Large corporations are under increasing pressure to innovate and adapt. At the same time, they have to face industry slowdowns and the need to downsize their teams.
The solution here may be utilizing venture teams and leveraging the knowledge of experienced remote teams – development agencies, which have worked on various projects and may enhance creativity and innovation during the development.
However, kickstarting a corporate venture development team is vastly different from launching other projects in the enterprise. It involves exploring new business models, experimenting with emerging technologies, and testing new markets. And as a result, it requires a high degree of autonomy, agility, and flexibility.
The development team needs to be able to quickly iterate, pivot, and experiment with new ideas while adhering to corporate standards and guidelines. Additionally, collaboration with external vendors, adds another layer of complexity to the development process.
In this article, we will discuss how to establish a set of unified standards to:
- streamline processes,
- reduce technical debt,
- and ensure seamless collaboration between the in-house team and external vendors.
We will explore the importance of conducting an assessment of the existing practices, setting the standards, and ensuring that they are compatible with the existing ones and used internally.
By following these steps, you can build a successful corporate venture development team that operates efficiently and effectively, with reduced friction and increased collaboration.
Unified standards are a real superpower in collaboration with external agencies. They are particularly helpful when something goes wrong. Suddenly, there’s no room for misunderstanding and pushing the blame from one team to another.
In other words, clear standards and processes are made to remove the human factor. And we all know that it’s sometimes hard to spot, or articulate.
Think of how hard it is to find a real problem with someone that is trying to prove that it was not his fault. What if we push the fault to standards, instead of people?
These standards don’t need to be perfect in every detail. They are here to help us deliver the value we expect as efficiently as possible.
A reliable agency should have expertise in establishing unified standards and be able to proactively lead this process. They can share their existing criteria or create new ones, depending on the project’s requirements and compatibility with your internal practices.
“Our extensional experience in multiple software development environments and knowledge in processes led us to perfectly adapt to specific workflows of our partners and find any upgrades to it we could recommend.”Adam Chyliński, Senior Project Manger
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Finding a balance between the company requirements and the efficient development process is crucial. While high-quality code is essential, overly strict standards can slow down productivity. Striking the compromise ensures code quality without unnecessary obstacles.
In corporate venture building projects, the use of new and innovative technologies increases many risks. As a result, it’s essential to have clear and consistent coding standards in place.
Coding standards help ensure that the development process runs smoothly and minimise the risks of budget overruns and bugs in the final product. They can also guarantee that the code is readable, maintainable, and scalable.
They usually cover topics such as project structure (e.g., how the project is organised and divided into smaller components), naming conventions (e.g., how variables and functions are named, where we use capital letters), code formatting (e.g., how the code is structured and presented), and ways of using Gitflow/Github (e.g., how branches are created and managed). Adhering to these greatly influences the consistency across the development team and simplifies the code review process, thus increasing efficiency and productivity.
“In everyday work, we follow high code standards that are imprinted in our company culture, but on the customer requests we set supplementary standards that answer their internal protocols and provide them with an additional protection shield”.Jakub Dakowicz, JS Team Leader
One approach to enforce coding standards is to use automated code reviews. Those can help identify and correct errors and inconsistencies in the code. Regular code audits can also ensure that the norms are being followed and that the code is of high quality.
Here are the main code review standards we follow in each and every project:
Communication Standards between the corporate venture development team and the agency
Clear and open communication channels seem to be a no-brainer in the success of corporate venture development teams that involve collaboration with external vendors.
And yet, the number one reason why our clients changes providers to us was related to poor communication.
To promote effective information flow, you can establish even simple guidelines for communication. For example, encourage the use of public channels, such as Slack or Jira, for discussing important matters. This ensures that conversations and decisions are documented and easily accessible for reference.
By having a public record, tracing back any changes in the project is much easier. In our experience, a clear rule is to avoid private and unrecorded conversations about the project. Thanks to that you may lower the number of misunderstandings and unspotted conflicts.
As a CTO, you can highlight the importance of public communication and set expectations for documenting discussions and changes in the project management tools. Encourage team members to provide updates, share progress, and address any concerns openly. By establishing this practice, you create a culture of transparency and accountability within the corporate venture development team.
By implementing clear communication standards and promoting public communication channels, the corporate venture development team can minimise misunderstandings, track changes effectively, and ensure a collaborative and cohesive work environment.
“Of course, we know that the CTO working on innovations is usually extremely busy and may not have time to communicate with us on a regular basis. How do we manage that?
We provide regular project updates, highlighting key milestones, challenges, and decisions that require their attention in a digestible format. By that, we can make it easier for the CTO to review and provide necessary approvals.
If there are Product Owners who can coordinate communication, we actively engage with them. By doing this, we can leverage their support in facilitating contact and obtaining timely responses from the CTO.
And in bigger projects, where we may need ongoing decisions and know that may have problems in reaching out to CTO on a regular basis, we want to streamline decision-making early in the process.
We work with the CTO to establish a well-defined procedure, which may include specifying decision criteria where he must be involved, outlining roles and responsibilities for other team members we would cooperate with, and setting deadlines for feedback. By providing a structured framework, we can reduce the CTO’s involvement.”Michał Wigda, Project Management Team Leader
Ways of work
A clear and consistent approach to work is yet another essential part of effective cooperation between teams.
For example, if the project follows an Agile methodology, everyone in the team should understand the key principles and ceremonies, such as daily stand-ups, sprint planning, and retrospectives. This makes it easier to collaborate on tasks, track progress, and identify any issues that may arise.
When it comes to task management tools like Jira or Teamwork, a well-defined workflow that is understood by everyone can streamline the development process. Proper use of Epics, Tasks, and Subtasks can help you break down large assignments into smaller, more manageable pieces. And make it easier to track progress and identify any potential issues.
A well-defined task status system will support effective project management, just make sure to define it before the development. By establishing clear labels, such as “To Do,” “In Progress,” “Review,” and “Completed,” you can easily track the progress of tasks and understand their current status.
Set the rule for developers to consistently update tasks. This is how they provide visibility into project progress and facilitate coordination. By using the statuses properly, you can maintain clarity and transparency. And due to this, make informed decisions based on accurate information.
Here you can see how we set a task structure in cooperation with one of our clients. By doing this we ensured that both our and the customer’s internal team created the tasks likewise. This made our cooperation smoother and let our Project Manager focus on determining and delegating the tasks.
Definition of Done
A clear definition of done is of utmost importance. It sets clear expectations and criteria for when a task or project can be considered complete, ensuring alignment between the development agency and the internal team.
Regularly reviewing and updating the project scope is equally crucial to accommodate evolving requirements and avoid scope creep. This helps maintain focus, manage resources effectively, and deliver successful outcomes within the project’s constraints.
Support and feedback for internal developers
While leading a corporate venture development team, you should provide your internal developers with the support and feedback they need to excel. One way to achieve this is by working with a development agency that provides your team with the necessary resources and expertise. It should be able to offer your team ongoing support and feedback, including training and coaching, code reviews, and best practices for software development.
During retrospective sessions, which are often run during the projects, client teams have the opportunity to reflect on their collaboration with the development agency and identify areas for improvement. These sessions serve as a valuable platform for sharing wide agency knowledge and insights to enhance internal venture processes.
This knowledge can be transferred to other client teams who may not directly collaborate with us on the project, creating opportunities for growth throughout the whole organization. While our direct contact with the CTO may be limited, the product teams we work with can leverage our experience and share it for mutual enrichment and improvement.
Many teams have problems discussing frustrations or obstacles during the project, especially while working with other experts. It often happens because they don’t want to step out of line or show any lack of knowledge.
And that’s why problem-solving sessions are helpful. During those, without any judgement, the team members can openly talk about the pain points without feeling guilty, and the whole team can identify and overcome potential issues early on. Additionally, problem-solving sessions can help improve development speed and encourage the internal team to take ownership of the project in the future.
Especially during corporate venture building projects, which involve new, innovative technologies and require a greater level of risk-taking and experimentation, problem-solving sessions may be very valuable.
Sessions can be even more effective when run by an experienced development agency that is well-versed in the latest technologies and best practices. Such an agency can guide the internal team and ensure that all parties are on the same page.
How do we do this
Lately, we run a problem-solving session for one of our customers, who provide proofreading services for clients around the world. We were working collaboratively with their internal team on the new product release and decided that such a session would be beneficial, especially because the internal team were about to take over the maintenance of the whole project in the future.
We spread the session into two stages. During the first one members from both teams could report concerns they fell into during the development, and together we were looking into them to find the heart of the problem.
The second stage started with the anonim survey where everyone evaluated the problems pointed out during the first session. Together we decided which of them was the most urgent and we were looking for the solution.
“This session helps me realize that there are some burning issues in the cooperating team that we didn’t even discuss internally. Thanks to that I could change the way I work to avoid them in the future”.Daniel Niżyński, React Native Developer at Pagepro
Problem-solving sessions can help build a strong and motivated team that is willing to take on new challenges and push the boundaries of what is possible. By encouraging a culture of experimentation and learning, the corporate venture development team can become more innovative and agile. And that can help the company stay ahead of the competition.
In conclusion, building a successful corporate venture development team requires a clear vision, open communication, and effective collaboration between the internal team and an experienced development agency. Clear coding standards and a consistent approach to work are essential for mitigating risks and achieving the project goals. Providing support and feedback to the team members can help them learn new skills and become more efficient in their work.
By following these best practices and embracing a culture of experimentation and learning, corporate venture development teams can stay ahead of the competition and create innovative products that drive the company’s growth.
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