Whether you are the head honcho of a startup or a project manager based out of an agency, it is likely that you are already well aware of this fact. Managing a team of app designers and app developers is not always easy. The rise of the flat, non-hierarchical organisational structure in the tech startup world has become so popular that it has gotten large companies to rethink their more traditional management strategies. 

Being in the mobile app development business means that you’re probably very up-to-date with the new working culture that tends to favor relaxed working environments, remote teams, and a speak-your-mind attitude from team members. You know that you do not manage your dream team as much as you support them. 

With all of this in mind, we brought together a couple of Development Managers to discuss their tips for getting the most out of an App Developer and an App development team.  

Harsh Naraini, Engineering Manager at Klarna 

Harsh Naraini is an Engineering Manager at payments giant Klarna. Previously working with global consulting company Thoughtworks as a Lead Consultant. At Thoughtworks, Harsh had the opportunity to work across multiple tech stacks with exposure to many different origanizations ranging from airline partners to advertising companies. Currently, Harsh is mainly focusing on building his team at Klarna and establishing himself to the new role at Klarna.  

Make them Comfortable, but also Challenge Them.  

“There’s no team without trust,” says Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google. He knows the results of the tech giant’s massive two-year study on team performance, which revealed that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake is something Harsh works on finding a balance for.  

“Pushing too much could mean that the employee gets out of the comfort zone to an extent that they are not able to perform or Excel. So like understanding what is the difference between making person comfortable and uncomfortable is very important. And given the right set of circumstances, I think everyone can excel to the best of their abilities.” 

Comfort, however, is a bit of a double-edged sword as in some cases an overly comfortable professional may grow too accustomed to ‘going through the motions.’. A healthy level of challenge should always be introduced to help your app developers grow as professionals.  

“If they feel that they are given the right set of challenges in their career. And of course, with the right set of motivations to grow as well, I think they will be much more happier in their team.” 

Soren Norrby, Freelance Engineering Manager 

Soren Norrby is a Freelance Engineering Manager who has worked in the last few years as an interim manager on different product and engineering roles. Prior to that engagement, Soren built a company called Kaching, which has recently changed it’s name to Yabbie.  

“I brought the company up to company of 25 people. It was a real journey and we, in a very short, short timeframe, built a completely new way of running a store where you can have the point of sales in an iPad, and you can run around in the store and take your payments anywhere.  

Throughout his career, Soren has worked with a wide portfolio of developers fron back-end to app developers. We were keen to get his thoughts on what we can do to get the most out of app developers.  

Involve Developers in Product Development Early On 

 What you frequently did was to try to sell what the app team knew to the rest of the organisation that if we use mobile technology, we could do this, this and that take pictures, help the buyers and sellers on rocket again, finding each other with GPS and like selling mobile solutions, and point out the benefits of them to the rest of the organisation. 

Now, however, that has changed – with new developments happening in real-time and with instant access for the masses. This has made it all the more important to bring app developers to the forefront of product ideation and formulation.  

You have to involve them early on in product development, get their feedback early on new features and so on. So you have to bring them and get their say on new features, new ideas, like directions for the whole company.” 

For some developers, who prefer to roll their sleeves up and focus on their individual contribution, this might not be easy – as Soren explains.  

You’d need to do a lot of that business talk that sometimes we almost try to avoid. Some of them just want to sit and do two tickets, and they’re done for the day. So we need to foster a culture where the app developers are included in the product development, I think that is very crucial, and that you could take them with you out in the field and get the developers to know what problem are we trying to solve for the clients? 

Soren has first-hand experience building this culture when he did the same process for back-end developers in one of his previous engagements. The process, he says, would work the same for app developers who are in a similar setting (point of sale). 

“I brought the back-end team to work in the store for a day. And then at a very understanding of what the problems we needed to solve was like much clearer and there may be empathy with the client was much larger run, they have felt the pressure themselves to answer questions from customer and getting the payment through quickly. 

Make Progress the Common Goal 

Nobody wants to stagnate. None of your team members will say that they want to be the same mobile app designer or developer for ever, creating the same kind of mobile apps in the same way for the rest of their lives. Not a chance. 

Enable your team to achieve progress according to their own terms, which has a lot to do with the first point on finding out what rocks their designer or developer socks. Instead of drudgy meetings, try to get to know them via informal ways and on a personal level. Provide feedback when appropriate and do not be stingy on the compliments. 

Give them space to try out new frameworks, libraries, and to play around whenever there are new OS updates for developers and designers. Even if it is not exactly relevant to the projects that they are working on. It will not be time wasted if they are essentially progressing as professionals in their respective fields. 

Assign tasks and roles according to their strengths and weaknesses to help them progress. There are bound to be tasks that nobody really wants to do but are absolutely necessary. Make sure that those tasks are evenly distributed even if one particular designer or developer has proven to be good at it. We may not always enjoy the tasks that we happen to do well, that is a fact. 

Work on Designer/Developer Relations 

We talk a lot about team collaboration and communication but when it comes to creating apps, the relationship between designers and developers is critical to success and it remains a big challenge to supporting your mobile app development team. 

Do not let your designers and developers form their own gangs. Bring them together for meetings from Day 1. Involve the more creative developers in the initial stages of the app design process, but do not oblige the “Code Only” developers to join. Invite them anyway but accept a polite ‘no, thanks’. Pair up your more code-friendly designers with the developers during the app prototyping phase. Likewise, do not force the “Pixel Only” designers to show up. Just let them know that they are always welcomed. 

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