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Maintaining Productivity When Downsizing Engineering Teams

Introduction: In the rapidly changing landscape of the tech world, businesses sometimes face the challenging decision of downsizing their engineering teams. Beyond the human element, leaders grapple with maintaining product velocity, managing engineering capacity, and ensuring business goals are met. We discuss these intricate aspects with George Ionita from Sand Technologies, aiming to provide a roadmap for those navigating these waters.

The FutureList: George, when downsizing engineering teams, how should leaders prioritise projects or features to ensure key objectives are still met?

George Ionita, Sand Technologies: The first step is to revisit the product roadmap and business priorities. Align with stakeholders to understand what’s truly mission-critical. Often, it’s about differentiating between the ‘must-haves’ and the ‘nice-to-haves’. Using data to drive these decisions—like user analytics or feature adoption rates—can help ensure that the most impactful projects remain on track.

The FutureList: How can companies maintain a steady product velocity during this transition phase?

George Ionita, Sand Technologies: It’s about efficiency and adaptability. Begin by optimising existing processes; perhaps by adopting lean methodologies or trimming down on unnecessary meetings and overhead. Encourage teams to be agile, and ready to pivot when needed. Cross-training can also be invaluable. By ensuring that team members can wear multiple hats, you maintain flexibility and resilience in your development cycle.

The FutureList: With a reduced team, there’s potential for an increased maintenance load. How should this be addressed?

George Ionita, Sand Technologies: Indeed, the maintenance challenge is real. One approach is to invest in automation, be it in testing, deployment, or even certain repetitive development tasks. Also, consider leveraging open-source solutions or third-party platforms for non-core features. It’s about smartly distributing the load and ensuring that the core team remains focused on value-driven development.

The FutureList: Can you suggest strategies to ensure the business goals align with the new engineering capacity?

George Ionita, Sand Technologies: Absolutely. Regular sync-ups between product, business, and engineering leaders are essential. By having a clear line of communication, engineering can provide feedback on what’s realistically achievable, and the business side can adjust and prioritise accordingly. It’s also a good time to re-evaluate existing goals, possibly setting more iterative, short-term targets that align with the team’s current bandwidth.

The FutureList: What advice would you give on managing stakeholder expectations during this period?

George Ionita, Sand Technologies: Transparency is paramount. Keep stakeholders in the loop about the team’s capacity, potential delays, and the strategies in place to mitigate risks. It’s better to set realistic expectations upfront than to overpromise and underdeliver. Remember, while the team size might be reduced, the commitment to quality and value delivery should remain unwavering.

The FutureList: Lastly, any insights on how to keep the morale of the remaining engineering team high and ensure they stay motivated?

George Ionita, Sand Technologies: Acknowledge the change and the challenges head-on. Organise regular check-ins and offer avenues for feedback. Celebrate small wins, and ensure that the team sees the direct impact of their work. Investing in their continuous learning and growth, especially during such times, can also signal that the company is still deeply committed to their professional success.

While downsizing is undeniably challenging, it also offers a chance for introspection, optimisation, and renewed focus. George Ionita’s insights underscore the importance of agility, communication, and a commitment to value delivery. With the right strategies, even leaner engineering teams can continue driving innovation and achieving business goals.

Need a second opinion on how to approach your tech team resourcing plan? Get in touch with the team at Sand Technologies.

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