On The Bench: Prepping Agile Teams for Short-Term Projects

Finding quality talent that possesses the right skills sets in Latin America is currently a challenging prospect, even more so for software development firms with tight customer deadlines. …

Jaguar Labs Team Agile

Finding quality talent that possesses the right skills sets in Latin America is currently a challenging prospect, even more so for software development firms with tight customer deadlines. Even when companies already have the talent, they still need to find ways to efficiently spread their resources across multiple projects, particularly when offering agile development services.

Marcelo Lopez UruIT
Marcelo López: “Having a bench team is the best way we have found to commit to a project quickly while not compromising on quality.”

Headquartered in Montevideo, Uruguay, development firm UruIT has a core agile team available for new projects at all times. This team is essentially “on the bench” as Marcelo López, Co-founder of UruIT puts it. “This is the best way we have found to commit to a project quickly while not compromising on quality,” he explained. “You can always recruit people and train them, but there is risk involved in that approach because you are bringing in external people that might not be fully prepared for it.”

For technologies that are not part of their core capabilities, UruIT sometimes brings in external contractors for short-term projects, but typically the company keeps 10% of its human resource capacity on the bench for these situations. If there are no active projects for them, the bench team focuses on training, catching up on new technologies, and working on internal projects. Whenever that bench team is assigned to an incoming project, then UruIT reassigning existing hires to restock the bench, as well as beginning a new hiring process.

Web and app development firm Jaguar Labs, located in Guadalajara, Mexico, also employs a bench system, but on a smaller scale. Its main approach is to pay close attention to when projects are being finished, in order to monitor who will be available at any given time. “We have a large pool of engineers available to react quickly to projects with fast turnaround,” said Genaro A. Fernández, founder and CEO of Jaguar Labs. “With very little notice, it’s possible to start a project with a few engineers, but can still take two or three weeks to get the full team assembled. We might sometimes take resources from long-term projects and move them to short-term projects if need be, eventually replacing them when we find the right people.”

Expediting the Interview Process

Candidates typically lose interest in a potential role if the interview process takes too long, so in order to expedite the interview process, UruIT performs screening interviews where candidates are told in advance about what skills they are expected to display. “We send them a coding test as homework and give them the time they need to complete it; completion time for the test is not particularly important, but them providing insight into their coding methodologies and showcasing their abilities is vital,” said López.

The hiring process is at least two weeks, but can take up to four or six weeks to hire the right people, even with a large network of candidates and contractors, according to López. This is because of the many stages to an interview, with two or three candidate meetings in the first two weeks and one or two weeks for the candidate to transition from a previous role. It can also take longer when specific technologies are required. This is why UruIT uses the bench strategy, to ensure people are brought on earlier and can fulfill the projects sooner.

Genaro Fernandez Jaguar Labs
Genaro Fernández: “Demand for talent is very high, so you have to be a specialized company and compete with culture and how you take care of employees.”

Jaguar Labs has a much shorter interview process that can be completed in a matter of days. “Our HR department has years of experience in understanding how to match candidate skill sets with customer needs, which helps to expedite the process” said Fernández. “We do online and phone interviews to ensure a cultural fit, then ask them to perform some tests that apply to the skills we are searching for, before inviting them to the site for a face-to-face interview.” Jaguar Labs sometimes also hires contractors or freelancers for certain short-term projects. If these projects become more long-term, then the company will attempt to hire that talent on a permanent basis.

Sign up for our Nearshore Americas newsletter:

Country-specific Challenges

Having operations in both Uruguay and Colombia, López is able to compare the challenges of building these teams in both nations. “The talent pool in Colombia is a bit larger, but it takes more time to find the right people with the right experience than it does in Uruguay, but it also depends on the technology skills you are looking for,” he explained. “I think Uruguay is more mature in terms of the IT talent pool due to outsourcing and the high level of IT education, compared to Argentina, for example. However, it’s a smaller talent pool because the population of Uruguay is only a fraction of the size of Colombia’s, so it takes more interviews to find the right people in Colombia.”

Through connections with universities in Nuevo Leon, Guanajuato, Colima, and Jalisco, as well as job site postings and “baskets” of resources with specific skills to tap into, Jaguar Labs finds it fairly easy to hire new staff, but is still noticing the strain of talent shortage in Mexico. “It’s getting harder and harder, particularly in Guadaljara, where lots of big companies like Oracle and Intel are soaking up all the best engineers,” said Fernández. “The demand is very high so you have to be a specialized company and compete with culture and how you take care of employees. If you do that, then finding people at short notice is not a problem.”

According to Fernández, low employee rotation is very hard to accomplish in Guadalajara due to the less-than-honorable practices of other development firms. “Sometimes a company will give a signing bonus to drop a job on Friday and join them on Monday. This is bad practice because you leave the project hanging and upset the customers, so I want to encourage companies to be aware that these practices affect our international reputation, shooting ourselves in the foot as an industry.”

Tags

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

JOIN THE CONVERSATION