How to Scale Engineering Teams in 2023

Every company's growth story is different, but the scaling problems that leaders and their engineering teams face often rhyme. Facing the challenges means you have found a market fit for your product ready to reach a much larger customer base.

While it is evident for any organization that it is important to plan for growth and focus on its customers, the methodology behind scaling engineering teams often needs to be clarified.

This article will shed light on the fundamentals of programmatically scaling your engineering team. Interested to find out? Keep reading!

The Importance of Scaling Engineering Team

As businesses continue to rely more on software and technology, the demand for skilled engineering teams only grows. However, it's not enough to simply have a team of talented engineers in place. To truly succeed, organizations must be able to scale their engineering teams effectively.

There are a number of reasons why scaling engineering teams is important. One of the most obvious is the need to keep up with increasing demand. As your business expands, you may need to develop new software systems or update existing ones to meet the needs of its growing customer base.

A scalable engineering team is ultimately better equipped to handle this increased workload and ensure that projects are delivered on time and to the highest quality standards.

Another reason to focus on scaling engineering teams is the need to stay competitive. In today's fast-paced business environment, organizations must be able to adapt to new technologies and trends quickly.

In addition to these practical considerations, scaling has financial benefits. Organizations can reduce costs and increase profitability by increasing team efficiency and productivity. This is especially important in today's economic climate, where businesses must do more with less to stay afloat.

The impact also has the potential to improve overall business performance. With the right team in place, the necessary skills, and expertise, organizations can better meet the needs of their customers and drive innovation. This, in turn, can lead to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue.

Team Size and Recommended Actions

The key to building the right organization is understanding your company's goals while remaining pragmatic about how you're scaling. This is the foundation that you need to consider when growing rapidly.

  • Small Team

For a small team, it is important to keep things simple and only commit a little bit of effort to something that may not be necessary for the future. It is recommended to avoid overly modular architecture, as it requires a lot of planning, execution, and maintenance.

Instead, focus on simplicity and testing the business logic that requires testing. As the team grows, it may be necessary to add more overhead to keep everything running smoothly.

  • Medium Team

For a medium-sized team, it may need to be clarified whether or not to split the team and risk some disruption while adjusting to the change. It is important to consider the tradeoffs and do a cost-benefit analysis to understand the costs and benefits of taking action now versus continuing as is.

Furthermore, it is crucial to consider how these costs and benefits may change over time and to consider the opportunity costs of using the time for something else that may be more beneficial for the company.

  • Large Team

Splitting it into smaller teams may be necessary for a large team to regain the ability to be lean and nimble but at a larger scale. When splitting teams, the goal should be to enable each sub-team to function as a complete small software organization, with internal processes and communication that are not a concern outside the team.

The team should communicate with the rest of the organization about external concerns such as standard protocols, features, service levels, and resourcing.

7 Sure-Fire Strategies for Scaling and Managing Remote Employees

Scaling engineering teams involve careful planning to ensure there's no disruption to the company's activities and the revenue remains unaffected. On top of everything, you want to protect your company culture and existing employees from leaving.

Here's the harsh truth:

Scaling an engineering team entails more than hiring the right people. It's also about developing your existing talent, refining your processes, and enabling smoother communication.

With that said, here are some best practices when it comes to scaling the right way:

1. Finding and hiring the right people

A balance of external hires and internal promotions is the best strategy for scaling engineering teams quickly.

You can retain your best engineers by promoting them. Experienced internal engineers have deep insight into your company's business, engineering teams, and structure.

By hiring experts from other companies, you can discover blind spots you were unaware of that can prevent the company's culture and ideas from stagnating.

Pro Tip: Hire with diversity and inclusion in mind. By onboarding remote employees and offering equal opportunities to tech talent everywhere, you'll open the door to people from underrepresented backgrounds. Also, you'll dramatically expand your talent pool.

2. Make your talent count

The right talent has to be hired, but how do you keep and grow that talent?

A career development plan is what you focus on.

You want to keep people learning and growing within your company. If you don't provide opportunities for growth and development, your employees will stagnate and eventually burn out.

If ambitious talent finds working at your company no longer sparks them, they may leave to pursue more challenging employment.

3. Identifying and hiring engineering managers (how to identify leaders)

As your business grows, you might need to hire engineering managers to manage your tech teams.

It's important to have engineering leadership. Engineering managers create and enforce code standards and methodologies to ensure high-quality code.

Ensure your internal talent is promoted to engineering managers instead of hiring external experts immediately. Your existing remote employees might feel disappointed if you decide to hire external managers without considering their internal talent first.

4. Fast onboarding (to get your engineers contributing as soon as possible)

You want to get your new engineers up and running as soon as possible. A quick ramp-up is crucial when scaling your team.

Build a streamlined onboarding process and have every new hire improve the process, so the next person has a better experience. Remember, you'll be hiring in larger quantities, so you need to onboard at scale.

5. The microservices approach to restructuring the team

If you have a team of 20 engineers, you need a different structure than a team of 5. To ensure your teams can scale and multiply as needed, you should plan how you will structure them. Everyone should know their role and who reports to them.

To maintain release efficiency, it is best to adopt a microservices approach. A manager oversees a few skilled people in smaller teams to get deliverables underway. Each team is responsible for delivering a set of tasks within a given time limit.

Collectively, each team contributes to a common company goal where the leaders work together to set the product's direction. Furthermore, assign each team a manager who oversees the teams' outputs.

6. Develop the Necessary Processes (for minimal supervision to ensure quality)

It may feel forceful and limiting to try to standardize your processes when you have a small team. Once your team grows, you have to define and communicate processes, so the quality of the deliverables remains the same, even when you have minimal supervision.

Document the tasks you expect employees to perform. This will help them write better code faster and be more independent and flexible. It will also speed up the onboarding process of new employees.

Having documented your engineering processes and sharing them with the team will be a basis for building and refining them. A positive feedback loop can be created by iterating on it as needed.

Using tools like Google Docs, Confluence, and GitHub will make collaboration much easier. You can also create an internal knowledge base using software such as Knowledge Base to assist in your collaboration.

In addition, retrospectives can be a great way to foster self-accountability and self-improvement among your team members. These meetings are also great tools for letting your team grow, learn and help you scale.

The team members need to be coached to see the value of retrospectives, even though many see them as a waste of time. An engineering retrospective is an opportunity to examine what worked well and what needs to be improved and iterate and improve your engineering process.

To ensure that what you're building is of high quality, you'll identify gaps in your process and make the necessary changes.

7. Improve employee engagement and morale by enabling smoother communication

Having a few people on your team makes communication easier. You can make a video call or send an email in a matter of seconds. Everyone is in alignment with goals, visions, and tasks.

Especially in remote work scenarios, remote employee engagement gets lost in the translation. There is so much information swirling around the company that it is impossible to keep track of everything.

It is often the case that employees in team A aren't aware of what team B is doing. Communication becomes problematic, so you'll need to devise ways to make communication between teams easier.

8. Long-term and short-term wins must be balanced

Scaling a company's processes is a matter of practical prioritization. It is particularly crucial to establish processes that balance short- and long-term gains, starting with the systems that require immediate attention.

In the first stage, try to avoid getting bogged down by deliberating over a planning methodology, but rather institute a planning process that looks at things from an annual, quarterly, and monthly perspective. Prior to moving forward, you should also identify the key drivers, drive alignment across functions, and define your OKRs.

Utilize the yearly planning as a basis for monthly execution sessions, which will analyze business metrics, market data, cross-functional initiatives, and team outputs.

Identifying and nurturing systems that support and enhance the company's growth in times of hyper-growth is paramount. Ultimately, scaling your organization will allow you to leapfrog over your competition.

The focus of your team and the energy you invest should be very deliberate during hyper-growth. In the hyper-growth stage, all problems seem important; you have to prioritize what has short- and long-term benefits to your company and users. Never worry about sunk costs if you decide to pivot.

Scaling Teams: The Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s:

  • Involve core team members in the scaling process and make sure they understand their roles. Provide support and resources to help them feel impactful.

  • Be open to adapting processes, task assignments, and workflows as needed, especially during times of instability. Make time to communicate these changes to the team using visual aids.

  • When working with external resources, clearly define their scope of work and try to pair them with a core team member to minimize disruption.

  • Carefully match new team members with experienced ones to help integrate them into the team and maintain a similar team culture.

Don’ts:

  • Avoid the temptation of scaling teams by simply adding more people to the team to solve problems. Instead, create smaller groups in teams with a well-defined scope.

  • Don't assume that your team members understand the larger goals and strategy of the organization. Be transparent and communicate clearly and frequently to ensure that everyone is aware of what is happening and how it fits into the bigger picture.

  • Don't compromise on leadership roles and the hierarchy of the team. Make sure there is a clear chain of command and everyone knows their place and responsibilities within the team.

The right thing to do is to scale slowly. It does not matter if the change is an HR restructure, a refactoring of the system design, or a change in the team's internal processes. Implement small changes more frequently rather than making big changes rarely.

Reflections

The scaling of software engineering teams is a time-consuming undertaking. Still, when done correctly, you can multiply your company's velocity by horizontally scaling the number of engineers.

You must create an architecture that can scale to a large number of developers while maintaining a decoupled team structure.

A cost/benefit analysis that considers the evolution of the tradeoffs over time will also help you decide whether to act early or not.

Remotebase offers a model for scaling teams with the fastest onboarding of remote employees in as little as 24 hours.

Our team members are fully dedicated and integrate into your workflows, with access to experienced engineers from our pool of diversely skilled professionals.

You will have direct access to your team and retain full control while we handle HR, recruitment, team administration and retention, payroll, and other tasks related to building and supporting a technical team.

Our high retention strategy includes providing the best work benefits to ensure remote employee engagement and satisfaction.

Aiming for a strategic team scaling? Contact us, and let's catch up to 2023 and beyond!

Scaling Engineering Teams: FAQs

How do you ensure that your engineering team is able to effectively scale as your company grows?

To ensure that your engineering team is able to effectively scale as your company grows, it is important to have a solid foundation of processes and tools in place, as well as to continuously review and improve upon these as needed. It may also be helpful to establish clear communication channels and roles within the team and to ensure that team members have the support and resources they need to be successful.

What are some best practices for onboarding new engineers and integrating them into a rapidly growing team?

Some best practices for onboarding new engineers and integrating them into a rapidly growing team include providing thorough training and documentation, assigning a mentor or buddy to help them get up to speed, and regularly checking in with them to ensure they have the support they need. It can also be helpful to have a structured onboarding process in place to help new team members get acclimated to the company and their roles.

How do you balance the need for rapid growth with the importance of maintaining a positive and collaborative team culture?

To balance the need for rapid growth with the importance of maintaining a positive and collaborative team culture, it is important to establish clear expectations and goals for the team and to provide regular opportunities for team members to communicate and work together. It can also be helpful to provide ongoing support and resources to help team members stay engaged and motivated. It is also important to regularly assess and address any potential challenges or issues that may arise as the team scales.

Further Readings

- 10 Highest Paying Developer Jobs in 2023

- A Complete Guide to Hiring a Technical Recruiter in 2023

- How to Hire Developers for Startup: A Definitive Guide

- Writing Software Engineer Performance Reviews in 2023

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