How to build a successful software development team?

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How to build a successful software development team?

When starting a project, we all want our development team to consist of experienced and skilled individuals. But is it really enough to make the whole process truly effective?

Building a software development team is more than just gathering good developers. You need to consider many other factors such as project type, team size, personalities, communication, etc.  

Here are a few tips for building a high-performance software development team.  

Define team type

Defining team type is the first step for building a successful development team. Should it be generalists or specialists or both (hybrid team)?. The answer lays in the type of your project, its complexity, time and budget. Let’s take a look at these types in more detail.

Generalists tend to have a broad range of expertise, skills, and knowledge. They can contribute to the project in many ways, instead of having one area of responsibility. Which on the one hand can be very helpful when developing end to end solutions. But on the other, generalists may find themselves a little bit lost if the project requires deep knowledge in a particular area.  

Specialists are highly skilled and proficient in one field. They have a deep understanding of the specific area and can work quicker and more effective on the narrow tasks. The specialist’s teams suit large projects which require profound technical expertise. However, there are some concerns about communication gaps that may occur in such teams, due to the lack of understanding of other members’ roles. Moreover, the dependency on team members is high. If one person with specific expertise falls behind, it may slow down the whole project.  

Building combined teams of generalists and specialists is a widely popular approach. 

Hybrid teams may be the best option for many types of projects. Generalists are focusing on the bigger picture, while the specialists deal with specifics. Their strengths balance the other side’s weaknesses and vise versa. 

Define team size

According to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos “two pizzas rule”, one team should be small enough to be fed by two pizzas.

The thing is that smaller teams tend to focus on what should be done rather on timetables and keeping people updated. The same approach applied in Agile methodologies. Scrum guide, for example, suggests from 3 to 8 members in one team. 

However, the team size in software development largely depends on the project complexity, available resources, budget, and deadlines. If you have a bigger team, communication becomes more challenging. So a good idea is to divide the large team into a few small cross-functional independent teams led by team leads.

Software development team roles and responsibilities

A successful software development team consists not only of programmers. There are other members playing a crucial role in the effectiveness of the work process. Although the composition of the team may vary depending on the case, here is the most popular example

Product Owner is a person who has a vision of how the final product should look like. PO takes care of the needs of stakeholders, sponsors, end-users, etc. This role is usually performed by a person who represents the customer to the development team or in some cases by the customer himself. 

Project Manager has the responsibility for the successful start, planning, defining a scope, implementation, monitoring, and closure of a project. PM optimizes the work of the team, identifies goals and makes sure the product is meeting all the requirements. 

Scrum Master (if required) is a role, that exists in Scrum methodology. This person is responsible for following the most suitable Scrum practices by the entire team. SM helps team members to understand the theory, value, and rules of this framework. As well as which interactions with Scrum are helpful and which are not in particular cases. 

Software Architect makes key design decisions regarding the internal structure of the software system and its technical interfaces. It’s a highly-skilled software developer who can define tech stack and review the code to ensure the quality of the design. SA provides mentorship to developers and assists them throughout the process. 

Software developers. This is where all the magic happens. These are team members who apply their coding knowledge into building software. 

UI/UX designers are specialists who responsible for creating the design of interfaces and delivering the best digital user experience. 

Business Analyst analyzes the business needs of the client, search the ways to enhance the quality of digital products and services. 

Adopt Agile 

The Agile approach has proved its effectiveness in a constantly changing digital world. It is not focused on processes, tools, documentation, or following the initial plan. But on interaction and collaboration, working products, and quick response to changes. 

Thanks to Agile methodologies your team becomes more flexible and adaptive. You can choose various types of agile implementations such as Scrum, Kanban or even Scrumban. 

Each framework focuses on visualization, so the workflow is usually displayed on board, which makes the whole process more transparent.

Scrum, for example, is characterized by well-planned sprints, which are reviewed and adapted along the way.  If you follow the Scrum methodology, the structure of your software development team will include — Scrum master (a role mentioned above). 

Kanban and Scrumban, in turn, also have peculiarities such as imposing WIP (work in progress) limits or focusing on triggers points. 

Regardless of the agile framework you choose, it will definitely help your team to deliver faster and more efficiently.

Communication

The success of the software development project largely depends on communication. 

The lack of proper attention to this aspect can harm the whole project. Clear interaction among team members can speed up the process, boost creativity and innovation. It is very important to encourage transparency and facilitate interactions inside the team. 

Communication is one of the core values of Agile methodologies.  So its practices such as daily standups, pair programming or face-to-face meetings can be a great help.

To sum up

As you can see, building a software development team is like putting puzzles together. Gathering good professionals won’t be enough. You need to define the type of team and the number of people the project needs. And what is very important, you have to establish clear roles and responsibilities for each member, ensuring clear communication.