Jul 22, 2020 | 3 min read

Experienced CTOs Share Advice on Software Team Advancement

By: Patrick Emmons

Experienced CTOs Share Advice on Software Team Advancement

Building high performing software delivery teams starts with leadership. We reached out to successful tech executives and asked them to share their hard-earned wisdom around building high performing teams. We asked how they assess their teams’ health, evaluate performance, and, most importantly, what improvement plans they have, if necessary. Here’s what they said.

How do you assess software delivery team health?

Use a Research-Backed Approach

“We are currently using the approach outlined by Nicole Forsgren and others in the Accelerate State of DevOps report. The report documents five measures that indicate an organization's software delivery and operational performance. Those five metrics are lead time, deployment frequency, change failure rate, time to restore, and availability.” – Brian Garofola, CTO, Vibes

Pay Attention to Output and Scope

“We look at a team’s output versus the scope they manage. If that ratio moves too much, it's time to investigate what’s happening and determine how to fix it.” – Stephen Rylander, SVP Engineering, Donnelly Financial Solutions

How do you evaluate team performance?

Find the Right Metrics

“We monitor performance at a cross-functional team level using velocity, repository metrics, and projected versus actual delivery. On a product and engineering departmental level, we focus on objectives and key results (OKRs), quarterly delivery goals, and feature cycle time.” – Francois Toubol, CTO, Livly

Understand What Matters Most

“Delivery timeline and quality. Those are the things that matter to our customers and our business. Software teams want to be part of success more than anything.” – Stephen Rylander, SVP Engineering, Donnelly Financial Solutions

What do you do to increase software delivery team health?

Hold Each Other Accountable

“One of the things I’ve found to be helpful is putting a spotlight on team projects. Public accountability goes a long way and can be especially helpful while teams work remotely.” – Perry Marchant, CTO, PowerReviews

Set Clear Expectations and Goals

“Determine the behaviors needed to improve and set active guidelines and expectations. This guidance allows teams to find the daily practices that make them successful.” – Stephen Rylander, SVP Engineering, Donnelly Financial Solutions

Improve Team Dynamics

“We are always focused on improving one of the following: clarity, purpose, or safety (both psychological and technical). Clarity means team members have clear roles, plans, and goals. Safety means team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable around each other. And purpose means that the work being done personally resonates with the team members. These three areas directly impact the effectiveness of your team.” – Francois Toubol, CTO, Livly

Check Your Environment

“We tend to focus on the environment. Rather than asking, ‘why is a team slow?’, we try to ask, 'what is it about the environment that would cause a team to be slow?'. For example, if teams lack psychological safety, their fear of failure and lack of confidence to experiment may prohibit their success.

Additionally, we focus on key principles of Kanban, like limiting work in process and managing the flow of work. This approach creates more focus and minimizes churn. Engineers want to deliver quality software that people love - focus on creating an environment that enables them to do that.” – Brian Garofola, CTO, Vibes

About Patrick Emmons

If you can’t appreciate a good sports analogy, movie quote, or military reference, you may not want to work with him, but if you value honesty, integrity, and commitment to improvement, Patrick can certainly help take your business or your career to the next level. “Good enough,” is simply not in his vernacular. Pat’s passion is for relentlessly pushing himself and others to achieve full potential. Patrick Emmons is a graduate of St. Norbert College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Mathematics. Patrick co-founded Adage Technologies in 2001 and in 2015, founded DragonSpears as a spin-off dedicated to developing custom applications that improve speed, compliance and scalability of clients’ internal and customer-facing workflow processes. When he is not learning about new technology, running a better business, or becoming a stronger leader, he can be found coaching his kids’ (FIVE of them) baseball and lacrosse teams and praising his ever-so-patient wife for all her support.