A lot of startups will have to create a development team. Existing manufacturers are also often faced with the task of expanding, dividing or realigning existing development teams.
For this, they can learn from startup best practices to increase the productivity of your development teams, their efficiency and job satisfaction.
This article describes some of these best practices split into six steps.
Sometimes it’s better not to have a development team. As a rule of thumb:
If the software is your company’s core service or the product itself, it makes sense to create a separate software development team.
If, on the other hand, the software is just a tool for providing a service, the company should consider alternatives. These include:
Getting a development team up and running takes between three and six months from the time the decision is made to create one. But that assumes you already know how to build such a team.
There is information on who can help you build the team at the end of this article.
Startups and other manufacturers shouldn’t start building their development team until they have:
The very definition of which roles exist in a development team determines the culture that will later prevail in this team..
For example, the decision to hire a dedicated software architect brings with it both opportunities and risks:
On the other hand, if a good, efficient architecture is created, the software development process will be more successful and efficient, and thus even faster. A lot of senior developers understand this fact better than “full-blooded architects.”
Taking knowledgeable and correct decisions on architecture is more important than having a specific role. In an ideal world, senior developers will also be able to make these decisions. Not having a team member dedicated to this role must not be confused with ignoring it completely because it is a role that is needed to map the entire process.
The fact that a development team needs passionate software developers should be obvious.
The software quality assurance role is less obvious. But, for medical startups in particular, it is essential.
The software tester, for example, can wear this hat. In any case, there has to be a person who drives all aspects of software quality assurance right from the start:
Keeping a good balance in terms of seniority levels is important when building the development team. If the spread is too big, hierarchies that are detrimental to team building and to its productivity will emerge.
On the other hand, focusing exclusively on enthusiastic novice programmers is also dangerous because it could damage the quality of your software.
Deciding where the team should and may work spatially has an impact on recruiting:
The more potential candidates learn about the job, the more likely you are to find the right person. Therefore, it can be helpful to conduct the search through multiple channels, for example:
Once you have found a potentially suitable candidate, you should hold an interview right away, introducing the company and product vision. One advantage medical startups have is that they contribute towards making life better for patients and the healthcare system. This mission can be a big attraction for developers.
Look for quality-oriented developers. Especially in the web environment, you can take a lot of shortcuts that could have regulatory repercussions later for a medical device manufacturer. One possible question in the interview would be how the developer feels about writing tests themselves.
New members of the development team need to know what to expect and what is expected of them from the very first day.
This includes clearly communicating how important quality management and documentation are for product conformity and success.
Accordingly, new team members must immediately learn these requirements and receive feedback on how well they are meeting them.
Small, limited tasks with clear results create an early sense of achievement and therefore reduce the dropout rate in the first few weeks.
People who haven’t developed medical devices before are often not sure about how to meet regulatory requirements (see section a)). Examples, “sample solutions” and quick feedback can help here.
The point of processes is to ensure consistent quality without having to depend on the performance of individuals. Therefore, agreed and lived processes and procedures are a prerequisite for effective and efficient collaboration.
Examples of these processes and procedures include:
Our article on agile software development will give you an overview of common mistakes and how to avoid them.
Even the best tools are worthless if no one uses them. This happens when:
There is no lack of tools. Established all-in-one solutions, such as Gitlab, integrate all the necessary functionalities, for example:
Atlassian also offers a powerful tool chain but becomes disproportionately expensive as team size grows.
Especially if the development team is working remotely, the tools must support synchronous and asynchronous communication.
The tool landscape is huge: MS Teams, Rocket.Chat, Slack, IRC, Twist, Discord as well as the solutions mentioned above, such as Gitlab, offer the necessary functionalities and, generally, options for integration with other tools as well.
Good communication tools alone do not guarantee good communication within the development team. Therefore, the team also needs additional rules and agreements:
Building a high-performance development team is not rocket science. But there are countless little things that need to be taken care of if you want the team to succeed. The six steps above will help you get a lot of these little things right.
These steps are not only useful for startups, they are also useful for larger and established companies that want to improve their teams’ performance.
This article is based on a podcast with Martin Schulze and Christian Johner (in German).
Martin Schulze is founder and owner of the company slash-m. He specializes in helping startups put together and establish high-performance development teams.
The Johner Institute has helped hundreds of startups through the medical device authorization process. Its subsidiary Johner Medical acts as the distributor for startups that do not yet have a certified QM system and provides companies with a comprehensive tool landscape. Contact us here if you would like to learn more or to request support.