Team management key to development success
- By Colleen Frye
Trusting your development team to do their jobs, speaking the same language
as your team and backing up your team are key attributes for managing software
development efforts. And for critical development projects with tight time
constraints, smaller local teams work better than large, distributed teams.
That was the consensus of a lively panel discussion Wednesday night at the
XML and Web Services One Conference held last week in Boston. Panel members
Toufic Boubez, CTO of Layer 7 Technologies; John Williams, CEO and president of
Blue Mountain Commerce; and Dave McCall, development consultant at Groove
Networks, agreed that developers work better when trusted to do their jobs,
without somebody looking over their shoulder.
''Micromanagers should be thrown out on their butts or retrained,'' joked
Boubez. Knowing when to leave team members alone, however, must be accompanied
by knowing when to step in and back them up, and following through on things--in
other words, a manager must have integrity, said McCall. And a manager who is
well versed technically, he suggested, makes speaking the same language easier.
The ability to assemble a skilled team that works together well and meets
project goals is also the mark of a good manager, the panel members agreed. And
while there are a variety of project management and collaboration tools for
keeping a team on track, the participants agreed that good instincts are just as
important, if not more so.
To manage a project, ''there are technologies you can apply, or you can rely
on a go-to person and your gut feeling. I like tools, but you still have to use
your gut feeling,'' said Williams. Boubez agreed, saying a good team manager
relies on ''stop and think'' or ''stop and sync'' points to see where you are in
a project. He added that sometimes project management tools and rigorous
methodologies create too much overhead for certain types of projects.
Panel members disagreed with one observer's suggestion that the notion of
fixed development cycles with localized teams and hard dates for deliverable is
''1995 thinking,'' and that an open-source, distributed style of development is
more in keeping with today's move toward Web services and iterative software
development. Rather, they suggested, the nature of the project should determine
the style of development and the size of the team. ''With any software project,
you have time deadlines and goals. The harder these constraints are, the less a
distributed, open-source type of development is successful,'' said Boubez.
And while collaborative tools make it easier to communicate than before,
''you still have to make a concerted effort,'' said Williams, and occasionally
gather the team for a ''face-to-face, pizza and beer'' session. And even though
the nature of Web services means the developers have to be more agile in
responding to the customer, ''we still have to look at delivering a product.
Someone has to be the person who makes the dates,'' said McCall.
Colleen Frye is a freelance writer based in Bridgewater, Mass.