How to Build a Great SaaS Engineering Team

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How to Build a Great SaaS Engineering Team
At a Glance

To develop a successful and viable SaaS product, you need to build a robust early-stage engineering team. This will ensure that all the product issues are handled at the initial development stage, thereby making the future for the enterprise safe and secure. By building an excellent start-up engineering team, SaaS enterprises can reduce the chances of errors and hence deliver a well-rounded offering for the customers. 

When you want to know how things work, study them when they’re coming apart.

William Gibson

I’m a SaaS company but I am no engineer. So what do I need to do? Do I get a co-founder who is an engineer? Or do I just hire an engineer? There is no correct formula for how things work in the SaaS industry, especially for start-ups or new entrepreneurs trying to figure things out. But when you are trying to accomplish something that no one else has accomplished, you must find ways that no one else has been able to. This is the basis of entrepreneurship, and that is how everyone starts. However, if there is any way of learning at all, it has to be from the failures of people who took a different path. Assuming that the company is going to hire an engineering team there are a few things we’d like to look into.

As a start-up, you tend to rely on other people in the industry and try to find out their methods and then modify them to work for you. The same goes for your early-stage engineers. To ensure that you are doing it right, you have to focus from the very beginning and refrain from making mistakes that other people have. So, there are a few key points to look out for a while building your start-up engineering team.

1. Do not Overpromise

When dealing with your early-stage engineers, it is very lucrative to give them positions that ‘sound good.’ But that is not how it should be. When in the business, know that overpromising does not equal over-delivering. So, if you are keen on giving everyone titles that make them feel good, it will do more harm than good in the long run.

●  This is because, in the beginning, everything is in a very fragile state. At this point, you should focus more on the business aspect of your work.

●  Even though taking care of employees is an especially important task, you should sit back and draw a line when it comes to assigning positions. It is not the same as assigning tasks.

●  In the beginning, there is a lot of burden on the performance part of the company. So, keep your focus on that and not try to give good titles to people just for sticking to the start. You might end up regretting it later.

2. Scale Your Growth and Work Accordingly

Ensure that you regularly scale the amount of work and growth of your work. It gives you a lot to think about with your start-up engineering team.

●  Talk regularly about the expectations based on a calculative deadline. Without deadlines, it is impossible to track any growth. So, ensure that you look at your work and make sure you manage your team accordingly.

●  There comes a time in the start-up when you might face a sudden boost. So be prepared for that and ensure that you have managed your team to face those issues.

●  Growing proportionately with the management is the basic rule that will help you access every situation with ease.

●  You must draw boundaries on when to take note of various situations and scale them up and scale down accordingly.

●  Ensure that your employees are ready and prepared for that as well. A premature note on how the company wishes to expand further helps engineering teams to plan accordingly. And this is one of the most crucial things for a start-up engineering team. 

3. Give Roles Based on Employees Not Expectations

Try to understand the capabilities of every employee and then assign him/her the role of choice. Do not assign roles based on your ‘plan’. This will only hamper the employees’ capability to work fully and result in him/her not being as productive as required.

●  Therefore, it is important to ensure that you know your employees in the best way possible before assigning a task to them.

●  The beginning of a start-up is an especially important stage. It is crucial to have an appropriate team for yourself that suits your start-up. If you end up having a team that does not work to its full potential, then that start-up engineering team would not prove to be very fruitful for you.

●  Also, it might hamper your start-up’s ability in the long run and might paralyze it completely. 

4. Do not Have Roles You Do not Need

There must be a certain maturity while looking at the assignment part of the engineering teams. Many people create high-end authoritative roles in the beginning that they have no real use for. This is one of the worst steps that you could take for your start-up.

●  Sreedhar Peddineni, a two-time entrepreneur, had referred to a similar point while referring to his crowd at Lightspeed’s Extreme Entrepreneurs program in Delhi. According to him, many companies do not require a VP Engineer until you have a team of about 50 people.

●  So, having this role before the requirement would serve no purpose. You should ensure that you take no such step for a start-up engineering team that only serves a cosmetic purpose. The purpose should be real, detailed, and progressive. 

5. Know Your Place

Every start-up has a few classifications that help gauge its growth trajectory. It will be largely about when it has a single numbered team (early stage), moving on to double digits (early growth) and then triple digits (growth).

●  The team is one of the most appropriate assumptions as to how the start-up is performing. Therefore, you should take care of this too.

●  Make sure that your early-stage engineers are well informed about the state of the firm at the point. For you, it is of a greater meaning as well.

●  Without much information about your position, you will not make most decisions for the firm. Therefore, ensure that you know what position you are at and how you must progress further with the firm.

●  Make sure that you do not hire people in your engineering teams because you have money now. Estimate your position and go further based only on that. 

These are some of the most important aspects to ensure the building of a strong start-up engineering team. Having a robust and dynamic engineering team at the start will give you a nice foundation on which to build your plans on.

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