How To Build an Awesome Agile Software Development Team

Learn how to build an Agile Software Development Team for your company.

Agile was popularized in 2001 when a group of software developers wrote and published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Over the years, the manifesto has gained numerous supporters. Modern business environments appreciate its flexible structure. 

Among the supporters of Agile methodology are tech giants such as IBM and Microsoft. These companies maintain that an agile approach helps them grow and scale faster than otherwise.

But as appealing as the agile approach may seem, utilizing this methodology to its full potential requires training and restructuring teams and changing the status quo of how you conduct business. 

Stay with us to know more about Agile Software Development Teams and how to build one!

What Is Agile Software Development?

Let’s start with the basics. Agile software development is a software engineering approach that prioritizes collaboration between cross-functional teams and the final users, encouraging adaptability. 

What separates the agile methodology from other methods is its focus on how software developers work together. In the agile approach, collaboration is key to finding solutions. 

Team members are self-organized. There is some management involved,  but the role of the manager is one of leadership and support, not micromanagement. 

In the era of technological advancement and ongoing innovation Agile methodology fits well with an adaptable approach to arising changes and challenges. Rather than focusing on working on the whole project and delivering it at once, it targets client satisfaction and continuous delivery on the project. 

 

Principles of an Agile Team

The agile software development team is a cross-functional group of professionals that have all the necessary capabilities and sufficient skills to create a functional product. Having professionals with different backgrounds and knowledge helps to approach the project from a fresh point of view and bring new ideas to the table. 

The size of an agile software development team may vary, but the key roles stay the same –  a team leader, team members, product owner, and various stakeholders. 

An agile software development team is characterized by its ability to maintain a flexible approach regardless of the complexity of the project. To be able to do this, agile teams are built upon these principles:

  • Communication and feedback - regular revision of work make agile software development project move from one stage to the other without experiencing major feedback. Being open to give and receive feedback enables software engineers to adjust the product faster.
  • Adaptability - fast-paced agile methodology requires its team members to be flexible and adapt fast to the changing requirements without interrupting the development process.
  • Trust - transparency requires each team member to trust the rest of the stakeholders involved in the development process and provide them with a safe environment where mutual trust can be established. 
  • Collaboration - the foundation of a successful agile software development team lies in the ability to work together to find the best solutions to the project and make sure the whole team has access to new and fundamental knowledge. 
  • Engagement - Readiness to face changes and keep an open mind while learning from others and respecting their opinion is what helps agile teams move at a faster pace compared to other software development methodologies.

How Agile Teams Interact With Other Departments

All software development teams need to be able to work with other departments that have a stake in the business. This includes departments that manage finances, marketing, design, and more. These departments have a huge role to play before, during, and after product launch.

Without a doubt, truly cross-functional teams perform better. They are more productive and efficient. But while an agile approach is a good fit for the software and information technology industry, you can compel every sector to follow this methodology. 

This means that keeping everyone on the same page should be one of your top priorities. Unsurprisingly, collaborating across departments is not entirely different from how software development teams collaborate. 

Leadership 

Just like the team leader in an agile software development team, having a project manager or business manager to oversee the progress of the project as a whole forge the way to more defined goals and better organization. 

The project manager does not have to be an expert in any one area. But they should understand the responsibilities of each team member and relevant departments involved with the project. To put it simply, they are the task manager of the project. 

Communication

Good communication is likely the most sought after attribute in any industry, no matter the job. Having good communication tools and skills will mitigate bottlenecks and boost trust – and this quality isn’t limited to any one role. Everybody on the team and otherwise should be open about their concerns, suggestions, or anything else that might affect the development process. 

Goal-setting

Setting goals that all team members and related departments are wholeheartedly invested in achieving is a surefire way to obtain more results-oriented solutions, enthusiastic engagement, and overall a better end result.

The Agile Software Development Team Structure

The agile methodology is heavily dependent on collaboration. Thus, it’s important that you know the titles and roles of everyone involved in an agile software development team structure. 

While the internal structure of an agile team may vary depending on what specific methodology you should use generally you can expect to have at least the roles specified below:

  • Team lead
  • Team members (or developers)
  • Product owner
  • Testers

The general responsibilities allowed for each role are self-explanatory. However, the specific way in which teams are assigned these responsibilities can largely differ. To clarify, there are 5 different types of agile teams. 

1. Generalist

A generalist agile team is basically a free-for-all. Any person can pick up a task at any time. Of course, the disadvantage here is a disorganized process and therein end product. That’s why this type of agile team is best implemented for small teams with clear goals. 

2. Specialist

In contrast to a generalist agile team, in specialist agile teams, everyone has a different skill set which each team members use accordingly. The effect is often high-quality software, tests, and data analysis. 

3. Transitioning

Transitioning agile teams are teams who have just started working with the agile approach. They don’t use the methodology to its purest intent the first time around and incorporate bits and pieces of the founding principles. For example, the team may do sprints on occasion to accomplish certain tasks. 

4. Parallel 

Parallel agile teams offer everyone the chance to wear someone else’s shoes. Each sprint, team members change roles. This can be difficult to manage but high--yielding where cross-training is concerned. 

5. Product Sub-Team

Agile product-sub teams are self-contained units of a larger team. In other words, the sub-team will be responsible for a specific area of work but the final product depends on all the sub-teams coming together.

6 Benefits of an Agile Approach for Development Teams

Urgency, complexity, team organization, and others define whether or not you should apply it. When you evaluate your project requirements, keep in mind the benefits that agile software development has to offer. 

1. Product Quality

Breaking the project down into smaller more manageable pieces allows the development team to focus on the quality of the product, testing, and collaboration. 

Ongoing testing allows the team to make adjustments and improve product quality as they go so that by the time it is ready for the first release, it has been already adapted to the market needs and doesn’t need major changes. 

2. Customer Satisfaction

The close involvement of the product owner and testing with the direct and indirect users helps to develop software that meets end customer’s needs in the best way possible. It also allows the development team to deliver the product to the market faster and start generating revenue early. 

3. Faster ROI

As mentioned above, the functional product is ready to meet the marker early and therefore can start making money for its owner much faster. By working closely with the product owner, the development team is able to prioritize the functional features of the app and avoid long delivery cycles. 

4. Lower Risks

The agile software development method eliminates almost all risk of the absolute failure of the project and allows developers to detect the necessity for vital changes during the early stages of the project. 

The mindset that accepts changes as new challenges and the direction for improvement and errors as the necessary information to learn from also helps the team to stay motivated and not get discouraged by smaller setbacks. 

5. Efficiency

The collaborative culture of agile software development helps the teams to get their work done faster and minimize the need for going back to fix major defects. Dividing work into smaller chunks and testing it as soon as possible optimizes the product delivery and helps to narrow down the timeline. 

6. Adaptability

Adaptability or flexibility of this approach is what gained it so many supporters. It allows the project to navigate the changing market and business needs without the necessity to implement core changes, which saves both time and money for the clients. 

Agile Methodologies for Software Methodologies Teams

The most popular agile methodologies include such names as Scrum, Kanban, Lean Development, Crystal, and Extreme Programming. In reality, there are many more methodologies that differ from one another, but all follow the same Agile mindset of continuous improvement.  

Scrum

Probably the most well-known methodology of the agile family, Scrum is characterized by having small development cycles called sprints. Transparency, inspection, and adaptation are the three core principles of Scrum.

Advantages:

  • Constant focus on quality results in fewer mistakes
  • Helps to reorganize priorities, bringing forward the sprints that haven’t been completed yet
  • Smaller sprints motivate software developers to meet the deadlines

Disadvantages:

  • The roles within the team are not well-defined which can confuse team members
  • Focusing on the smaller parts may lead team members to lose track of the project as the whole

Kanban

The main focus of Kanban methodology is continuous delivery. Kanban uses transparency and open communication to maintain the “just-in-time” workflow and not overload the software engineering team with development tasks. 

It helps to improve the workflow and optimize the processes thanks to its visual information interpretation. 

Advantages:

  • Very helpful in task organization
  • Shorter cycle times can deliver features faster
  • Possible to make changes mid-cycle
  • Allows balancing the numbers of tasks every team member carries out
  • Helps to implement sudden changes in requirements

Disadvantages:

  • The tasks in the Kanban board can be misunderstood or misinterpreted
  • No time frames associated with each cycle can lead to delays in delivery

Lean Development

The main goal of Lean Development is to optimize the efficiency of software by eliminating unnecessary waste. Lean Development has 7 core principles at its foundation: 

  1. Eliminate waste; 
  2. Build quality in; 
  3. Create knowledge; 
  4. Defer commitment; 
  5. Deliver fast; respect people; and,
  6. Optimize the whole.

>>> Lean Vs. Agile: Know the Differences and Similarities Between the Two Methodologies

Advantages:

  • Allows the team to focus on the most important tasks
  • The clear priorities help to shorten the delivery time
  • This methodology can be adapted to most projects of any scale

Disadvantages:

  • Requires clear idea supported by documentation to avoid errors during the development process
  • The team needs to be dedicated to following the Lean principles

Crystal

The foundation of the Crystal methodology lies in human-powered principles such as people, interaction, community, skills, talents, and communications. The idea behind this methodology is that teams and individuals of different skill sets can still develop the final product without strict guidance. 

Advantages:

  • Promotes closer communication and interaction within the team to optimize the software development process
  • Offers small cycles with frequent deliveries to ensure the quality of the product
  • The adaptable approach makes it easier to implement changes

Disadvantages:

  • Lack of pre-defined plans may affect the development process
  • The constant need to communicate and exchange information requires team members to be based pretty close geographically

Extreme Programming

Extreme Programming or XP is based on the principles of simplicity, communication, and feedback. XP is very similar to the scrum methodology, the difference being in the length of sprints: scrum uses 2 weeks to 1-month sprints, while XP uses up to 2 weeks. 

Advantages:

  • Constant testing makes the software development process more agile than with other methodologies
  • Short timeframe and visible goals will motivate your development team
  • Simpler code allows faster revisions according to the feedback received

Disadvantages:

  • Needs the team to be based in close time-zones to enable fast-paced communication
  • Focus on the code can result in a weak design

These are only a few of the many Agile methodologies that gained popularity. When choosing the right one for your agile software development team you need to evaluate your team capabilities as well as the project requirements in order to choose the best one. 

Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

The DSDM is an interactive and incremental approach that involves a stringent adherence to fostering business growth. This method is composed of several phases – a feasibility study, a business study, a functional model/prototype iteration, a system design and build iteration, and implementation.

Advantages:

  • Stakeholders have a clear idea of the project’s business value
  • Strong emphasis on testing means less major fixes later on

Advantages:

  • Constant testing makes the software development process more agile than with other methodologies
  • Short timeframe and visible goals will motivate your development team
  • Simpler code allows faster revisions after receiving feedback according to the feedback received

Disadvantages:

  • Strict time and budget requirements
  • A narrow focus on rapid application development (RAD) can affect code quality

Feature Driven Development (FDD)

FDD is a lightweight agile method that combines a number of industry best practices. These practices are based on the clients’ assesment of the functionality and/or features of a software product. 

Advantages:

  • Built on set standards that always guarantee success
  • The approach is user-centric
  • Works well with large-scale and long-term projects

Disadvantages:

  • Each feature or group of code is assigned to a single developer therefore team collaboration is limited
  • Iterations are not well-defined making testing more difficult 

Building an Agile Software Development Team

When you think about an agile software development team you might imagine a group of professionals that function like a well-oiled machine with 150% efficiency and first-rate delivery speeds. 

Although that can be an ambitious goal for your development team, building an agile software development team demands intentional and perpetual effort. There is no one perfect solution or secret to building a highly-effective agile team, but here are some tips that can help you put together a solid team.

Don’t Rush It

It takes time for people to get used to each other. Create a trustful environment and learn about the ways the members of your teamwork. Well-organized operation and harmonious work come as a result of failed attempts, mistakes, and misunderstandings combined with determination, resilience, and engagement.

Continuous learning and adaptation lie in the core of the agile approach, so the same applies to people when they first come to work together. Rather than focusing on one grand success that will define your team, focus on smaller improvements and achievements that reflect the progress your team is making. 

Get Everyone Involved

Though those in agile teams should have their own duties and responsibilities that everyone has a shared role in the success of the final product. The keyword is team. An environment where everyone is working towards a mutual goal engenders better collaboration and engagement towards finding solutions.

Recognizing everyone's efforts whether that takes the form of peer acknowledgment or praise from leadership is similarly important in sustaining a persistent cycle of feedback and engagement. 

Embrace Changes

The agile focuses on the results and outcomes of the project rather than overthinking procedures and processes. This means there are constant changes that must be made to cater to the final product.

The ability of an agile software development team to respond to reoccurring change is much more important than maintaining the status quo. Flexibility within the team requires frequently reevaluating priorities and adjusting processes accordingly. 

Every change is ultimately made to improve the final product. Members of agile teams should embrace changes, not dread them.

Collaboration Is Everything

Effective collaboration is undeniably one of the most important attributes of a successful agile software development team. Promoting collaboration within the team is necessary for your business to run smoothly. 

Defining and solving challenges together help cross-functional teams come up with more productive solutions where a sole software developer would be overwhelmed. Collaboration within agile teams calls for regular and personalized communication between team members. 

Collaborative approaches can lead to conflict. This is why it is important to build trust within the team. No one should feel silenced or discouraged from sharing a difference of opinion. Growth is based on new ideas. 

Conclusion

Though it might seem like everybody is making an app left and right, day after day, successful market leases – that is, projects that don’t crash in a couple of months – demand structure and planning. 

If you want your next project to be successful, you might consider the agile software development approach. This approach specializes in collaboration and meeting the needs of your customers. There are many ways to go about using an agile approach, but regardless you have to make sure to build a team that is adaptable, communicative, and engaged. 

Don’t know where to start? Trio can lend you qualified developers who have been trained to work together on a per-project basis and seamlessly integrate themselves into your business without disrupting normal operations. Reach us today to start your project!

Daniel Alcanja

CTO

About

Co-Founder & CTO of Trio. With more than 17 years of programming experience

Frequently Asked Questions

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Agile software development is a software engineering approach that prioritizes collaboration between cross-functional teams and the final users, encouraging adaptability.

All software development teams need to be able to work with other departments that have a stake in the business. This includes departments that manage finances, marketing, design, and more.

While the internal structure of an agile team may vary depending on what specific methodology you should use generally you can expect to have at least the roles specified below: Team lead, Team members (or developers), Product owner and Testers