8 tips & tactics how to quickly onboard developers to a new project

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Starting off on the right foot is crucial for any project. Bad choices made in the beginning will trouble you during the whole journey. Today, we'll show you how to successfully onboard developers. Make sure you also check out our onboarding guide for product owners. Without further ado, let's explain how to pass along all information and create a team ready to smash goals in no time.

Our hands-on guide works flawlessly for onboarding a single developer or the whole dev team. It's natural that the team in every project assembles over time and is not ready from day one, but the sooner everyone is up to speed, the better. Why? Because onboarding in the project's early stages is much easier. People have time to get to know each other, and the complexity to take in is lower. Beginnings are also exciting, aren't they? Making developers feel involved will help to keep the motivation high when challenges arise. Not to mention that you will gain valuable feedback on initial product design and architecture.

Jimmy's note:

Onboarding a major part of the team in the later stages will most likely affect the project's velocity, team communication, product, and technical quality. Don't say we didn't warn you.

The onboarding effectiveness relies on the project leader – be it a product owner, a project manager, or a scrum master. Different parts of the process can be then assigned to PO, tech leads, architects, and others. The main goal of onboarding is to outline expectations you have from the team. People have different views and perspectives, but they have to be on the same page to build a prosperous product.

Never confuse people with vague statements and unclear fantasies. Instead, prepare a well-defined baseline that you can present. Don't know what to include? Here's our must-have list you need before onboarding:

  • Vision – Why do you develop a product?
  • Milestones – What are the milestones of the product?
  • Strategy – How does the product aim to achieve the vision?
  • Roadmap
  • Epics
  • User stories (usually in later stage onboarding)

If you wrote these down, not just keep them in your head, it's time to introduce developers to a project. Here's how:

Introduce the product vision and milestones

Start with Why. Never forget that a working product is the outcome of the whole team, not lines of code. Code is just a tool to achieve your product vision – building something without knowing why is a fast-track to errors and failure. If you can't set sharp goals, don't expect solutions that will lead you there.

Create a go-getting team

Teams with great interpersonal relationships perform better in every way, so pay attention to the chemistry. Devs should get along and know each other. Setting up a team early on allows you to identify weak spots and react if the team doesn't work well together.

Explain architecture and tech stack

Very important. This should be a domain of an architect, tech lead, CTO, or someone competent to introduce new devs to the tech part and answer all inquiries. If developers don't ask many questions in this stage, I always take it as a bad sign.

Connect developers with other stakeholders

Balancing between different stakeholders is undoubtedly a handy quality for a leader. Don't forget that developers are your stakeholders, and they should acknowledge other groups of stakeholders so they know who's behind the venture and who's calling the shots. Mutual trust helps along the way.

Draw a roadmap and set deadlines

Communicate your expectations and desired time frames openly with the team. Developers must know when you expect the core parts of the project to be finished. No matter what deadline you set, be prepared to see surprised and resigned faces. :D

Discuss processes & tools

Write down and present processes, rules, and tools you aim to use in the project initially. Developers will have time to adapt to them and give you feedback on what works for them and how they feel about it. Deploying processes early on will leave room for troubleshooting and continuous improvements.

Present Epics

Present the high-level product requirements upfront. Developers should learn about all prerequisites from the start so they can think contextually about their work and approach. Make clear what the priorities are.

Start with small tasks

This method works great for us and helps the developers embark on various projects immediately. Initial tasks should be small and easy to accomplish. Let developers try out the CI/CD, processes, tools, and project's behavior before assigning them more complex stuff. Large chunks of work on day one can be hard to swallow, and they'll make the developer immediately stuck. By starting small, you'll boost devs' confidence and motivation.

Alright, I hope you'll find this quick tutorial helpful. Early days are difficult in any project and company, no matter how big or small the team is. Use our tips, and your onboarding process will be more effective than ever.

In case you have any questions, reach out to me on my LinkedIn.
Martin, Co-founder

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