In this article, we’ll take a step-by-step approach in explaining the right team structure for software development.
In recent years, the industry has been transitioning towards adopting self-managing, multi-skilled teams that focus their efforts on delivering usable software.
Understanding how the different types of teams are formed will help you decide whether you need a simple software development team structure or a complex/hybrid one.
A typical software development team structure falls into one of the following three categories:
- Generalist – Team members are equipped with multiple skills rather than being restricted to a specific skill set. Team members are suited for simpler projects and take a wider, big-picture view to focus on the overall product. Their versatility can be an asset, as they keep things moving rather than sticking to one skill and waiting for others to do their tasks.
- Specialist – Team members have extensive expertise in specific skills. They can handle complex tasks well and deliver quality code, but they are entirely dependent on other resources for skills that are beyond their narrow range of expertise. This structure is suited for complex projects.
- Hybrid – Modern, Agile-focused teams often adopt this structure, given the rapid changes in technology and evolving customer demands. You need specialists to quickly troubleshoot complex issues and flexible generalists to keep the project moving. As customer demands become moving targets, project teams that are nimble are more likely to succeed.
The right software product development team structure depends on many factors. However, managers like to hire people with T-shaped skills—professionals with a set of generalist attributes and emphasis on specialist skills.
How to decide the size of a software development team
Once you know which type of team suits your project, determining its size is the next step. Complexity, budget, resource availability, and timeline are key factors that will influence your decision.
Small teams typically have between three and nine members. They are easy from a collaboration, communication, and management point of view, but given that there is a minimal skill overlap, there is a heavy dependence on the individual.
Large teams are required for complex, large-scale projects that are well funded. The members offer diverse skills, rich experiences, and formalized processes to handle routine issues. However, management and effective communication are challenging.
Factors to help you determine the size of your team are:
- Project complexity – If you are running a routine development or maintenance project, a small team of generalists may do the job well. Complex projects require specific skills, and you need a larger team with experts from different domains and technologies.
- Budget – If the budget does not allow you the luxury of hiring specialists permanently, start with a small team and hire freelancers, contractors, or part-time professionals when you need them.
- Timelines – Projects with tight deadlines are better executed by large teams working simultaneously on different modules, though consistency in code and quality issues might arise.
7 Most important roles in a software development team structure
Modern software development teams follow Agile principles, and team members have well-defined roles to ensure transparency and accountability. The common roles are:
Product Owner has the overall product vision in mind and ensures the software is of value to the end user. It can be an internal or an external role, which stresses the usability of the final product to the client.
Business Analyst gather requirements from the clients and translate them to user stories describing the features of the specific product for the development team. This role is often merged with the product owner role in Agile teams.
Project Manager is a leadership role tasked with planning, monitoring, and delivering the project. A project manager determines the overall goals for the team and ensures they have the required administrative and technical support to do their job efficiently.
Technical Architect is the technical expert who makes the high-level design of the entire system and designs workflow and database diagrams. A technical architect draws a system blueprint and assesses the interaction of different modules. This expert also chooses the technology stack to suit the technical and non-technical requirements of the software and provides guidance on complex issues.
Software Engineer/Developer are people who write the code based on the guidance of tech architects. Software engineers are skilled in programming languages, databases, and APIs.
UI/UX Designer concerns most about how the users use the software. End users need software with easy navigation and relevant design for the best impression. User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers are responsible for making the software visually attractive and intuitive to use.
Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer test the software comprehensively and make sure it is working as required. If they find functionality or performance-related issues, they give the feedback to developers.
Should you build a software development team in-house or outsource?
Now that we’ve reviewed the team structure for online software development, it is time to decide whether you want to build the team in-house or hire a remote team.
Building an in-house software development team
One of the benefits of an in-house team is that you have the freedom to hire people who fit into your company’s culture and share the same vision. You can also leverage the advantage of face-to-face interaction for fast communication and resolve issues swiftly.
The downside of an in-house team is that you have to handle employee issues, turnover, and find the right talent for your project. These are specialist jobs and require a separate HR department for recruitment, engagement, motivation, training, and attrition.
Outsourcing software development
Outsourcing your tech requirements gives you access to the global talent pool skilled in a wide range of technology. Some companies offer dedicated development teams, focusing on the client’s specific projects. Another advantage is that hiring a remote team gives you flexibility with your resources, so you can engage more people or suspend their involvement, depending on your current needs.
On the flip side, outsourcing may have communication challenges, and if your remote team is in a different time zone, it gets tougher. Enforcing data security and compliance is another challenge inherent with outsourcing. A service level agreement (SLA) breach may also be a major risk.
At SPD Group, we have a dedicated development team for the needs of your specific business and guarantee the best quality team for the process. Our team is accessible throughout the day to cover most of the time zones and eliminate possible time gaps, and we adhere to all the legal norms and regulations to provide safe and clear service.
Forming the right software development team requires many considerations. A team size and type that suits one project might be an impediment for another. However, if you adopt a step-by-step approach and carefully account for the factors mentioned here, you will get the right team size to deliver high-quality software on time and within budget.
Another solution to finding the best development team is considering remote services. SPD Group can offer you a team that will fit your requirements and be flexible and scalable, which is essential in today’s software world.