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How to organise a software development team

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The success of any software development project heavily depends on the structure and organisation of the team working on it. While some projects succeed, others fail due to differences in team structure and how tasks and responsibilities are distributed among members. Careful planning and efficient collaboration among internal team members and any external parties involved are essential for driving these projects forward. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a set of tips to help improve your team’s productivity in software development efforts.

By optimising the team’s structure, properly allocating roles and responsibilities, fostering effective collaboration, and employing efficient planning practices, you are more likely to proceed smoothly and yield high-quality results.

Finding the right software development teams

Assembling an in-house team requires hiring full-time employees, which may require opening new offices or expanding existing facilities. One primary challenge in this approach is the potential scarcity of local experts with the required skills and expertise. Even after successfully building an in-house team, another challenge arises as the organisation becomes responsible for legal obligations, payroll, taxes, and recruiting additional specialists to manage these administrative areas.

Maintaining an in-house office and workforce entails significant responsibilities. It requires thorough planning and the ability to adapt if the project’s direction changes, its scope decreases, or if there’s a need to pause for additional funding. Unsurprisingly, this option is typically the most costly, particularly for startups aiming to develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). When estimating the budget, you should account for expenses related to recruitment, salaries, taxes, office leasing, and the costs of hardware and software.

Software developers successful development team software architect product manager problem solving skills direct feedback tech lead UI designers agile principles user stories manual testing

For enterprises with a long-term plan for software development, creating an in-house team can be a suitable strategy, even for developing an MVP. The advantage of this approach is the high level of control it offers. If your project requires continuous oversight of each team member, optimal communication, and anticipates frequent changes in development direction, establishing an in-house team may be the best option.Конец формы

If you have the capability to act as a technical lead and system architect, or if you have a technically adept partner, hiring remote experts for specific roles could be a viable strategy. However, the main challenge with this approach is the necessity of having a clear and well-defined vision of the product you aim to build, including all its features, technology stack, and initial designs like prototypes or mockups. Additionally, you will be responsible for coordinating and managing all freelance professionals independently, a role that demands considerable management skills and effort.

The hourly rates for freelancers involved in developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) can vary widely, ranging from $15 to $150, depending on factors such as geographical location, level of expertise, experience, project complexity, and others. Therefore, it’s important to carefully evaluate and select the appropriate freelancers based on your project requirements and budget constraints.

The potential disadvantages of relying on freelancers include:

  • Freelancers often work on multiple projects simultaneously, which might dilute their engagement and dedication to your product management.
  • Establishing and coordinating a remote team from scratch can be daunting, especially in terms of fostering effective communication among various independent experts.
  • Achieving high-quality outcomes may be more challenging compared to other methods, given the inherent difficulties in coordinating disparate freelancers.
  • Taking over oversight over freelancers is generally less effective than managing in-house teams or dedicated remote employees.
  • The impact of these factors could potentially increase the risk level for your product’s success relative to other organisational models.

 

Given these considerations, while hiring freelancers offers flexibility and the potential for cost savings, it also requires a well-thought-out strategy and robust management to mitigate these risks.

Choosing an outsourcing vendor

Collaborating with an outsourcing vendor offers numerous benefits, including cost efficiency, access to advanced technologies (AI, ML, Blockchain), and skilled experts. Additionally, it provides flexibility and scalability to adapt to changing project demands. However, when considering this approach, it’s important to choose a partner with a proven track record, as evidenced by stellar reviews on platforms like Clutch and positive references from their former clients.

product team product development team strong development team product development teams

It’s important to remember that outsourcing, by itself, is not a fit-for-all solution; it yields the best results when:

  • There is clear and effective communication between your internal team and the outsourcing partner.
  • Roles, responsibilities, and expectations are well-defined and mutually understood from the outset.
  • Processes and methodologies are aligned to ensure seamless collaboration.
  • There is a strong focus on quality assurance and adherence to agreed-upon standards.
  • Proactive risk management and planning are in place to mitigate potential issues.

When choosing an outsourcing partner, always prioritise maximum involvement, proactive engagement, and a deep understanding of your business vision and goals. A vendor that demonstrates these qualities is more likely to contribute meaningfully to your project’s success and align with your long-term objectives.

Key factors behind a software development team structure

When conceptualising the structure of a software development team, ensure that it mirrors key considerations.

The type and complexity of your project

Before embarking on the recruitment process, it’s important to define the scope of your project clearly. For instance, if your goal is to create a product prototype, a small team of 3 members might be enough. However, if your ambition is to launch a high-performing application with multiple features and third-party integrations, you’ll need to expand your team to accommodate the project’s larger scale. Here are a few insights into how the scope of a project and the structure of a software development team might interrelate

Project scope/stage Team size Team roles
Up to 4 experts
Product owner, project manager, software architect, UI/UX designer
6+ experts
Product owner, project manager, business analyst, UI/UX designer, software engineers, test engineers
Agile: usually up to 9 experts; if a project is large-scale, a few teams may work together.

Waterfall: team size is not limited; the specific FTE will depend on the complexity of an application
Product owner, project manager, business analyst, UI/UX designer, software architect, software engineers, test engineers

The project timeline

The speed at which you intend to bring your product to market also plays a key role in determining the structure and size of your team. It’s simple: having fewer team members might extend the timeline required to complete the project. Thus, if you envision a cutting-edge product that requires development from scratch and you’re operating under a tight deadline, you may need to assemble a larger team of senior engineers or a versatile group of full-stack engineers.

The budget

The budget you have significantly influences every decision you make—from the number of team members you can afford to hire to the level of expertise of the specialists you can onboard and even the complexity of your product upon completion. To cut down project costs without compromising quality during the early stages of development, you might consider adopting one of the Agile project management methodologies.

Define the roles & responsibilities

Before assembling a software development team, you should define its structure and delineate the principal responsibilities of each member. At a minimum, every software development team should comprise a lead role and various specialised roles.

Depending on the project’s scope and complexity, additional roles such as business analysts, database administrators, or technical writers may be incorporated into the team structure.

By clearly defining the roles and responsibilities from the outset, you can establish a well-organised and efficient software development team capable of effectively collaborating and delivering the desired outcomes.

Ensure the team understands the project specifics

A deep understanding of the project’s vision, objectives, and timeline is crucial for the software development team. When goals, tasks, and deadlines are precisely articulated and clearly defined, the development team can operate more efficiently.

Each team member can recognize the value of their individual contributions and how they collectively contribute to the project’s success.

Fostering a shared understanding of the project’s vision and objectives, coupled with transparent communication about expectations and deadlines, empowers the software development team to approach their work with a sense of purpose and accountability.

Collaboration tools to improve team’s productivity

Today, a wide array of tools facilitate project management and communication among software engineering teams. One widely adopted tool for project management is JIRA, which enables project managers or team lead to create and monitor tasks tailored specifically for software development teams.

To track the progression of task completion, project managers often leverage Trello, a versatile tool renowned for its simplicity. Additionally, Confluence stands out as a collaborative software that serves as a centralised repository for all critical project documentation, ensuring information is accessible and organised.

Skype, Hangouts, Slack, and Gmail are among a wide range of tools that are likely already familiar. Each plays an important role in maintaining constant and effective communication within the team. At Altamira, we use JIRA, Confluence, and Teams, which has made our teams motivated to work better.

Insights from PM – how to manage a development team

Effective team management is the cornerstone of project success. It encompasses more than just ensuring deadlines are met or that the product functions flawlessly; it’s also about nurturing a culture of innovation, collaboration, and continuous improvement.

Recognizing the importance of these elements, Valeria Allianova, the Senior Project Manager at Altamira, shared her insights. With years of experience leading diverse and dynamic development teams, Valeria has developed a unique perspective and a set of strategies that have consistently driven her teams to achieve exceptional results.

In the following sections, you can find Valeria’s valuable insights and strategies for effective team management, highlighting the key aspects of fostering a productive and innovative team environment.

The core of the project management challenge lies in the diverse nature of software development teams. While the tasks themselves may be precisely delineated, the human element – the developers – brings a range of personalities, skill sets, and work styles to the table. Effective team management requires a delicate balance between setting clear objectives and cultivating an environment that supports individual growth while aligning collective efforts towards shared goals.

But what makes managing developers particularly difficult? Why isn’t it enough to just allocate tasks, set deadlines, and expect a team of individuals to execute their roles flawlessly? The answer lies beyond simple disobedience or failure to adhere to guidelines. The hurdles to effective software development are often rooted in deeper issues than mere non-compliance with instructions.

  • Weak communication
  • Tainted agile practices
  • Toxic team culture
  • Detached management

Establish ongoing communication

Effective communication is a foundation for successful management, enabling individuals to share their progress, collaborate, or raise concerns and issues. In our case, the importance of clear communication is magnified due to two additional reasons:

  • The prevalence of remote and distributed teams in software development introduces its own set of communication challenges. Managers operating remotely often find it difficult to gauge the efficiency of their leadership, lacking the opportunity for face-to-face interaction to pick up on non-verbal cues from their team members.
  • The dynamics within development teams can be negatively impacted by an excess or shortage of communication. Finding the right balance is a key.

 

On the one hand, overloading the schedule with meetings can provide managers with a relatively clear understanding of ongoing processes but can severely disrupt developers’ workflow and concentration.

On the other hand, an insufficient number of meetings can also present challenges. While fewer meetings afford developers the necessary space and time to focus on their work, this lack of regular check-ins might lead to misunderstandings or misplaced priorities. Without adequate direction from managers, developers risk dedicating their efforts to less critical tasks or tackling projects in an inefficient sequence.

How to fix the lack of communication in your development team

Regular engagements, such as weekly town halls or informal meetups, can significantly benefit the team dynamic. By providing opportunities for casual interaction between team members and managers, developers may feel more comfortable initiating communication with their leaders. This open line of communication can foster collaboration and an environment where ideas and concerns can be freely shared.

Adopting Agile methodologies can further enhance communication within the team. Frameworks like Scrum employ a structured yet flexible cadence of meetings, which can effectively resolve communication challenges when implemented correctly. The emphasis on regular stand-ups, sprint planning, reviews, and retrospectives ensures that communication flows efficiently and that everyone remains aligned with the project’s progress and goals.

Cope with emerging issues immediately

Predicting the specific challenges that may compromise the effective management of a team of developers is difficult. However, it is guaranteed that a multitude of potential issues can disrupt the workflow. Some of these challenges are directly linked to the development process itself, such as a developer’s resistance to adopting a new tool or discrepancies in priority setting. At other times, the issues may stem from deeper, more systemic causes that affect various aspects of a developer’s work.

The silver lining in managing development teams is the ability to create processes that address a wide range of issues simultaneously. Here are some effective strategies to consider.

Prioritise regular one-on-one meetings

Continuous one-on-one meetings with developers are invaluable. They foster increased trust, enhance performance, and ensure alignment within the team. Importantly, these sessions give managers an opportunity to identify problems early, experiment with solutions, and monitor progress.

Conduct health checks

Prioritise routine health checks for your team’s morale and productivity. When executed effectively, they can help you pinpoint issues at both individual and team levels regularly.

Implement retrospectives

Retrospectives are a core component of the Scrum framework, designed to foster ongoing improvement within agile teams by addressing productivity roadblocks. Regular and focused retrospectives are essential for uncovering and resolving issues impeding effective management.

The true value of a retrospective lies not merely in conducting it but in collaboratively identifying specific, achievable action items with the team during the meeting. Equally important is assigning responsibility for each task to designated individuals and regularly reviewing the execution of these action items at the beginning of the following retrospectives.

Distribute responsibilities

A losing strategy is when the responsibility for quality is diffused, such as when everyone is considered responsible for quality. A winning strategy involves designating a single individual responsible for the quality of the final result and empowering them with mechanisms to influence the process. What’s more important, everyone on the team must understand their distinct roles and responsibilities in achieving the desired quality standard. 

Facilitating discussions and, even better, documenting best practices is essential to ensuring the entire team adheres to and understands them. This approach ensures that team members with varying levels of experience are aligned and working towards the same objectives.

Show the bigger picture

In addition to clearly separating and documenting areas of responsibility, it is important to provide the team with context at the project’s outset and consistently reinforce the goals throughout its lifecycle. Many teams often underestimate the importance of this practice, leading to a narrow focus on specific tasks without considering the broader picture. This situation is similar to solely focusing on the need to “complete the task” without understanding the purpose behind it. As a result, developers may end up working in a vacuum, only to realise later that their technically correct solutions do not align with the desired outcome or complement the existing work. 

To avoid such pitfalls, the team must understand the domain, the client’s business specifics, the underlying problem the client aims to solve, and the desired approach to addressing it.  

One effective practice is to create a Project and Product Vision document at the beginning of the project, which serves as a guiding light for the team. This document should be regularly updated throughout the project’s lifecycle, especially when changes occur. By maintaining a clear and up-to-date vision, the team can make informed decisions and ensure that their efforts are consistently aligned with the overarching goals and objectives.

Interact with the Client

Facilitating sessions where the client demonstrates and explains the specifics of their business is essential, not just for the Business Analyst but for the entire development team. These sessions serve as a two-way knowledge exchange: while the team educates the client about the development process, the client imparts invaluable domain knowledge to the team. This collaborative approach results in a profound understanding of the client’s needs and tasks, often enabling effective communication with minimal explanations. 

As a consequence, the team can focus on what truly matters, potentially reducing the time required for the development and stabilisation of functionalities. If involving the entire team in such meetings is not feasible due to budgetary or logistical constraints, it becomes the responsibility of the project manager and business analyst to effectively convey the acquired knowledge to the team during regular meetings.

Promote continuous learning

Facilitate opportunities for your team to acquire new knowledge. This could involve organising webinars with industry experts, bringing in specialists to tackle specific challenges while sharing their expertise, endorsing projects that explore innovative technologies, and encouraging practices like pair programming.

By implementing these strategies, you can cultivate a team culture built on trust, continuous learning, collaboration, and effective management, ultimately enhancing overall performance and job satisfaction.

The bottom line

Drawing from our extensive experience working with a diverse range of clients, we know that the difference between a poorly organised process and an exemplary one often comes down to insightful planning and the diligent efforts of proficient individuals.

Select a vendor that demonstrates the following characteristics

  • Commitment to a long-term partnership rather than a short-term relationship.
  • Solid understanding of your business, its objectives, and its specific requirements.
  • Investment in your product and customer base, treating them as their own.
  • Focus on optimising interactions and collaboration with your internal teams.
  • Continuous efforts to enhance their team’s skills and expertise through training and development.
  • Alignment of their success with the success of your company, fostering a mutually beneficial partnership.

While having some technical expertise is important, the path to successful project completion is most effectively navigated with the assistance of a reliable technical partner who possesses the domain expertise, organisational capabilities, and agility to guide the development team toward realising your project goals.

Are you ready to embark on your software development project? At Altamira, we provide the support you need to meet your full potential, from software engineering to dedicated development teams and more. Contact us to learn more! 

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