​Structuring mobile development teams can be challenging: how do you ensure quick releases and competitive products, while ensuring stability and scalability? And how do you ensure your teams are motivated and collaborating in the most efficient way?

To address these questions and more, La Fosse hosted an evening of roundtable discussion with an intimate group of senior engineering managers. The event kicked off with an interactive talk from Daniel Broad, Senior Technology Manager (Consumer Apps) at Just Eat. Daniel outlined how a cross-functional organisational structure with a modular approach to development and test automation has helped Just Eat optimise productivity and achieve business goals. The room then broke away into two roundtables, where participants shared their experiences and opinions on how to lead mobile teams.

Here are our industry experts’ 5 key takeaways from the evening:

Platforms and languages

Cross-platform development isn’t always the answer, particularly in large organisations who can afford to hire enough specialist developers to build native code. To a certain extent, mobile developers should be given the freedom to use their preferred languages.

However, the team needs to reach a consensus about which technologies to use – people need to be bought into it and then taken on the journey, allowing skilled engineers to teach those with less experience.

Increasing innovation and the feedback of ideas

Developers can have creative product ideas; don’t stifle this. Good organisations create a mechanism to feed these back to the business.

Several strategies were discussed, including providing regular opportunities to pitch ideas to management, or a ‘budget for failure’ to encourage the exploration of unusual or outlandish ideas.

Should managers get ‘hands on’ with code?

Although it can be valuable for managers to be able to understand the coding detail, there was an agreement that for teams to be productive, managers need to trust their developers and be able to take a step back.
Even junior or inexperienced developers should be allowed the freedom to learn; with the right structures in place, people should be able to make mistakes without damaging things.

The importance of community and upskilling

In cross-functional teams with narrowly defined responsibilities, it’s important to expose mobile developers to areas beyond their job role. This allows them to recognise other’s challenges and build empathy: crucial for collaboration.

Several ideas were shared, such as hackathons and the ‘10% rule’ (where developers must write 10% of their code in a different language, then ask colleagues to check it). Social Chapters and Guilds can also build collaboration, bringing people together in the wider technology team through social activities around hobbies and interests.

Motivating direct reports

Career-driven motivators such as upskilling and cross-functional exposure are important, but human factors shouldn’t be neglected. Good leaders should strike the right balance between giving people autonomy to own their own role but proving support and ‘backing them’ to upper management when necessary. The importance of wellbeing and work-life balance is becoming more prominent – many had considered flexible working arrangements and actively supported their team through mental health issues.

Which goes to show that for mobile teams to work, people management is as important as technology management.