How to assess the health of your development team

June 23rd, 2020

Hello friends. In this article, I will run through a few different measures you can use to determine your development team's health. When a person is fit and healthy, they perform better than someone unfit or sick. The same is true for development teams. When all the different parts of a development team are in top shape, that team will achieve more than a team that is limping along on crutches.

Below I have listed five measures that we will use to measure team health. Each test has a yes or no answer. If you have answered yes to all these measures, congratulations, you have a development team that is in pretty good shape. If you have answered no to any of these measures, you need to investigate these measures further. At the end of the exercise, you will have a good idea of your team's overall health and the areas you need to improve on. In future articles, I will cover ways to address problems in each of these measures. 

Now you don't need to have a technical background to get value from this article as I will keep this discussion non-technical. So with that, let's get started.

1. Do we understand what the team is doing?

The first measure we will talk about is visibility around the activities of the development team. It's essential to understand what anyone (team or individual) is doing. A well-functioning development team will be happy to discuss what they are doing. They will have reporting available (Agile boards, etc.), making it easy for their manager to see the team's tasks and status quickly. When it's challenging to determine what the team is currently doing, it's an indication of problems within the development team that need investigating.

2. Does the team deliver?

The second measure focus on the delivery record of the team. Does the team deliver to schedule regularly? Conversely, do the team's estimates always need to be doubled or tripled to get close to their correct delivery date? Teams that often miss their delivery schedules by significant margins usually indicate issues with the development process (including management of scope and requirements), engineering leadership, and code health. 

3. Does the team deliver value to the business?

The third measure we will talk about today is whether the development team delivers value to the business. If the team's output doesn't align with business needs, or improve the business KPI's, the team is not delivering business value. 

4. Does the team deliver stable software?

This measure is self-evident and a critical test of a good development team. If a development team delivers software that is always full of bugs, it is a big red flag against the team's health. Constant buggy software can indicate issues in the development process or the team's standard of engineering practice. If the group is unable to produce (relatively) bug-free software regularly, this is a significant concern that affects customer satisfaction with the product.

5. Does the team follow a development methodology?

This measure deals with process questions. A team that doesn't follow any formal methodology around their development, testing, and release management is a major red flag around team health. Without a proper development methodology, which enforces appropriate checks and balances in development, testing, and release management, too many issues can slip through the cracks. 

I hope this article has provided some insight into the health of your development team. Of course, there are many more things that we could discuss in this space, which indicate a sick dev team. I wanted to give you a quick overview that you could use to quickly determine if you needed to invest more time addressing team issues. 

In future articles, I will break down each area and discuss ways to fix typical problems that occur. 

Thanks for reading.