Notes on Managing a Flash Dev Team

This is a basic check list of stuff a Manager of a Flash Developer team needs to know/do. Hopefully, this could be helpful  to anyone who manages other Front End, Rich Media or similar user interface-oriented Developer teams.

For the purposes of this article, a Manager is the person who has a bunch of Flash Developers reporting to her and the Department Head calls you when stuff breaks, when clients have a sudden heart attack over something they forgot needed to go live yesterday, etc. Ideally, you’re also the person to whom Project Managers come before they assign any work to any Flash Developer on your team. Even more ideal (or idealistic? =) ), you’re the person Creative comes to for feasibility assessment/feedback before they design stuff to work a certain way (or not) and before they sell it to Clients or other departments.

Managing digital assets / source files

  • have a weekly check in w/ your team regarding the latest source files for each of their projects
  • use SVN for deployment files (SWF, xml, images, videos that users/clients/customers see as part of the end product)
  • enforce either a very organized folder naming & creation convention or something like Adobe’s Version Cue for all team coding/production assets
  • try to negotiate a .PSD delivery protocol w/the Creative team so that PSD Layers/ folders are clearly labeled
  • in return for the above try to give Creative as much as possible of what they want when it comes to functionality, animation, bells & whistles, etc (within possible tech specs)

Managing the Project Managers

  • if you don’t, your team will be easily overwhelmed with projects, some will be working light, while others are slammed all the time
  • while fire drills are sometimes unavoidable, try to stick to allocated t
  • it’s not always the PM’s fault — they get evaluated based on how quickly they get others to get their projects done and yet they themselves can’t do the actual work
  • a PM once told me: “once we find a developer who’s good, we try to get them to do all of our projects” — while understandable,  this can leave certain people on your team overworked on a regular basis, which may cause talent retention problems, to say the  least.
  • try to negotiate a workflow with the PM’s where all of your team members’ hours get assigned through you – this will reduce the impact of the the above
  • have a weekly allocations meeting with all PM’s – this way they each know what the other is trying to get your limited crew to do and priorities can be set/negotiated – note, your developers don’t need to be at this meeting, let them do the actual work, while you handle this planning part

Vacation Planning for Flash Dev team Managers

  • really tough to plan time-wise (in many cases, you end up having to be reachable by phone or email, even on vacation)
  • make sure the person filling in for you has: all your logins/passwords (write ’em on paper, to avoid emailing/IM’ing sensitive data)
  • find out if anything is launching while you’re away – get related work done before you leave / at least write detailed instructions
  • make sure all potential source files for everything are up to date and can be easily found by others

Managing your boss

  • try to keep current on all projects handled by your team for that one time you get a late night or weekend call asking you “what’s going on with XYZ?”
  • understandably,  the above can be tough, especially, when your entire life seems to revolve around going to meetings
  • try to fit in a weekly status meeting w/ your team – try doing at least an occasional code review, so that the junior guys can learn from the senior guys

When to step in

  • if the process falls off the rails – for example, PM’s allow Creative to make 20 rounds of changes after development has already started. It’s reasonable to expect Creative feedback but at some point things just have to get done and the PM needs to either set a cut off point for feedback or change the project time line.

To be continued / appended / edited as time permits…

Most of the time Developers have to work late, not because of the work itself  but due to insufficient or incorrect planning and workflow organization within the company or team. While there are always times when working 24-7 is important for a Developer (when learning a new language or debugging a particularly stubborn app originally written by someone else), most people want to and are able to get their work done well, on time and without having to live at your desk like a one-dimensional drone.

This is mainly a quick check list for myself, but any constructive comments, suggestions or shared experiences are totally welcome, just use the comments section below.

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