Blending Engineering Teams

If you are considering a headless Content Management System (CMS) for your new website, you may be looking forward to the opportunity to power apps, internal kiosks, intranets, and your website from the same data source. While redoing multiple applications at the same time is a big lift, a benefit of a headless CMS is that multiple teams can work in parallel to develop different contexts in which data from your new CMS will appear.

Opting for an agency partner when developing your new website can supercharge your team’s abilities. The agency team powers up your team’s skillset by passing on their knowledge that comes from multiple projects in the technology stack you’re using for your new website. Even if your team is fairly familiar with your new website framework, increasing team size by adding agency staff speeds up the development process.

Take advantage of these benefits and minimize any drawbacks to integrating your internal team with your agency team by giving some extra thought to planning before your project kicks off.

Envision your Handoff

As you structure your combined team, work backward from your end goal. What is the relationship between your internal team and agency team when your scope of work is complete?

Consider the following futures:

  • One team manages your marketing website, performing regular maintenance and implementing new features
  • Another team focuses on application and internal communication development using data from your new headless CMS

If one or both teams are internal after your first phase of work with the agency is complete, you’ll want to structure the joint team in a way that sets them up for success in future endeavors.

An internal team focused on app development using the CMS, but less interested in the implementation of your website, should be engaged with the agency team during content modeling. This will help the agency team define your content model in a way that all planned applications can ingest. If your internal team will only be concerned with non-website applications, they can then move on from working directly with the agency team to focusing on their own projects.

An internal team planning to be engaged during website development may wait to work with the agency team until content modeling is complete, keeping them available to other internal projects until their components are ready to be developed for the new site.

Ensure quality and consistency

Professional development for the software engineers on your team can be a major benefit to integrating your team with ours. Both teams are likely already passing on internal knowledge through code reviews and pair programming. Even if your sole motivator in working with an agency is increasing your staff power, team development lets your team focus on learning the infrastructure of the new website while our team is accountable for code reviews and consistency.

For one recent client moving from a traditional CMS to a headless CMS and a website built using Gatsby’s frontend framework, MBB’s team reviewed all code prior to merging it into the codebase during development. In these code reviews, we were able to discuss (and enforce) standards and patterns used in the development of the site and pass on our knowledge of Gatsby, which was new to the client’s team.

The entire codebase was available to the client’s team from the start of the process. For some more complex components, we encouraged a secondary code review by the client’s team so that they could ask any questions they had about the logic and development of that piece well before taking over responsibility for the website.

Consider your strengths

While your agency partner brings new skillsets to the project, your internal team’s involvement offers opportunities for cost savings as well. Your engineers are familiar with your internal processes, so take advantage of the efficiency they bring when developing components for your new site that rely on integrations with your existing APIs.

If you do plan to use your new headless CMS as the data source for internal projects, your team can help define content models in the new system that will replicate or improve the models in legacy data sources.

Your team also understands the internal workings of your business or organization. They may be able to use their relationships with coworkers to speed up collection of assets and information. Of course, sometimes it’s helpful to have someone external to the organization asking. In that case, our team is here, too.

When it’s time to launch, your team knows your hosting or server environment and can make well-informed decisions about how you should deploy the new website.

Likewise, you may consider what does not need to be a strength of your team—like scaffolding the codebase for the new website or migrating content from the old CMS to your new one. Rely on our agency’s depth of knowledge about the frameworks and CMSs we work with most often to guarantee your project is configured correctly and your data is audited, cleaned up, and imported.

Think long-term

As our teams work side-by-side, we set up communication channels to form a solid working relationship between our team and yours. During past projects, we have hosted daily standups attended by our team and our client’s team and set up a dedicated Slack instance that allowed for regular, asynchronous communication between engineers, project managers, and account managers on the project.

In lieu of a maintenance retainer when the project is complete, former clients have chosen to continue our relationship through a consulting agreement. Because of their work with our team during development, their engineers managed the minor changes we would expect to see during a maintenance retainer. Instead, they reached out to our team for consultation on bigger challenges to figure out the best way to implement new features.

When working with your internal team, our goal is to support your engineers in gaining the knowledge and confidence to be able to take over for us after launch, whether that means expanding the functionality of your website or enjoying the flexibility of your new CMS as they work on your next project.

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