In March, I was ready. I got a call from a startup where I am on the board. They had lost a big chunk of their development team, they were working from home, and they wanted to switch to a global team. I was able to run my playbook, and fill five slots in two weeks. I was also able to increase the value delivered by simplifying the product and improving focus. We compressed a 700 ticket backlog into a 10 slot Kanban board. By June, revenue had increased 3X.
Suddenly, everyone wants a software team that’s distributed, global, and rocking with continuous delivery. Here’s a checklist to help you get the best team, fast.
I have been studying and building and managing these teams since 1999, when I called it “inspired by open source”. I started a SaaS company in 2005 to give them online workspaces. I wrote a book on a style of continuous agile development that works well for distributed teams.
Many startups will benefit from an approach that includes
- A global, distributed team
- High volume recruiting with global advertising and trial engagements
- A team guided by tech leads and product management to focus on product output. This is different from a CTO-style operation oriented toward organizational and architectural structure.
- A continuous delivery process that unites the team around a single thing that they can all see and work on at the same time.
You can build this type of team quickly. Here are the questions I ask to set it up.
- What is your monthly budget for a fully formed development operation?
- Which people need to be working in your headquarters nation?
- Do we have access to equity incentives? Who would qualify?
- Who does this project report to?
- How does product management work? Strong product management is the most important factor in product success. Do you have engaged product managers, or are you going to need to engage the development team by giving them success metrics and customer access?
- How do you agree on product architecture?
- Do we have metrics for product success?
- What do we need to get done in the next year to justify the expenditure?
- What are we working on now? What do we need to get done in the trial period? Who answers questions about that?
- Do we have a written backlog of trial tasks?
GETTING TO WORK
- Who will work with candidates on a daily basis?
- Who will sign off on the trial engagements?
- Who will approve more permanent hires?
- What does the existing employment contract look like?
- Do we have a contract for work-for-hire distributed team members?
SKILLS AND ROLES
- What does the software stack look like now?
- Who on the existing team can answer any and all tech questions?
- Do we have skill gaps in the existing team that we need to fill immediately?
- Are we migrating in the direction of a standard stack that will make our recruiting easier?
- What are the real requirements for incoming skills and experience, versus learnable skills? I go on the theory that you want to hire for talent rather than overly-specific skills or experience levels.
- What are the roles that we can recruit for in this batch?
What is the infrastructure that we will bring candidates into?
- Code repository
- Task list
- Design process
- Build and deployment processes
- What is the list of builds and products? How close are we to single-tenant?
- Release frequency
- Operations and monitoring
When you can answer these questions, you will be ready to start your recruiting and production machine.