Software development teams involve many kinds of professionals: business analysts, development managers, engineers, product managers, program managers, quality and user experience professionals and more. All have a stake in running a high-performance team that meets expectations. Yet, “The Study of Product Team Performance” – published by Actuation Consulting and sponsored by Accelerance in 2016 – finds well over half of these professionals say their product teams have trouble consistently meeting objectives.

Is your software development group a high-performance team or a wannabe? Software-based revenue or the business processes related to the software is too critical to accept a less-than-stellar performance from your team. If your in-house team is falling below expectations, consider giving attention to these three performance areas: 1) prioritizing the backlog, 2) defining “done” within the team, and  3) focusing on quality and value over development costs.

There’s a strong correlation with high performance when organizations adopt those three practices, as identified in “The Study of Product Team Performance,” which looks at the best practices of high-performance software or product teams.

The Performance Indicators
As a team leader, if you can manage these performance indicators, the study shows that you’ll improve the odds of having a successful software development group.

  1. Prioritize the backlog, and work the backlog towards value – There’s a strong correlation between an effectively prioritized backlog and a high-performance software development team. Not surprisingly, teams that enjoy a clearly prioritized backlog efficiently move from task to task, making them more likely to deliver high performance. Conversely, a jumbled backlog has the opposite effect on both performance and financial results.
  1. Define “done” within the team – High-performance teams have a “definition of done,” and they come up with it together. Analysis shows that organizations that allow team members themselves to create a clear definition of “done” or “end” will outperform their counterparts.
  1. Don’t blow-up over budget – focus on quality and value over development costs – It may seem counter-intuitive, but effective software product teams don’t place too much emphasis on development costs when prioritizing product features. Actually, teams that do emphasize costs are more likely to underperform. Complex software features take more time and money to implement, yet, over-emphasis on development cost in general can be detrimental. Experienced organizations consider a range of requirements, some market-based, some internally derived, as they prioritize. But again and again, teams that focus on cost are more likely to underperform compared to those that de-emphasize it. To boost effectiveness and strive for high performance, be one of those teams that downplays cost. Instead, emphasize market research, the end user’s needs and your product road map. This concept even extends to outsourcing software development. For example, use outsourcing to go beyond your internal capabilities to get an expert team and best practices you need. Outsourcing for cost savings only will backfire. Focus on the bigger picture – quality and a profitable software product. It’s worth it in the long run.

Understand your software team’s development mechanics
If a high-performance team meets expectations, including a profitable outcome, what did that team do to get there? What’s the correlation between profitability and development methodology? Organizations that believe the agile/Scrum model leads to higher product profitability tend to be higher performing organizations, according to “The Study of Product Team Performance 2016.” Many managers do associate agile/Scrum methodology with product profitability, but actually the most important thing is to have a methodology. Companies that don’t associate with a methodology pay a price in profitability, and that’s a risky situation. Some product managers don’t know what methodology is best suited to growing their product’s profitability but it’s their job to make the team productive, and that means following some methodology to keep software development on track.

High-performance software product teams also believe their effectiveness improves through tools and automation. Organizations that meet their financial goals are successful, in part, due to efficiency gained through the use of automation and tools by their product teams. As a program leader, pay attention to the technology at the team’s disposal and their willingness to apply it. Fight for tools to overcome critical gaps.

Undoubtedly, increasing a product or software development team’s effectiveness is critical, but increasing a team’s product profitability is also a key factor. When you increase the team’s effectiveness, you increase profitability as well. High-performing teams are more profitable.