Technology is constantly evolving, and while your company may have been on the cutting edge five years ago, it’s likely that this has changed. Every company needs to be open to changing the way they do things if they want to stay competitive.

Just like the companies that they work for, software engineering teams will also need to alter their course if they want to stay relevant. This means adopting new management styles, utilizing measurable metrics and learning new skills.

It's no longer enough just to be a good development team. Those who want to thrive in today's business landscape need to be willing to go above and beyond just creating code for their employers, instead focusing on how to be the best in their field.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at exactly what that means for software engineering teams in Distributed, Data, and Leadership. Whether your project is new on the scene or you work for a veteran SaaS project that’s working hard to stay in the game, here’s what you should look out for.

Teams are becoming more data-driven

There’s more competition than ever and profit margins are constantly being sliced so that these companies can stay competitive. In 2019 they will be looking to use data to make the most of that budget. Inefficiency will no longer be tolerated, and teams will need to adopt new ways of working to stay relevant.

Unfortunately, many software engineering teams don't have the necessary infrastructure in place to actually capture and utilize this data. This is a huge disadvantage, and if your team is not yet using a data-driven model, know that other teams are.

While many teams favor a more traditional management style, these methods are often missing key elements of today’s software engineering environment. In the past, you might have had the pleasure of slowly working on a project, but that’s no longer the case.

An engineering team now not only needs to produce value, but they also need to do it quickly. This means adopting methods which allow you to track the progress of the project and correct course at a moment’s notice.

Continuing to work without analyzing your data could put your team into a compromised position that could result in major losses of funds and time. This might even allow a more organized team to beat you to market on key product features.

Teams should be focused on using tools that can show you the big picture and reveal work patterns which can be improved upon. This can provide valuable insight into many key metrics including where you’re wasting the most time and where you might be missing a fatal flaw in your codebase that could end up being very costly to fix later.

However, data is not only extremely valuable from a personal growth perspective, but it can also be valuable from a monetary angle as well. As in it’s much easier to negotiate a bigger operating budget for your engineering team if you can provide concrete data to their effectiveness.

The numbers don’t lie, and even if your boss, or other department heads, have zero appreciation for how difficult software engineering is they will have an appreciation for you adding to their bottom line. Data is a tool and many software engineering teams are still missing out on it. Don’t let that be you.

Leadership is now the most important skill in the room

The software engineering team might still consist of some of the smartest people in the room, but that’s not enough anymore. While the ability to churn out high-quality code is, of course, still in demand, in 2019, teams will likely find that they will need to go above and beyond this to compete. That means being good leaders, the kind of people that are ready to take charge of a project.

While in some business environments this consists of one leader who barks orders at drones of employees who give a half-hearted effort to comply, this doesn’t work in software engineering.

Everyone must be invested in the product’s success. Everyone must be a servant leader who is dedicated to their cause.

Much like how when you were little it was instilled in you that if you see something that needs doing that you should be the one to do it, good software leads will instill the same values in their team.

If you’re the lead for your engineering team, then you’ll likely find that many people just aren’t prepared for this. This does not make them a bad teammate, it just means that you’ll need to take the time to mold them into a person who’s capable of taking charge.

Just being the most technical person is not enough anymore, and a team full of leaders who are not afraid to act when they see an issue is worth their weight in gold. Upper management for your company will know this and expect to see it.

However, this transition gets much easier if you can pick out some people that are already performing well as leaders to help you on this mission. With actionable data in place, this gets that much easier to do.

Who’s killing their development goals? Who’s picking up the slack? It can be difficult to figure this out unless your team is vocal about it, and it’s sometimes hard to trust opinions.

However, you can use a new data-driven management style to find out the facts and give them more responsibility for your team. These more natural leaders can help you to establish the team culture you’d like to see.

SaaS companies are now product driven

SaaS companies are product driven, and that means that they want to produce a product that sells itself. This requires the team that builds it to be laser-focused on exactly what their customers want. This isn’t really a new thing so much as it’s likely going to become your most important mission in 2019.

How do you create more sales without salesmen? You create a product that doesn’t need anyone to sell it. The customer already knows that it’s the best product for the job and why it’s light years ahead of its competitors.

While many software engineering teams might actually think that sales and marketing fall strictly under the “not my job” category, they’d do well to change that attitude in 2019. For a servant leader, everything is your job, because the product is your ultimate responsibility.

That means using a data-driven approach to find out exactly what your customer wants and how you can deliver it to them. Of course, for the software engineering team, it can sometimes be difficult to get this data.

In order to be as effective as you can be you may find that you need to venture outside of your own little bubble and begin collaborating with other departments. Spend time speaking with your company’s sales, marketing, and customer service teams. Learn what systems and metrics they use, and how it integrates with their team.

While your engineers likely don’t have one on one conversations with your customers, these people do and they can provide valuable insights you might otherwise miss. They hear every complaint or idea that gets passed through support chats and social media.

"Product can all too easily forget how much the rest of the company is dependent on your work.
It's easy to get into your own bubble & think you have the best view of the customer. You talk about features (not problems), marketing becomes an afterthought & so on. This is a huge pitfall. At Intercom, we recognize sales and support are talking to our customers every single day. We leverage their perspective to form our roadmap. We also get marketing and product managers to have a tight relationship. Sales, support & marketing are all consulted as we build the stories and scope of our projects."
Brian Donohue
Director of Product Management at Intercom

Using data solutions to create a better product is likely the most appealing part of data collection. It shows the world that your team has its finger on the pulse of the market and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.

It’s easy to forget that other departments are a part of your team as well but don’t forget them when making product decisions. Better communication company-wide can be the key to putting yourself on the cutting edge of product development and dominating your market.

It can also win you the love of your customers when you are attentive to their needs and those higher retention rates mean bigger profits and a better reputation for your product.

Software engineering is more distributed than ever

We now live in a golden age where nearly anyone can work from almost anywhere. Naturally, this has led to outsourcing of talent from areas across the globe. Why limit your talent search to just one small local area when someone with in-demand skills can do their work from across the pond and produce amazing results?

For the management team of any software product, this is a no brainer. Especially if they can hire someone in an area with a lower cost of living for cheaper and reduce their overhead costs. Unfortunately, this can create more headaches for team leads, and it will be even more important to know exactly what’s going on with the project.

A remote team member who rarely, or possibly even never comes to the office can make organizing your workload difficult. This is particularly true for those who are still using management methods which don’t utilize data and cloud-based tools to keep everyone on the same page.

It can also be extremely difficult to monitor the performance of a remote employee, and you might not know that they’re lagging behind until it’s too late. This can result in missed deadlines and major problems with your finished product.

However, by utilizing a data-driven approach as we talked about earlier, it becomes much easier for your team to work as a single unit, no matter where they do their work from. Software solutions which can track your team’s performance and let you know who is struggling can go a long way in preparing you to manage an increasingly distributed engineering environment.

While you or your team may not enjoy the extra hassle that distributed work environments bring, they are here to stay. SaaS companies are looking to hire the best talent at the best price, and that means you’ll need to play ball with them to stay on top of 2019.

In closing, 2019 will be both an exciting and stressful time for software engineering teams in the areas of Distributed teams, Data, and Leadership. However, those who stay on top of developing trends will have the ability to adapt their methods and deliver the best products to their customers.

Are you using every tool at your disposal to come out ahead in software development? If you’re not then you may want to consider a change of pace. Software engineering will only become more competitive as time goes on, and it’s important that you give your team every opportunity to get ahead.

Want to know how to empower your team to better understand how their processes are contributing to the business, or where there's room for improvement? Learn more about Gitalytics below.