Honeycomb has doubled in size since I joined less than 2 years ago. More people means we can do more things at the same time. Both “more people” and “more things at the same time” lead to increased overhead.
There’s coordination overhead to get timings right on work that’s independent. Like, to release a feature we need press releases from marketing, documentation ready to go, and functionality lined up behind a feature flag. We were first observability vendor to release natural language querying backed by ChatGPT (in May 2023), thanks to quick action by our engineering team and a concentrated effort from product marketing.
There’s collaboration overhead to get interrelated pieces working together. Design, product, and engineering don’t “coordinate,” they collaborate. They work together every day, on a single output. Independent work happens only in short spurts. Collaboration overhead gets unwieldy very fast. Our query assistant team had design+product+engineering in four people, and that’s why they could move so quickly.
Then there’s alignment overhead. Alignment means we all know why we’re doing this work. This shared understanding lets us make the thousand detailed decisions of the day in ways that support the real purpose of our shared effort. For query assistant, that alignment came from a single project manager, following values that Honeycomb articulates regularly. It helps that we have existing principles around AI, ML, and other computational cleverness: it augments human cognition. We make no effort to replace human decisions with automation; Honeycomb informs and executes human decisions.