How to Build An Incredible Agile Software Development Team With Agile Pods

If your engineering team is packed with work but you need to come up with fast software solutions, try outsourcing an Agile software development team!

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by Matias Emiliano Alvarez Duran

05/30/2022

If you need to build a software solution (and you need to build it fast) but your product development team doesn’t have the capacity or the expertise to do it, we have the solution.

Hiring more people is a time-consuming and risky process. So, if you need to shorten your time-to-market, you’re going to need an alternative—like Agile pods.

When you team up with an existing Agile software development pod, you get skilled people to work as an extension of your team. You won’t need to worry about interviewing, onboarding, and waiting on people to complete their learning curve.

In fact, Agile pod teams can easily merge with your company culture and deliver things fast. At NaNLABS we call it “team augmentation” and we’ll work with you for as long as you need us to deliver high-quality software products. 

Want to know more? We’re about to break it down.

Table of contents

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you

Why you need an Agile software development team

Agile software development is the best choice when you need to deliver projects fast but don’t have the capacity or capabilities in-house to do it. 

What is Agile software development?

Agile methodology is an iterative approach to software development. It divides work into small chunks that are reviewed in a retrospective ceremony at the end of each one. 

This methodology follows the Agile software development lifecycle, which explains that work happens in phases as it progresses. This lifecycle consists of six steps: concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement.

When should you use an Agile software development team?

Agile software development teams are extremely helpful whenever you need to:

  • Develop MVPs

  • Increase velocity to launch new features

  • Re-architect your web platform

  • Fix and reduce bugs to improve efficiency

  • Handle on going development tasks

  • Scale your tech solutions 

  • Come up with working software on a challenging deadline

  • Adapt and improve processes

  • Mitigate risks

What is an Agile pod team? 

An Agile pod team is a small group (less than 10) of self-managed people that use their expertise to plan, organize, develop, and deliver high-quality software solutions

Agile pods work closely with the client, and with each other, in sprints to encourage constant iteration and promote testing at different stages to guarantee the best possible outcome in a timely manner. These pods can also be called Agile software development teams, and work best when they’re formed by people with different areas of expertise.

At NaNLABS, when we manage the custom software development process for a client, we usually create Agile pods of three to six people. 

Traditional teams vs Agile pod teams

Agile software development teams and traditional teams are different for several reasons:

What are the advantages of an Agile pod structure?

Agile pods have several benefits for organizations that look into working with one of these teams. Some of the most relevant advantages are: 

  • Focused on results. Since Agile pod team members are solely focused on that project, they’re always working toward the end goal, which increases the quality of the final product. 

  • Faster decision-making. Agile software development teams are wisely built based on their skill sets. They need to be able to make decisions in their field without extra approvals, which makes decisions and continuous delivery happen faster. 

  • Empowered teams. Agile pod teams make the people involved feel empowered to try new ideas, fail, and learn from mistakes. That allows them to come up with more clever or innovative solutions at the end.

How to build an Agile software development team 

Building an Agile pod team is not an easy task. The person responsible for putting it together must really understand the client and/or project requirements and should be familiar with their talent’s soft and hard skills.

How to choose the right talent for Agile pod teams

At NaNLABS we make sure to have a great understanding of the project and client before we even start looking at our talent. For every new client, we do a project and technical assessment depending on its classification. There are two types of classification:

1. Greenfield projects. These are brand new software solutions that need to be built from scratch.We make sure to do a detailed review of the industry, the client’s value proposition, their business, and their short, mid, and long-term goals. Once we get a complete idea, we build a roadmap of the software. 

Apart from that research, we have a tech discussion with the client to evaluate technical constraints, requirements, and solutions. Based on that conversation, we came up with a proposal for software architecture. Once approved, we build the pods and start getting our hands dirty. 

2. Brownfield projects. These are software solutions that were already built and could even be in production. Brownfield projects happen when a client needs additional support with pre-existing software, project continuity from a previous software provider, or is revamping an old project. In those cases, we also follow the steps mentioned above, but we get into more detail during the technical discussion.

The technical assessment is meant to give us an understanding of their current architecture, codebase, and accessing previous workflow boards (Jira, ClickUp, Trello) to get a hold of tasks and users' stories.

Doing these assessments are a crucial step before choosing team members to form the pods.

When choosing pod members, NaNLABS likes to create well-balanced teams. Combining team members with a mix of specializations and varying levels of experience means you get all the necessary expertise for a successful product, while keeping all developers challenged and motivated.

This approach shows very good results for keeping attrition levels low and morale high. 

When putting an Agile pod together, you should make sure the people involved

  • Have open communication

  • Work together to achieve common goals

  • Define clear responsibilities and KPIs

  • Exercise high levels of ownership 

  • Can work without supervision

How to structure your team

Agile pod teams can be structured differently depending on the insights gathered at the previous stage. However, Agile pods usually include some of these roles:

  • Full Stack Developer. They are responsible for writing the code. Some of them might specialize in front-end or back-end development, but we like to have engineers that can see and understand the full picture in these types of teams.

  • Project Manager (PM). They’re responsible for making sure the team is following an Agile mindset. They organize and plan work in sprints, and help the team remove blockers that might be impacting the work.

  • Software Engineer Architect. This person is responsible for the technical direction, architecture, and ensuring that the team is applying technical best practices. They work alongside the PM to make sure the team is set up for success.

  • UX Designer. This person is responsible for how the software is going to look and feel to the end-user. They analyze user habits and feedback to create a positive experience for everyone interacting with the final product.

  • Business Analyst. This person digs into the client’s industry and business to help them transform their business needs into software requirements or user stories.

  • DevOps. This role brings together the concepts of development and operations, highlighting the collaboration between the two. They handle servers and infrastructure using code (Infra as Code) as well as automating maintenance and deployment tasks.

  • Quality Assurance (QA)Automation. This means using automated tools to test that the software works, is bug-free, and actually does what it’s meant to.

How to align an Agile software development team

Alignment is crucial when working with Agile pods, especially for product owners that need  plug-and-play solutions for their team. At NaNLABS, we have two different approaches for getting the team aligned: 

  1. Alignment within pods. We make sure every NaNLABS team member has a bi-weekly 1:1 meeting. Then, there are pod-level meetings that are meant to discuss the project and ways to improve team collaboration. Retrospective ceremonies are generally the best place to discuss the latest. 

  2. Client alignment. Clients are invited to retrospective pod meetings and are usually highly involved. Also, PMs have a bi-weekly check-in with the client to understand how the team and the collaboration is going. Then, they pass on those insights to the rest of the team. Account managers (AM) have monthly, quarterly, and ad-hoc meetings with the stakeholders when achieving important milestones.

As a standard practice, the NaNLABS team ensures there's always good communication with the client and that we're not leaving anyone without the right context.

Working with Agile Pods: The Dos and Don'ts

Each Agile pod has its particularities, but there are some common practices that you should follow to ensure productive and useful solutions. 

Agile software development teams dos

Some best practices to apply when working with an Agile pod team are:

  • Making sure you facilitate stress-free communication

  • Fostering a testing environment that allows people to try and fail

  • Setting clear goals

  • Making sure the team’s roles and responsibilities are well defined

  • Preparing your in-house team to collaborate with these pods if needed

  • Making retrospective meetings sacred

Agile software development teams don'ts

Some practices you should discourage when working with an Agile pod team are:

  • Not having clear goals or not having the team aligned on those goals

  • Having team members work in silos and not collaborating with one another

  • Not having touchpoints with the team to solve questions

  • Focusing on engineers individual performance without the right direction

Building Agile pod teams with NaNLABs

At NaNLABS, we work hard to engage with your team, understand your processes, and fully integrate with your company culture and practices. 

Getting a NaNLABS Agile pod is easier than you think. Here’s how we do it:

1. Set up a meeting

The most important thing for us is to make sure we’re able to fulfill and exceed your expectations. That’s why our collaboration starts with a quick chat to understand your needs and challenges. 

2. Conduct an assessment

Next, we’ll get into the weeds - or shall we say the piles - of your technical architecture. We’ll analyze the code requirements and scope of your project.

3. Make a plan

After understanding your goals and reviewing your available resources, we'll prepare a detailed project plan including our technical findings. At this stage, we’ll make a thorough assessment to hand-pick your dream team.

4. Kick it off

Finally, we’ll get the show started. We’ll set up our kick-off meeting, plan for you to meet your talented team, and then you’ll find us working hard to meet your goals.

5. Get you involved

We like to have our clients involved with projects, so we’ll ask you to join our meetings as much as possible. This eliminates communicational issues that sometimes happen in complex projects. 

At NaNLABS, we make sure to truly understand your needs and current technical architecture before working on a proposed solution and building it. We’ll always get your feedback at the end of each sprint to ensure we’re being truly Agile.

Benefits of NaNLABS team augmentation 

We’re aware that outstaffed teams don’t necessarily have the best reputation. That’s why we work hard to close those gaps and become the best solution when it comes to augmenting your team. Some of our most important benefits include: 

  • Merging with company culture. Often, companies complain that the cultural differences are too big. One of the biggest benefits of working with NaNLABS is that we make an effort to truly integrate with your company. We’re not just some tack-on team who’s there to mess up your processes. We’ll make sure to use your preferred Agile software development tools and communication methods.

One of our clients, Clutch.co explains,

"
“We don’t feel a difference between our full-time employees and NaNLABS’ engineers. NaNLABS adheres to our guidelines better than many of our internal team members.” 
  • Coming up with faster solutions. Since our team will be solely devoted to your project, we’ll act fast to come up with timely solutions, and we’ll take work off your engineer's plate. By measuring Agile software development metrics we can shorten delivery times by easily identifying bottlenecks before they cause problems.

"
"We've been able to speed up development and get more done — which is not a small thing,”

said a representative from Tongal.

"
“On a platform with as much complexity as ours, there’s always so much work to do."
"
“As our in-house team of developers was quite small, we felt like we were never going to be able to make a sizable dent in our backlog. NaNLABS not only allowed us to speed up our work, but they're also great developers. Every dev at NaN is really talented."
  • Skipping the hiring process. Looking to add more people to your software development team can be time-consuming and risky. At NaNLABS we give you an already structured and talented team to work on your project. 

"
“NaNLABS adds talented individuals who are a pleasure to work with quickly to our current team without needing to spend time recruiting,”

shared one client.

  • Finding true Agile solutions. We take iterative product development seriously. That means having you involved in retros, daily standups, and continuous improvement. Our Agile processes are what makes us act fast and meet your expectations.

"
"Before working with NaNLABs, we were still more Agile in theory than in practice. But with their experience, they really helped us shape our processes and the way we think about how we work and manage the team,"

said another client.

Related Post: Ensuring Continuous Improvement in Agile Through Retrospectives

So, are Agile pod teams worth it?

Yes, Agile pod teams could be the answer for your next software initiative, especially if you’re time-pressed to come up with solutions. 

At NaNLABS, we’ll come up with a dream team that will work on your requests to build fast and high-quality products. We’ll also adapt to any Agile software development framework you prefer, and have a constant line of communication.

Ready to build your own custom software with a team that cares about you and your processes? We’re not code monkeys, we care about you

Frequently asked questions about building an Agile software development team

What is an Agile software development team?

An Agile software development team, or Agile pod teams, are small groups of self-organized people that use their area of expertise to plan, organize, develop, and deliver end-to-end high-quality software solutions. 

These pods are usually outsourced and are a solution to reduce the workload of engineering teams, work alongside them as specialists, or work on a specific request from scratch. 

What is Agile project management? 

The Agile method is an iterative approach to software development. It breaks work into small chunks, and the people involved have a retrospective ceremony at the end of each one to improve the deliverables. 

This methodology follows the Agile software development lifecycle, which explains that work happens in phases as it progresses. This lifecycle consists of six phases: concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement.

What is an Agile pod framework?

Agile pod teams are a way of doing specialized software development. Often these types of teams are put together to become self-sufficient and self-organizing teams to complete an end goal. 

What are the three Agile frameworks?

Agile software development has different frameworks. The three most common ones are

  • Kanban: a visual way of organizing work by tagging tasks and adding them to a corresponding column on a visual board.

  • Scrum: a framework that divides work into smaller chunks called sprints. Users will have to deliver a part of the final product at the end of each sprint, and then, they’ll have to iterate on it to improve its quality.

  • Lean: it’s a mindset that pushes teams to find and eliminate waste in their processes. Also, it makes sure that deliverables are constantly being tested to ensure continuous improvement.

What is an Agile Scrum?

Scrum is one of the most common Agile frameworks, it makes work consumable and iterative. Scrum breaks a project into small chunks called sprints that last 1-4 weeks. After each sprint, the team has a retrospective ceremony to review deliverables and work upon testers' input or client feedback. 

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