21 Apr 2022

Guilds – bureaucratic red tape or a highly valuable organizational model

With the guild model gaining popularity among companies of all shapes and sizes, some may wonder if it’s just an overly hyped idea, that owes its popularity to Spotify. Well, we are positive that it’s a lot more than that. Guilds can provide value to every party involved, and in this text, we want to illustrate that by using our own example. Keep reading to learn the basics about guilds, the reasons why we decided to implement them and the benefits that guilds deliver to our employees, clients and our company.     

Guilds 101    

Before taking a look at the value that comes from implementing guilds into an organization’s structure, let’s illustrate what these are.  The driving force behind software guilds is to develop competencies of people in given specializations by providing opportunities for growth, exchanging knowledge from projects (to eliminate silos within an organization) and building close-knit communities that encourage best practices. Embraced by market leaders like the already mentioned Spotify, this approach is taking the software development world by storm. But what’s behind this term?   

In general, a guild is a group of people who work in different teams/squads/projects, but at the same time share specializations and interests. The guilds might be more general like Frontend or Backend, or more specific ie. Java Guild, .Net Guild, QA Guild, Data Science Guild, and so on, depending on your particular situation. The picture below illustrates an example.

Guilds

This approach is especially valuable in large organizations where the number of feature/project teams is big and people are dispersed – making it harder for them to discuss problems, exchange knowledge and develop themselves. And that is exactly what guilds help with, as ”places” for people with similar scopes of work to meet and grow. With guild leader support, guild members might undergo a number of activities, like simple knowledge sharing sessions, through more complex discussions focused on a particular subject to testing new tools and approaches. But developing technical knowledge is not the end of the story. Guilds should make it easier for their members to grow in other professional and personal ways. For example, crafting articles or giving talks at conferences/meetups will help them broaden their soft skills as well, which also support the Employer Branding initiatives companies are undertaking 

What’s more, guilds also provide a chance to get quick help when faced with a challenge. Since all members have more or less similar scopes of work, its highly likely that someone had a problem before and knows how to deal with it, or, if the situation is more demanding, a brainstorm could be organized to ensure that the challenge won’t turn into an obstacle that jeopardizes the entire project.    

At the same time, it’s worth remembering that while guilds have a kind of formal structure and goals that should be agreed on, over-formalizing them is a road to nowhere. As the guild’s goal is to help its members grow and share knowledge, it’s best to discuss with them what they want and plan accordingly. But rather than theorize, let’s see what Tomasz Krakowczyk, our Software Delivery Director responsible for this initiative, has to say about making the most out of it:   

“The first critical success factor for a guild is finding the right leader, who has specialist domain knowledge (e.g. Java) and competencies in building the involvement of guild communities (e.g. Java communities of practices).

The second important factor is empowerment and actions based on the positive, intrinsic motivation of guild members. Guild communities independently and autonomously decide what they focus on as part of their activities; the goals they set for themselves and how they want to achieve these goals. This element is important and at the same time, it seems obvious. – Members of the guild community are domain experts and know best what they need to develop their professional skillsets and grow. As a result, they know best how they can deliver business value to clients in the future.”

The value of guilds   

Even a brief description of guilds should already make it clear the significant advantages they deliver. But let’s take a more detailed look at the various groups that benefit from such structures.   

1/ Employees    

Looking at our experience and industry reports, engineers are a group that wants to constantly grow their skills and thrive. And that’s one of the reasons why they want to become guild members and consider it a valuable addition to other benefits. Having the chance to enhance their skills and share experiences with other domain experts is one of the most effective ways to increase knowledge and become better and better. What’s more, the previously mentioned ability to talk through potential problems also boosts the general work atmosphere. Knowing that you will not be left alone with a problem significantly reduces the stress associated with potential difficulties.  

2/ Clients   

For a company like ours, the quality of our offer depends solely on our people – their skills and experiences are what define the value of our services. Thus, the better people we work with, the better we can support our clients in turning their goals into deliverables. Organizing guilds helps us with this. The software development world is constantly evolving and standing still means falling behind those who keep up with all the latest innovations and continue to grow. Providing our experts with another chance to grow, besides “classic’ ones like organizing workshops or funding conference tickets, benefits them and our clients who they work for on a daily basis, as throughout the cooperation they not only expand their expertise related to a particular product, but also their core skills. That’s why, when you’re looking for a long-term development partner, you should add verifying if the company provides their people development opportunities to your checklist. This way you’ll know that over time, your external team will only be getting better. 

3/ Organization    

For all companies even partially involved in software development, hiring and retaining the best talents is an enormous challenge. With extreme shortages of developers all over the globe, the ability to have stable teams built with experienced people is one of the biggest competitive advantages a company might have. And guilds help with that. As everyone knows, wages are not the only thing that keeps your employees with you – after all there will always be a company willing to pay more 😉. Thus, giving our talents another chance to grow makes us more competitive on the market since we have top-notch specialists who are always up to date with all the latest innovations. It also supports all the efforts we put into recruitment and employee retention, as our goal is to be a place where people want to work, not just for financial incentives, but also because they know Sofware Mind is a place where they can develop themselves. 

And how does it all look from the inside? There’s no better way to find out than to hear from Mateusz Mnich, a Senior Software Engineer and the Java Guild Master:   

“First of all, it’s worth mentioning that the Java Guild was introduced by employees, for employees.

We drive the growth of the company and employees and support employer branding initiatives by cooperating with universities, where we lead lectures, workshops and even help with accreditations. Everyone can join our team. Java Guild supports people through external and internal trainings.

I believe that if we can give people something that allows them to develop, these people will then pay back this investment by sharing their acquired knowledge and skills, which is very important in cooperation with international clients and through this we can build a Software Mind community. What are our current tasks? Whatever a members want! Java Guild supports multifaceted growth. What does it mean? Every employee grows in their projects by solving their project-related tasks. But we want something more and, as a Guild we share knowledge between projects and departments. We have special teams that work on different pillars, with every pillar having its own tasks. What kind of tasks? Whatever our teams want, as long as it helps with their or the company’s growth! 😊

Since developers know best what they need, we can create tailor-made personal development paths that maximize growth. This is something that distinguishes us from other companies. Anyone who is passionate about development is welcome to participate and contribute!”

Get all the benefits of a guild by working with a reliable development partner    

Guilds, like all employee development-related initiatives, require investment – both in time and money, yet, as should be clear by now, the return that follows makes it worth the effort. But if you want to obtain all guild benefits and make sure that the people you work with are constantly developing the skills and knowledge you don’t need to organize everything on your own. Instead, you can reach out to a software development company that has implemented this model, and add it to the list of software development outsourcing benefits! If you want to learn more about this model of cooperation and discuss whether it can help you grow your operations, fill in the contact form below – our experts are happy to share their experience and help you find the best way of boosting your development capacity.   

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