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Software Development Pods

One of the key responsibilities of Director of Engineering or any sort of software manager is ensuring the continuity of business.   It just so happens that no matter what you do your engineers will need to move around inside and outside the company. When people leave you are stuck with a piece of software that is not supported for bug fixes and escalated configuration questions.

As a manager your internal and external customers generally come to you for answers, but with a sizable portfolio of say 10-12 products even a reasonably technical manager can’t possibly maintain the products that lose the engineering ownership.  More importantly when you are pulled into bug fixing you lose your ability to unblock and facilitate the team’s workflow.

Recently I decided to try forming “software pods”. Pods consist of two developers and a tester.  This ensures that I have three people who know how the product works and two people who can fix bugs or deal with hot escalations.

There has been another good side effect of a pod.  It seems like folks have also started forming friendships and joint ownership of code. While these guys don’t have to do pair programming, they constantly have to merge code and talk about their respective design.

There is also a question on what kind of skill set you have in a pod.  Is it two mid-level engineers?  Is it senior and a junior?  It seems like two junior folks don’t really work.

What do you do to ensure continuity? What kind of effects have those methods have? Feel free to share via comments or over twitter @mikebz.

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