Business

How to Develop your Digital Product When You Cannot Hire Anyone

For the last decade, the balance has been tipped firmly in favour of employees when it comes to the tech jobs market. A scarcity of engineering talent in the market meant that for software developers, opportunities were plentiful and salaries were high. A global, once in a generation recession has turned this on its head

BY 20.05.2020 4 minutes read

For the last decade, the balance has been tipped firmly in favour of employees when it comes to the tech jobs market. A scarcity of engineering talent in the market meant that for software developers, opportunities were plentiful and salaries were high.

A global, once in a generation recession has turned this on its head however and what was once a thriving environment for engineers has become a wilderness where many of the top companies such as Uber and Airbnb are making cuts, and there is a recruitment freeze across many others who are keen to see that the worst is over before considering hiring into new positions.

This creates a real dilemma for technology companies. On the one hand, there is still the requirement to develop their digital product, albeit on potentially revised terms. The engineering talent that they might have dreamed of is available on attractive terms, but they’ve been told that they cannot hire anyone. How do you ensure the continued development of your digital product, and the quality of your engineering team, when recruitment is well and truly on hold?

Look to the Future

While the forces that Airbnb and Uber are currently experiencing may not get much better any time soon, some industries may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For tech companies in healthcare, fintech and those that sell-in to the government there may be the potential to look to the future a little more optimistically, although even then it is still difficult to justify new hires to work on a project roadmap.

One potential solution is in “up levelling” their teams, where poorer performers are replaced with new talent that is entering the market. If you can balance the books and make a compelling business case, it might be possible to continue the development of your product with a more senior team in place to take it forward.

Meet New Demand

The phrase “the new normal” is being used to describe the world that we will all eventually return to when the crisis ends. But what will the new normal look like and how can the product that you are working on helping to facilitate this?

Fintechs may be uniquely positioned to meet the demands of the “new normal” by helping to facilitate credit to businesses, and monetary aid to individuals and they are even being encouraged to boost investment during this period given the potential of future opportunities.

While this is nice in theory, the reality is that investors are risk-averse and will be unlikely to want to increase investments during a period of high uncertainty. There may be some wriggle room for cash-rich fintechs that have recently come off the back of an investment round, but on the whole companies across all sectors will be facing the challenges of pivoting and adapting while keeping the same teams in place.

So what is the potential solution?

Agility

The “new normal” for technology companies will be built around agility, flexibility and the ability to successfully embrace new ways of working. It may include:

  • Adaptable roadmaps – pushing back and changing launch dates to meet changing customer demand and your internal abilities to build your digital product with the resources that you already have
  • Pivot – being able to adapt your product, introduce new features quickly and change based on new customer demand
  • Embrace remote working – yes, the time has finally come to fully embrace remote working. Every company will now have the processes in place to make it work (there’s more on this in our whitepaper on remote working), and this has opened up a new global workforce that you might previously not have had access to. Think you can’t hire anyone? Make sure you’re considering all of the hiring options that the new world has opened-up before making that decision
  • Embrace flexibility –  An adaptable roadmap designed to meet ever-changing customer demands within a financially tight period demands a flexible workforce. You might need to be resource-heavy for a series of sprints to launch a new feature, then return to more of a “maintenance mode” to keep things ticking over in between these periods. Tech companies should look to how they structure their teams and whether the use of external partners can offer a more cost-effective way of managing fluctuating demand for resources without having to heavily invest in full-time teams

Sharpen-up Internal Processes

If whichever way you spin it, there’s absolutely no way in which you can restructure your team and add flexibility for the foreseeable future, you may be forced to see how you can squeeze more output from existing (or even diminished) teams.

One way of doing this might be to evaluate the success of your existing remote working practices and see if more efficiencies can be driven through improved processes.

While some companies are making the return to the office, the reality for many others is that remote working is set to become a permanent feature. While some of the bigger boys such as Google have remote working practices baked-in to the way they operate, it’s a lot newer for some other companies.

Look at how you can improve the efficiency of your Scrums, improve collaborative working, open-up channels of communication, so people don’t feel isolated and stuck on a problem and take a look at what productivity tools are out there that might help you to facilitate this. While it’s not ideal, taking a look at how you operate remotely now might not only help you to continue development of your product in the short term but also make you a more attractive prospect for new remote talent in the future.

It’s a tough time for everyone and the tech sector is no different. There are considerable pressures on engineering teams to deliver with fewer resources, and developers are facing an uncertain future. But there is always an opportunity to take a look at how you operate internally, how you recruit and how you manage your teams. If you can’t invest in restructuring your team, invest in updating your processes, making yourselves more efficient and ensure your product has the flexibility to adapt to an ever-changing market place.

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About Vacuumlabs

Vacuumlabs provides teams of flexible software engineers and designers with years of experience building fintech, online marketplaces, and digital products. Every step of the way, Vacuumlabs experts collaborate with clients, so that they can move fast, learn and iterate as they build world-class products together.

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