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InfoQ Homepage News QCon London: a Tale of Team Topologies at m3ter

QCon London: a Tale of Team Topologies at m3ter

At QCon London 2024, Ricardo Nuno Almeida spoke about adapting Team Topologies at m3ter, a company that helps B2B software scale-ups manage complex pricing by automating bill calculation.

Almeida, senior software engineering manager at m3ter, spoke about how adaptability proved crucial to success and ran through m3ter's journey of evolving team topologies to meet growth demands and changing priorities.

Ricardo Nuno Almeida, Senior Software Engineering Manager at m3ter, speaking at QCon London 2024

At its inception, m3ter operated with a stream-aligned, full-stack team topology similar to a Kanban system. This structure reflected the startup's early-stage dynamics, with feature requests primarily coming from sales. However, as the startup grew, this structure proved to be inadequate. Nine months post-launch, the team grappled with increasing complexities, leading to cognitive overload, and they realised that a single team couldn't effectively manage the burgeoning workload and diverse requirements.

In response, m3ter shifted to a feature-based split topology, distinguishing between software engineers and data engineers. Project Managers assumed pivotal roles in scoping, prioritising, and leading squads, which persisted as the longest-standing topology. This structure was initially successful, but the team soon uncovered a misguided assumption that the company could quickly reassess their data warehouse structure, a task that didn't fit well in the incumbent structure. As customer acquisition exceeded expectations, the data warehouse emerged as a bottleneck, hindering scalability. Efforts to rectify this involved scaling up resources, but more significant change was needed.

Do confirm that you have the right topology to deal with your current context.

Introducing an enabling squad dedicated to architectural innovation rather than feature development marked a significant turning point for m3ter and helped them solve this bottleneck. However, this initiative unintentionally led to fragmentation, with inconsistent methodologies and quality measurements across squads. Recognising the need for realignment, the company re-merged into a single stream-aligned squad. The appointment of an engineering manager was instrumental in streamlining processes, leading to the successful rollout of a new data architecture in early 2024, which immediately enhanced performance.

When squads see a roadmap from the product team and are involved in the discussion, trust builds, and teams operate more efficiently.

m3ter's journey of evolution continued with a strategic shift in team alignment. This time, the focus was on aligning teams according to strategic priorities, specifically on Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP). The company targeted customers using Salesforce as CRM and Netsuite, focusing on specific connectors. m3ter overhauled its customer onboarding and sales processes, emphasising solution design and deal review. This overhaul shifted the business from ad-hoc feature requests to a more coordinated and pragmatic approach.

If you're changing topology, make room for coordination roles.

Overall, the engineering team switched topologies four times. None of these were the wrong moves, as each change was a response to shifting priorities. The key takeaways from the talk were that the evolution of engineering topologies is not a sign of failure but a successful response to changes in the business. Almeida emphasises the importance of regularly reassessing and aligning team structures with organisational goals. Transparent communication and collaboration, facilitated by shared roadmaps and active involvement in decision-making processes, are fundamental to building trust and operational efficiency within teams.

In summary, Almeida explained how m3ter's journey demonstrates the iterative nature of organisational development, highlighting the importance of adaptability, collaboration, and strategic alignment in navigating the complexities of scaling a tech startup. M3ter's experience is a valuable case study for engineering teams navigating similar challenges.

The recording of Almeida's QCon London talk will be made available on InfoQ over the coming months.

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