How do you successfully grow your engineering teams without becoming misaligned and out of sync?
By building intentional, adaptable engineering practices to anchor and support new growth.
The key to maintaining your team’s velocity and the demands of your products is building practices with developer enablement at the core. There are five areas of engineering practice that can hinder or enable the success of engineering organizations while scaling.
Engineering teams have started leveraging the skills and expertise of Engineering Operations to ensure these five areas are thoughtfully designed for future growth. EngOps are the bridge builders for scaling engineering teams. They architect, maintain, and iterate the supportive structures and processes for developer enablement.
- Emphasize The Importance Of Communication
Communication is the cornerstone for empowering developers. And it is vital connective tissue for engineering teams to scale. One of the biggest challenges to scaling is updating communication practices to reach more people. If communications are overlooked as new processes are enacted and new people join, your developers begin feeling less connected and more disengaged.
Communication needs to become more formalized, repeatable, and above all, transparent as engineering organizations grow.
Don’t wait for individuals to come up with a strategy on their own, create a framework that can grow and scale with your teams. The framework should have templates and notes for different communication tools; give examples of clear communication; include models of how to lead topics, ask the right questions, and give solution-based feedback. These suggestions should also align with your engineering culture, values, and the shared vision of the company. It is important to intentionally build transparency into every system, so developers can easily connect to what other teams, engineers, and leadership are working on.
As teams scale, it’s also important to create space for more informal modes of communication to help foster deeper connections. Encourage team collaboration through different cross-functional events, such as code reviews, demo days, brainstorming sessions, lunchtime lectures, and coffee chats.
- Create Operational Consistency
As your engineering teams grow, it is important to build alignment practices around your tooling, documentation standards, and escalation paths.
Engineering Operations excels at maintaining and iterating on organizational practices. As you scale your operational workflow, build automated systems that encourage continuous documentation of your technical practices. EngOps makes sure the process is consistent across new iterations, ensuring quality can be replicated and scaled.
Because they have a clear teaching model and playbook to reference, new teams and team members are set up for success. By clearly documenting the thought processes, background context, the data and research in a standardized way, engineers can more easily see how their work contributes to the larger vision and scope.
- Build Confidence and Shared Expertise
One of the risks of rapid growth is your engineering team’s know-how and processes becoming siloed or lost to employee churn. These practices need to exist beyond the minds of resident “oracle” engineers, by creating proactive documentation processes and resource playbooks that can be sought out by other team members.
Engineering teams need to identify their experts and understand what practices and knowledge are important to keep and scale beyond individuals.
Establish a process to share expertise on your engineering teams so that know-how can be learned, iterated, and multiplied. Building a scalable learning ecosystem that creates opportunities for mentorship, experimentation, and creativity. Encourage contributions through documentation days, code comments, paired coding sessions, and emphasize explaining the whys. Celebrate those successful contributions as big team wins.
Sharing know-how is an active collaborative process, with engineers building their confidence through learning and teaching. It also creates a better environment for networking, cross functional partnership, coaching relationships with managers, and more impromptu creative thinking.
- Invest In Technical Onboarding
Successful growth for teams depends on how quickly a new hire can unlock their productivity and confidence. Technical onboarding programs enable faster time to productivity and smoother team integration. It builds the foundation for communication, operations, know-how, and collaboration that enables continuing success.
Functional onboarding asks developers to learn by doing, with integrated tasks and team mentorship, that rapidly adjust to their individual pace of learning. Technical onboarding is one of the key tools for EngOps to scale the developer experience.
New engineers feel like they’re contributing to a team from the get go, with a clear tutorial that introduces them to the tech stack, to the engineering culture, to communication best practices, and to the team’s shared expertise.
- Invest In Your Managers
Engineering managers are ambassadors of company culture, but if you don’t invest and equip your leaders, then your decision-making and culture become fragmented as you scale. Management is about supporting people, not code mastery. Many developers view management as a step upwards, but they don’t realize that management is a completely new realm of skill, specialization, and focus.
Understand the values, leadership styles, strengths and weaknesses of your leaders, so you can put them in positions to succeed.
For engineers, their manager will be their main model for the best practices and the expectations of your organization.
Give your managers a toolbox of skills, leadership styles, and models to draw on, so they can empower a team’s growth.
Support your managers by clearly defining your organization’s engineering culture, so they can better enable their developers through changes in scope and priority. And reward your managers’ performance by how they support your engineers, contribute to developer performance, and build a more empowering engineering environment.
Anchor Your Practices
Engineering Operations keeps the needs of your engineering teams in the foreground while investing support into scaling those five key areas. Their role builds consistency as teams grow, and helps enable developers to overcome the growing pains that slow them down.
By focusing on these five practice areas as your organization moves forward, you can create an environment that nurtures growth and developer enablement, so your engineering teams can be just as successful at 10 or 100 people.