So, you have an amazing idea for an app, and now you'd like to bring it to life. Or you came up with a great solution that will take your enterprise process to the next level, and now you're ready to make it happen. In both cases, to realize your plan, you'll need to hire a development team.
But how do you assemble the right team members? What is the best software development team structure? What are the roles and responsibilities in an IT project?
Many of our clients ask us these questions, so we decided to share our insights from over a decade of providing software development services and setting up product development teams. Keep on reading this article to learn how to structure a successful development team and who does what to contribute to its success.
Table of contents:
- Everything about software development team structure
- Agile vs. Waterfall and the software development team structure
- Roles in a software development team
- The right software development team structure brings success to every project
Everything about software development team structure
Every digital product starts with the right people. You need to map your business objectives to the roles in the software development team. When designing the team's structure, make sure that it reflects key factors related to your project, such as its type and complexity.
Before stepping into the recruitment phase or hiring an outsourcing contractor, determine the scope of your project. For example, if you're going to build a product prototype, a team of four people might be enough to accomplish that. But if you're planning to launch a brand-new application that has multiple features and third-party integrations, the number of people in your team will be higher.
Just to give you an idea, here are a few examples of product types and the correlating software development team structure:
- A discovery or Proof of Concept project might take up to 5 specialists consisting of product manager, product owner (on the client-side), business analyst, software architect, and UX/UI designer.
- For developing an MVP, you're likely to have more than six specialists - among them the product owner, product manager, business analyst, UX/UI designer, software engineers, and software testers.
- A product development project will require more specialists - but that depends on your methodology. If you're using an agile approach, the team will usually include up to nine specialists. If your project is large-scale, then several agile things might work together. For a waterfall project, there's no size limit, and the number of people in your team will depend on the type and complexity of your application. Apart from the specialists listed in the previous point, you might want to add test automation engineers, performance engineers, DevOps, and security engineers.
As you can see, the nature of your product will determine the shape and size of your software development team. There are two key factors you need to take into account here.
Your project timeline
The speed with which you need to turn your product around will impact the team structure as well. With fewer team members, completing the project might take longer. So, if you have an idea for an impactful app that needs to be developed from scratch within a very tight deadline, you might have to assemble a larger team of senior engineers who can cover all your needs and bring results quickly.
Naturally, your budget plays a key role as well. It will affect every decision you make about how many team members you can hire and the seniority of these specialists. To reduce product expenses, opt for agile product management methodologies that allow delivering software in increments and focus on high-priority tasks first to give you more cost flexibility.
Agile vs. Waterfall and the software development team structure
The methodology you select will impact your work process and the software development team roles. The project methodology shapes the size of your team but also the responsibilities of individual team members and relations within the team. Just to give you an idea, here are some key facts about waterfall and agile approaches.
In the Waterfall model, the development process is divided into distinct phases, and its scope is always defined in advance. This gives the team a limited amount of potential changes to apply. The features are prioritized at the start of the project, and the team is focused on completing the project. Quality assurance is provided by software testing that follows software engineering.
Within agile methodology, the development process is broken into smaller increments (called sprints) that usually last from 2 to 4 weeks. Scope changes is the daily bread of such teams. Features are always prioritized at the beginning of each sprint, and issues are managed according to their priority. The team has a different approach – a product mindset that focuses on delivering value to the customer. Another important difference is that testing is always performed in parallel with the development work.
How do these models influence the team structure?
In the waterfall model, the team is based on hierarchical relations between team members. There are project managers and subordinates who have well-defined responsibilities. The team structure offers the managers more control over the work, and they are the ones responsible for making critical decisions.
Let’s take a look at Agile now. One of the more popular Agile frameworks is Scrum, which prioritizes a self-managed and -organized Scrum team supported by the Scrum Master. The latter focuses on fostering relationships within the team and creating a good working environment that allows the members to be productive. This doesn’t mean that Agile prevents any form of management - just like a waterfall doesn’t prevent self-organizing teams.
Still, Agile teams count no more than 9 to 10 people. They allow a certain level of autonomy as team members have the freedom to prioritize their workloads and carry out the work as they see fit.
Roles in a software development team
Here are the most common roles you can find across all development teams.
A backend developer takes care of everything that goes "under the hood of an application". Backend engineers are the key problem solvers in the development process. They plan and develop the application architecture, make decisions about services and databases communication, establish how API and external integration will work, and ensure that the product is fully secure.
Quality assurance specialists and testers
These team members are there to make sure that your application is bug-free and has adequate support across all the devices and browsers, meeting all of your key requirement. They pay a lot of attention to the application's performance, security, usability, and portability.
Naturally, a quality assurance engineer also looks at the application from the perspective of end users to make sure that all the implemented features meet the requirements. They write documentation and create test cases to help developers deliver a high-quality end product.
Quality assurance automation engineers
Those engineers are tasked with writing automated tests. An automated test is a small piece of software that runs in the background and constantly tests the application. If something goes wrong, the project team knows what happened immediately. This is a key capability of agile teams where testing goes hand-in-hand with development.
DevOps engineers ensure that the solution is available 24/7, cost-effective to maintain, and easy to upgrade. They also work hard to guarantee that they can handle sudden use or activity spikes or downtown. They basically take care of your infrastructure.
Their specialty is implementing solutions such as Infrastructure as Code, automated deployment processes, and robust cloud solutions. Their work is all about making the application secure, reliable, available to everyone.
Product designers transform your product vision into user-friendly designs. They also develop user journeys optimized for the best experience and high conversion rates. In short, they make sure that the product reaches your business goals. They track all the necessary data to make conclusions and propose solutions to help you reach your business objectives and ensure that users fall in love with your product.
The project manager's responsibility is thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong in the project and then making sure that it doesn't. Their job is also to ensure that your product is delivered on time and within budget.
Business analysts are responsible for verifying the business idea and checking whether you're investing your time and money into building the right solution. You need to verify that your app solves an existing user problem that is also in line with your business model and customer expectations – and that's what a business analyst (BA) can help you with.
In an agile team, the product owner is responsible for prioritizing tasks in the team's backlog to streamline their execution. All the while, this role keeps an eye on the conceptual and technical integrity of the features being implemented to make sure they're in line with the overall business strategy.
The right software development team structure brings success to every project
As you can see, software development teams are made of a variety of team roles and responsibilities. It's more than just a few developers who code. Writing the code is actually the easiest part of this equation. Successful projects require development teams composed of various people with different skill sets.
There are many other factors that contribute to the success or failure of an application - and many of them can be addressed by bringing the right people to your team. If you have the best specialists on board, you can be sure that your project is in good hands and gets the attention it needs.
If you're looking to hire a dedicated software development team, get in touch with us and let's discuss your software project. We know how to structure a team to deliver a successful project within the specified timeline and budget.