expertise relevance.
What’s more, it’s better not to overestimate the choice of a tech stack. Instead, prioritize the team with excellent skills in a particular technology, even if it’s not the one you have considered. It’s much better than hiring so-called yes-men who will always follow your requirements, regardless of how justified they are, instead of offering more efficient solutions.
Most importantly, ensure the chosen tech stack is future-proof and has a reasonably large developers’ community.
Another critical factor is the interaction between the backend and frontend teams. In our case, the client already had their backend team. So they had to ensure the frontend specialists would understand certain backend specifics. They were looking for specialists aware of the basics like working with fake data, APIs, etc. Learning such essentials on the go can significantly reduce the productivity and development pace.
Becoming a Joint Team
When a distributed team starts working together, its members need some time to establish a collaborative workflow. In our case, the client’s in-house team members wanted us to immerse ourselves into the project’s essence and core ideas before starting the development process. So initially, we explored how to manage the project with an eye on the users’ needs, how it should be designed, and what graphs are required.
For this purpose, we spent a month analyzing the competitors’ products. We studied various dashboards to understand what a user expects from similar products, searched and tested them, and took many screenshots. Finally, we collected and organized all this information to refer to it during the design process.
In the beginning, our team members didn’t have much experience in the field of the client’s project. The preliminary research allowed us to get the necessary references we could rely on when designing the product. Also, the investigation process helped us dive deeper into the project itself. And it was the first essential step.
Another vital aspect was project management which helped us establish efficient cross-team communication, schedule the meetings, organize collaborative workflow, and avoid causing challenges in each other’s work.
Here are a few crucial insights our distributed team has gained and methods we’ve come up with.
- Communication. Although we started with some issues and misunderstandings, we quickly reached the necessary compromises and boosted our efficiency. Now, our team uses several Slack channels and group chats for instant discussions and timely delivery of important information. Our project managers are constantly in touch, and our tech lead always knows how to replace workers during holidays or any unforeseen circumstances. This allows us to keep the non-stop pace of the workflow.
- Meetings and calls. Distributed team’s work requires regular online sessions to discuss the results, check deliverables, set plans and sprints, share the issues, etc. Therefore, we have numerous regular meetings for different purposes:
- Daily meetings of the front-end team with the product owner.
- Weekly meetings with the leader of the team from another country.
- Daily meetings of our team members.
- Retrospective and technical retrospective meetings every two weeks.
- Technical weekly meeting to discuss the new tech plan.
- Regular management meetings.
- Sprint reviews every 2-3 days.
Each call and meeting serves a particular goal that helps the team remain on the same page and understand each others’ progress and issues. However, many things are discussed in group chats and messengers to save time.
- Common workspace. In the beginning, our team used two different Jira workspaces:
- Our UI and frontend team workspace.
- Our client’s workspace to manage UI, backend, API, and frontend tasks.
With such an approach, QA on the client’s side reported UI bugs, and our QA reported front-end bugs. Later, we moved to a single Jira workspace, which significantly facilitated the project management process.
Suppose you need to scale your project quickly and efficiently without wasting time finding, hiring, and training all necessary in-house specialists. In that case, the distributed team model is one of the greatest options. It will provide you with access to the global talent pool and enable you to hire skillful developers with well-established collaborative experience.
With modern technologies and approaches to project management, building and organizing efficient workflow is an entirely achievable goal. The use of powerful tools for communication, collaboration, and documentation minimizes risks and becomes a reliable basis for transparent and result-driven joint work.
Thus, all you have to do is find a trustworthy team with relevant expertise and do your best to convey to them your passion for the product you are going to build.
by: Alexander Efremov (LinkedIn)
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