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Guide to Building a Successful Software Development Team

Grzegorz Smialek 45f04a104a

24/11/2020 |

10 min read

Grzegorz Śmiałek

To launch a project, you need a development team consisting of experienced and skilled individuals. But is this enough to make your team truly effective and successful?

Building a software development team is more than just hiring some great developers and bringing them all together. You need to consider many other factors, such as team size, personalities, communication styles, or even the type of product you're building. 

In this article, we share the lessons we've learned from years of building successful software development teams. 

 

Table of contents:

  1. 4 things to consider when building a development team
  2. How to select the right people for your development team?
  3. Outsourcing team extension

4 things to consider when building a development team

1. Decide on the type of your team

This is the first step to building a successful development team. Essentially, the question boils down to whether you should be building a team of generalists, specialists, or a hybrid team that includes both. The answer to this question lies in your project — its type, timeline, budget, and complexity. 

  • Generalists usually have a broad range of skills, knowledge, and expertise. They're able to contribute to projects in many different ways instead of being limited to a single area of responsibility. This can be very helpful if you're building an end-to-end solution. On the other hand, if your project requires in-depth knowledge in an area generalists might find difficult, that often requires more time.
  • Specialists are typically highly skilled in one field. They have spent years on deepening their knowledge in a specific area and can be much faster when working on narrow tasks than generalists. The best fit for specialist teams is a large project that requires in-depth technical expertise. However, teams made of specialists sometimes suffer from communication problems due to a lack of understanding of the roles occupied by other team members. Moreover, in such projects, the dependency of team members on one another is very high — so if one person falls behind, they may slow down the entire project.
  • Hybrid teams are built of combined generalists and specialists. This is a very popular approach to team building in software development for a few reasons. Hybrids teams come in handy for many types of projects. While generalists focus on the bigger picture, specialists deal with the specifics. Their strengths balance the other side's weaknesses, and vice versa, making a truly fantastic and efficient team.

 

2. Define the size of your team

Jeff Bezos famously said that a good software development team should be small enough to have two pizzas and not feel hungry anymore. This piece of advice has a lot of merit to it.

Consider this:

The thing about small teams is that they tend to focus on what should be done rather than keeping people updated, maintaining timetables, or spending a lot of time on scheduling and organizing tasks. They’re leaner and more nimble. Teams like that can move fast and retain their momentum. That’s why approaches of agile methodologies like the Scrum framework suggest for a team to have from 3 to 8 members. 

But this is just a guideline, not the ultimate recipe for team success. It’s good to take these industry best practices into account but also remember that the size of your team depends on your project's complexity, budget, deadlines, and available resources. Naturally, if you end up with a bigger team, you might experience communication challenges. 

It's a good idea to divide a large team into smaller cross-functional, independent teams with team leaders. This is how you can avoid the pitfalls of having a small team while leveraging the benefits of having a larger team.

 

3. Set the objectives for your team

The main goal of any software development team is delivering a high-quality product on time and within budget. This may sound easy but achieving it is always challenging. Software development projects are complex. Creating great software requires a lot of effort from every single team member. 

To make it more specific, here are some of the most common goals teams achieve on the road to building great software:

  • Usability — Software needs to deliver on its promise and help users solve a problem easily and quickly. That's why your team should make the accessibility and UX of the product their key priorities.
  • Functionality — Make sure that every feature you build fulfills its purpose and works properly. The team should avoid building any redundant elements. To do that, you need to carry out a comprehensive user survey before starting the design. Testing is also essential to ensuring a successful release and continuous operation of the product.
  • Security — Another key factor to consider is protecting your product against cyberattacks, identity theft, data leaks, and other security vulnerabilities. The security measures need to become part of your architectural design and implemented using rigorous testing.
  • Time-to-market — A development team also needs to guarantee the timely delivery of the product to users. In an ideal scenario, all team members work efficiently from day one until the moment of release.
  • Reusability — Another key goal of the team should be creating as much reusable code as possible to simplify updates applied in the future, whether they're large or small. Naturally, reusing code also reduces development costs.


4. Consider the roles and responsibilities in your team

Many people forget about this but a successful software development team isn't made of only software developers. Many other people play a crucial role in delivering software on time and ensuring that the process is efficient. 

Here are some other roles you should consider for your team:

  • Product Owner — This is the person that has the vision of what the final product should look like and is responsible for executing it. The Product Owner makes sure that the needs of sponsors, end-users, and other stakeholders are met during the process of building the solution.
  • Project Manager — This role is responsible for the development process itself: its successful start, planning, development, monitoring, and finalization of the project. On a daily basis, project managers optimize the work of the team, identify bottlenecks, and ensure that the product meets all the requirements set by the Product Owner.
  • Scrum Master — This is a role that originates in the Scrum framework, one of the most common agile approaches development teams use today (especially those working in tech startups). The Scrum Master inspires the team to follow the best practices of this framework and helps team members to understand the rules and values of Scrum to keep their collaboration moving in the right direction. Read our article on Scrum from a developer’s perspective >
  • Software architect — This person is responsible for making the key design decisions regarding the internal structure of a software system, as well as technical interfaces. Most of the time, it's a highly-skilled software developer who can design software architecture efficiently and review code to ensure the high quality of the design. This role also provides mentorship to developers and assists them throughout the process of building the product.
  • UX/UI designers — These are specialists responsible for creating the look and feel of your application. Their main job is designing user interfaces, ensuring that the product reflects your brand, and verifying that it delivers the best possible user experience. That’s why UX design is rooted in deep research about the product’s target audience - starting from their habits and preferences and ending with how they interact with digital products. This information is critical for designing a smooth user flows that allow users to quickly achieve their goals or solve problems with the help of your app.
  • Business analyst — This person is responsible for analyzing the business needs of the client, researching new ways to enhance the quality of products and services, and keeping the project requirements in check.

How to select the right people for your development team? 

Here are a few factors you should consider when building a team for your project. 

  • Communication — Effective communication is essential to the success of any software project. It doesn't matter how skilled a team member is. They will only deliver the results you want if they're able to communicate efficiently with other team members. That's why you need to make sure that the person you hire has solid communication skills and experience in teamwork. A friendly working environment and good communication ensure high team productivity.
  • Ownership — The best team members out there are responsible team members. Every person in your team needs to know the project's goal and timeframe, as well as how their responsibilities meet the project's requirements. People with a sense of ownership can recognize the importance of the project to the client, users, and even themselves. They understand the role they play in the team and the project's development, so they contribute to it inspired by intrinsic motivation.
  • Choosing the team leader — Your team needs to have a leader: someone who has vast experience and the right work ethic. You need a person that worked at least five years in your domain and was most likely employed in a large or medium-sized company. It's someone who knows what a good workplace culture looks like, how to organize work processes to reduce bottlenecks and ensure that every single team member is efficient and satisfied.

Outsourcing team extension

Since building an in-house development team is time-consuming and expensive, many companies are now turning to outsourcing opportunities for team building. Dedicated teams, team extension, or staff augmentation are services that focus on providing the right people for the job. 

But how can you make sure that the provider you choose is the right partner for your business? Here are a few things you should keep in mind before hiring a software development team from an outsourcing provider: 

  • Location — You can either hire from a local company (onshoring), a team located nearby country (nearshoring), or outsource a team from a faraway country (offshoring). Each of these scenarios has its pros and cons. In general, outsourcing companies offer different engagement models and are very flexible. For example, software developers can come to your office, participate in meetings, work on-site, and then come back home for development. Many companies also offer the option for the client to come and work with them at their office as well.
  • Technology stack — It's critical to know whether the company of your choice has the right technical skills to complete your project. Have a look at the company's portfolio to check whether it worked for businesses in your sector, specializes in your technologies, or even delivered similar projects to yours.
  • Client reviews — Have a look at what other people have to say about your potential technology partner. Browse case studies and testimonials but also have a look at websites such as Clutch.co that features verified reviews. Read our reviews >

Building high-performing software development teams is something we've perfected over the years at Codete. We're happy to share insights with you and hope that this article helps you assemble a software development team that brings your product to success. 


If you're looking for skilled software developers, get in touch with us! We have many years of experience in providing businesses across different industries with dedicated software development teams with broad skill sets and excellent communication skills.

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Grzegorz Smialek 45f04a104a

Grzegorz Śmiałek

Managing Director at Codete. He is a Master of Law and has a Harvard Business School degree. A business leader with extensive experience in finance and team management. Specialist in startups and business development.

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