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Managing Dispersed Teams: Why your team needs a Technical Delivery Lead

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There is a new norm in the way we work. Now more than ever, distributed software development, also known as dispersed teams, is becoming the trend. As the number of companies with remote workers continues to grow and as the projects get more complex with interdependent technology, the challenge for co-located development teams to communicate and stay in alignment with the objective is magnified.

This is where the value of the technical delivery lead (TDL) comes in. This relatively new role has been created within the software industry and is responsible for the delivery of the development, project leadership, quality, and timely delivery of the project.

Yes, companies today, utilizing Agile methodologies, are experiencing greater achievements in software development than ever before. This methodology works well with small teams with simple, single technology solutions. However, when large complex projects are in the works, unique challenges surface.

Software projects that demand large complex solutions require cross-functional teams to complete them. And along with these large teams often times comes unintended silos which cause disparity or misalignment with the solution. This can cause communication and collaboration between teams to be strained and focus can sometimes be diminished. Oftentimes complex projects have software dependencies from outside vendors that must be managed to prevent delivery impact. These issues, when not managed successfully, could lead to unsuccessful software delivery or extended development timelines.

A viable solution to growing issues

The Technical Delivery Lead role provides a number of key benefits to the team:

  • Works in close partnership with project management providing technical support
  • Ensures that communication between large teams is efficient
  • Accelerates collaboration among the team
  • Identifies, documents and often translates project specifications and requirements
  • Documents project contingency plans and risk registers
  • Suggests resource needs based on the plan and foreseeable risks
  • Works with vendors, third parties and clients to integrate solutions
  • Works to ensure governance and accountability for the cross-functional teams
  • Facilitates technical deep dives to ensure progress on solutions and products

TDLs help define and continuously refine the high-level vision for any project and keep the team marching towards it. They are tasked with keeping multiple projects on track while collaborating with the designers, developers, and clients to ensure they are completed on time and according to specifications. They assist the client and the development team by removing roadblocks to ensure the project stays on schedule. TDLs stay in constant communication with the product owner and/or stakeholders to ensure that the team is meeting their expectations and they oversee solutions to ensure developers are following specifications while also analyzing the development process for necessary corrections. And finally, TDLs work alongside the experience design teams to ensure that they are aligned with a planned strategy.

Where does this role fit within a software development team?

Some may say the TDL sounds like a Project Manager (PM). Actually, this role works hand-in-hand with the PM collaborating with the designers, developers, and clients to determine the scope and timeline of the project. They are responsible for the coordination of defect management, deployments support and release management. They define and enforce standards and methodologies within the team to improve quality, repeatability and on-time delivery of the software solutions. While the TDL is responsible to the Product Owner and provides the Product Owner with the technical data needed to make decisions, they do not control the various teams. The Project Manager is still responsible for the delivery of the project’s objectives.

You might also be asking; how do they contribute? Is their background as a designer or developer? Although not dominated by design or development work, each TDL should have several years’ experience as a designer or developer with the expectation that they apply this technical knowledge to the role every day. They may engage with the designers and clients to outline and document workflows and architecture. They may also work with the developers to make sound technical choices about tools, architecture, and implementation strategies.

The How…Tips on how a TDL can keep dispersed teams efficient

Here are a few ways that a TDL can add value to your software development team.

Team Communication — The key to a successfully delivered project is having efficient and effective communication. Maintaining clear communication can be tough and never is it more critical than when you are managing resources and you can’t communicate face to face. We all know isolation can wreak havoc on collaboration and day-to-day operations.

Key things to keep in mind:

  • Need to plan how and when communication will happen
  • Have the team agree together upon a communication plan that identifies all communication points and the frequency for the project
  • TDLs will stay close to developers and their code to stay aware of technical implementation plans in order to ensure that all teams are in sync and utilizing common/shared solutions where possible
  • Assisting in the management of the project backlog, or breaking the project work into clearly defined deliverables, can be invaluable in improving communication

Engagement and Focus — Team engagement and focus challenges can surface as the project gets going full swing. The technical delivery lead encourages collaboration within the team. The ultimate target is a set of agreed-upon goals, which is a key element needed to keep teams focused. Studies show that employees tend to be more engaged when they feel that they are part of a team that shares common goals. TDLs ensure that the provided communication has clear expectations so the team can stay motivated to meet those expectations.

Technical Delivery Leads can offer that missing piece

All in all, a TDL can be a great asset to an Agile team. They are servant leaders who act as a closer. This key role can help teams bring every business transaction to a satisfactory close.


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