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How to Motivate Your Dedicated Team to Work with Legacy Projects

Developers’ work is ambitious and challenging, and therefore exceptionally interesting, because they create the things that never existed before. However truth be told, the vast majority of large-scale heavyweight projects on the web are far from being their dream projects. About 90% of web developers’ work is searching through monster-size code-bases for the correct place to insert a couple of more lines of code, while avoiding damage to major dependencies. They only spend 10% of their time on the development of new features.

On the other hand, there are clients that want nothing else, but to keep their business-as-usual at a minimum cost, especially when their projects are based on it outsourcing engagement models. In many cases, companies seem to be satisfied with existing web solutions that more or less help to achieve their business goals. They do need development teams to support their solutions and occasionally add some new features, but let’s be honest, in most of the cases these tasks are not very inspiring for developers.

So, how to keep the whole thing working? Without engaging and challenging tasks web developers won’t get any better at what they do, and there’s a high risk they will become unmotivated, which may result in the entire business losing its competitive advantage.

We would like to suggest some viable strategies that will help to inspire your dedicated web development team and keep the business engine running.

It's all about maintaining balance

Tip #1: DO NOT overload your development team with routine tasks. If you keep them spending 90% of their time digging through the old code and not inventing something new, you won’t ever be able to keep your most talented web engineers from leaving.

The major secret of success is finding the right balance between activities for team stability. This is achieved by giving developers an appropriate mixture of routine tasks that make their life calm and confident and challenging tasks that keep their skills well-honed.

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50

regular tasks to support ongoing projects

50

challenging and engaging tasks

This approach has been tested by our managers. Once you start losing the balance towards reducing the amount of interesting tasks, negative vibes spreads within the team and it becomes more difficult to motivate staff.

If you start managing your complex projects applying this approach, your web development team will bring real value to these projects. As soon as you appeal to developers' creativity and give them time and space to think, they will result with great solutions in terms of performance, optimization and refactoring measures. And a demonstrated trust can make most of the tasks that seem to be ambitious and problematic, just a puzzle that can be fun to be cracked by the entire team.

If there is no purpose, invent one

Tip #2: If the project requires reworking the existing code base, make sure you spread the word about the value of your solution, and how it helps to transform the industry or people in the future. To say more, think twice before giving your team another piece of old code. Sometimes abandoning existing solutions can generate more value than they cause expenses for the company.

For many software developers the essence of their work is to create something meaningful, the things that could change the world and make it a better place, both technologically and socially. If they don’t feel like their expertise and experience contribute to bringing real value to the world, they may start losing enthusiasm. Companies that don’t realize this are going to miss out on attracting and retaining the best specialists in their field.

It is important for each developer to have a clear understanding of their role in the complete client story. Give them a big-picture view, explain the entire product roadmap and the future scalability strategy, so that your remote professionals realize the importance of their contribution to the project.

Being empowered to embrace the change

Tip #3: When there is a room for trust, development teams are extremely enthusiastic about finding the best way to achieve great results.

Software engineers should have the power to make decisions, or at least have access to someone who can make them. In simple words, one of the best ways to make programmers happy is to be involved in decision process. Although it’s product managers and business leaders who define the end objectives, and there might be certain guidelines and policies to be respected, the technical staff should be empowered to figure out how to implement changes. Where it is possible, it is always better to allow the tech team to make these decisions:

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Suggest the appropriate technology stack after evaluating the project requirements

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Propose things such as coding standards, processes, tools, and design decisions


It is a difficult work to constantly balance on the cutting edge of a swampy stability and uncertain innovation where 9 of 10 cases usually fail. So, it is a great pleasure for us when the projects that we work with evolve from the status quo of ‘yesterday’ to the state-of-the-art industry cases of today.

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