High-performing tech teams result in efficient, scalable, and rapid software engineering, directly influencing ROI and a company’s profit margins. But there is a reason they’re seen as the holy grail. Building them requires significant people management, time, and resource investment, and a commitment to continuous learning and ongoing improvement.
At our latest webinar event, alongside host Sophie Hebdidge, Academy Director at La Fosse Academy, our expert panellists Ilona Simpson, CIO EMEA at Netskope and Rob Bachan, Director of Product Development at TES, discussed the vital elements to consider when building a high-performing tech team.
It may seem like an obvious question to begin with, but as Sophie Hebdidge said as she kicked off the session:
“You really need to hone in on why it is that you want high performing. Is it to drive more business ROI? Is it to make it a better place for people to work? Is it to make sure [you]'re attracting better talent? What is the real reason why? And it could be a combination of all those things I just mentioned, but if we don't have the vision for why we need a high-performing tech team, it's very hard to put all the other stuff in place.”
No one answer fits all, and without a clear vision, you’re following a map with no destination. It allows you to identify and align your eventual team, and ensure you have a specific set of goals to check in with throughout the process. It’s also important to think about how these goals will intersect with company objectives, values and, ultimately, drive revenue for the business.
“Quite a lot of CEOs and CFOs ask what it means, but they have a different lens on it. And I think Engineering Managers will have a different lens, CFOs will have a different lens, and Product and Sales will have a different lens. And it's not necessarily that the lenses are incorrect; it's a valid viewpoint. I think it's the intersection of all of those.”
Rob Bachan’s thoughts illuminate how different perspectives result in different definitions of a high-performing tech team; think about who will be directly involved in the management and outcomes of the team and ask for their input. Whilst it’s important that each contribution is considered, keep in mind that a comprehensive definition will be easier to deliver.
It's important to also remember that every team cannot be high performing – it's not everyone’s objective or ambition. As Ilona Simpson explained:
“[Look at] a wider perspective of teams and when you should look at an individual group working better together as opposed to turning them into becoming a high-performing team at that level.”
There needs to be a shared vision and drive from the members of the team to reach those high-performance goals. Identifying individuals who not only understand and align with those goals, but also prioritise continued learning as part of their approach to their work, will result in a higher rate of success than simply pulling a strong team together and expecting them to excel.
Whether the purpose of your high-performing tech team is to drive revenue, improve customer satisfaction, or enhance company culture, there needs to be a clear measure of success – something Rob was eager to talk about:
“How do we measure it; how do we measure the comments and story points to [become] value points [that] translate to physical income revenue? So, we're actually trying to get to that level of measurement...as we transform to this horizontal, moving away from product-centric to what we call platform thinking.”
Regularly refer back to the initial vision and goals of the team. In a technical environment, quantitative data is usually a preferred approach; it’s measurable, comparative, and mappable, which makes monitoring progress easier than with qualitative data. With the bottom-line being revenue and ROI, it’s essentially all a numbers game.
Building a high-performing tech team doesn’t stop once the team is assembled – it's an ongoing process, as Sophie explained:
“[The] thing I think that's really missed out is all the groundwork you need to lay to ensure that the team maintains itself as high performing. And because it's not a tick box that you've reached that high-performing stage - don't have to think about it anymore - it's something that's continuous and people must continually think about and work on.”
Establishing a team also means planning for sustained development and identifying individuals who are dedicated to their continued learning is a key element of success.
“Talent is hard to get because it's competitive, extremely competitive. So, it's not that it's scarce, it's actually extremely competitive and you're competing on salary, you’re competing on benefits, you're competing on culture.”
Rob’s comment was met with some top talent attraction tips from our panel, which included the following:
It’s vital that your team comprises a wide range of skill sets, approaches and working styles – but there should always be a shared understanding from top to bottom.
“I think it's really important in the makeup of a team to have engineering leadership roles where people are technically able and can sit down with a junior QA tester and have a conversation if needed and maybe even programme if needed. A strong engineering community is important.”
As Rob alluded to, ensuring a level of technical knowledge and understanding within the leadership team is an important consideration. Identify key players with advanced knowledge and position them to capitalise on both their leadership and technical skills.
With DE&I the culture cornerstone on everyone’s lips, Ilona focused on one specific aspect:
“From learning perspectives and personalities, if someone is ‘ready shoot aim’ and you have a voice at the table with more conservative people, how do I bring those two together [so] that they actually start communicating? How do we create that environment where this diversity gets listened to, gets absorbed by the team and carried forward by the team.”
Diversity of thought within your high-performing team results in more creative outcomes, and equitable recognition is vital when creating a nurturing environment.
It’s important to bear in mind that sustained high performance can often result in stress and burnout. Consistently checking in with the team and allowing for flexibility and regular time off is crucial to protect their well-being.
Post-pandemic hybrid working is also affecting performance. A report published by Microsoft found that remote working may “impede the transfer of knowledge and reduce the quality of workers’ output”. Building face-to-face creative sessions into the weekly schedule can help to combat this.
“Internal people do town halls; we do all sorts of things with the employees that create additional bonding in the organisation...be mindful that if it's a mixed team, if it's a hybrid team, how do you compensate for that element of them kind of not belonging into still being an integral part of the team - being valued, appreciated and feeling equal?”
Ilona highlighted the challenge of a blended team during our discussion; it’s an important point to consider given that a successful high-performing team is a unified one. Whilst it’s not always possible to include contractors in internal comms, keeping them up-to date on relevant information and encouraging a social aspect amongst the team can help to foster better relationships and a feeling of inclusivity.
Use the following checklist to get yourself prepared for building a high-performing tech team:
Building a high-performing tech team doesn’t happen overnight, and as our expert panellists illustrated, it’s a complex and involved process. Ensure you have a clear vision, align with the team, promote an inclusive and supportive environment, and monitor progress closely.
Want to find out more about building a high-performing tech team? Interested in attending one of our insightful events?
Get in touch with our commercial team.