How to Build a Successful Development Team

The process of building a succesful development team is definetively not easy.

According to the Evans Data Corporation, there were nearly 26.4 million software developers in the world in 2019, a number projected to grow to around ~28.7 million in 2024.

It’s become clear that the talent pool of software developers, and even product managers and designers, is expected to inflate without restraint in the next decade.

With more and more developers entering the workforce at an alarming rate, building a development team has grown increasingly complex.

The hierarchy and inherent dynamics of a modern development team require an interplay between very different roles, whether it’s the UX/UI designer or the product owner.

By the end of this article, you’ll be well-equipped with an understanding of how to build development teams through technical/qualitative analyses and best practices.

Stay with us to learn more about building a development team.

What Is a Development Team? 

For ease of understanding, this article will frame building a development team in an agile dedicated environment.

Agile dedicated teams have emerged as a modern approach to software development outsourcing.

The development team (dev team) arguably holds the most vital role in any agile process as it streamlines product development stages. 

The development team is composed of professionals who do the work of delivering a releasable increment of “Done” product at the end of each “Sprint”.

A “Done” increment is ultimately required at the Sprint Review. Additionally, only members of the development team create an increment during project development.

With an agile framework, development teams can be structured and empowered by the organization to organize and self-manage their own work.

The result?

A synergy that optimizes overall development efficiency, effectiveness, and long-term sustainability of the team.

Characteristics of development teams

Development teams typically possess the following characteristics:

  • They are self-organizing by nature. As a result, no one tells the development team how to turn a Product Backlog into increments of releasable functionality.
  • Development Teams should be cross-functional with a comprehensive collection of skills as a team necessary to create a product increment.
  • Scrum recognizes no titles for development team members, regardless of the respective work being performed by the person.
  • There are no sub-teams in the development team.
  • Although individual development team members may possess specialized skills and areas of focus, accountability belongs to the team as a whole.

Roles and Responsibilities in a General Development Team

Understanding all dimensions of building a development team from the business division to the tech team is necessary to create a successful agile environment that encourages communication and cooperation.

It’s critical that the business management and technology team facets of a dev team clearly define their collective roles and responsibilities to allow for effective agile development.

Below are the most essential business and technology-centered roles that should be considered when building a development team.

Product Manager

Although smaller and emerging business teams may have the business manager simultaneously act as a product manager, it’s important to distinguish their responsibilities and interactions.

In return, this will: 

  • Allow the business unit manager to delegate more time to run the business rather than additional product management.
  • Enable the product manager to focus their time on product development.
  • Bring in product management-specific expertise, such as communicating with customers about their needs and conducting feedback-driven research.

Since that’s finally out of the way, we can underline their key responsibilities including:

  1. Translate the business unit manager’s project vision into a roadmap
  2. Develop and define the criteria and features of the product
  3. ‘Own’ the product from start to finish

Project Manager

A PM will deliver the strategy laid out by the Product Manager. Further, they’ll ensure that the dev team has everything they need to get the job done.

The PM will proactively remove any and all obstacles for the development team and manage all meetings and communication.

Key responsibilities include:

  1. Scheduling, hosting and documenting any relevant meetings
  2. Ensure that the dev team has necessary resources to deliver final work
  3. Analyze and evaluate project/team performance to understand areas for improvement

UX/UI Designer

Although UX/UI designers are presumed to work solely in the design phase, they should be thoroughly involved from product inception to launch.

They are typically responsible for:

  1. Converting the product vision into a visual solution/front end
  2. Cooperating with the Product Manager to create a delightful user experience that meets requirements
  3. Actively support the development team throughout the build process

Developer

Comprised of around 1-7 members, developers make up the core of the development team.

Given that developers’ performance has a critical impact on product timeline and launch, it is essential to properly manage tasks. 

They are responsible for the following:

  1. Developing and deploying features as laid out in the sprint
  2. Updating the Technical Lead and PM on with progress reports in conferences/stand up meetings
  3. Focus and be brilliant while doing it!

The 5 Steps to Building a Strong Development Team

Although building a development team may seem as simple as finding the right people, there are other factors that should be considered.

Whether it's managing the initial stages of the hiring process, evaluating the cultural fit of prospective team members, or fostering a sustainable team dynamic through resources and tools.

The following 5 steps are necessary to building a development team.

1. Take Control of the Hiring Process

By owning the hiring process, you can ensure that you target the right candidates to apply for the role. 

Below are some recommended sub-steps that streamline an agile hiring process at the initial stages of building a development team.

  • Defining the job, not the skills for the job

By describing the job as a series of performance objectives rather than a long-winded list of field-specific skills and experiences, you maximize the likelihood of tapping into a larger pool of dev team talent. 

Outline 4-5 objectives or tasks that are reasonably measurable within the prospective candidate’s domain of expertise and use them as the centerpiece of your job posting/recruitment scheme.

  • Drafting and publishing job posts and emails to attract passive candidates

Again, you must minimize the list of skills and experiences in your emails and postings when building a development team.

Start the post by adding a compelling tagline to your title that captures the ideal candidate’s professional interests. 

If the given candidate is interested, have them submit a two-paragraph write-up delineating what he or she has accomplished in terms of past project work and experience.

This method will narrow down your applicants from those who are simply interested in candidates who are genuinely qualified.

  • Within a few days, find several “perfect fit” candidates to interview and test out
  • Find enough high-potential prospects to get close to closing the recruitment process
  • Conduct a thorough two-week review 

2. Remember to Evaluate and Cultivate Soft Skills

  • Look for emotional intelligence and culture fit

During the hiring process, you should look out for soft skills and culture fit when building a development team.

Although modern tech companies are filled to the brim with technical requirements, cultural fit and emotional intelligence can be a make or break factor when creating a cohesive team.

  • Create ways that foster cross-silo collaboration

Cross-functional project-oriented teams have grown more important for businesses that want to distinguish themselves and stay competitive – especially in the technology sector.

Job descriptions often look for candidates who are suited for collaborative teamwork.

But they also want people who aren’t afraid to introduce a second opinion or shake up project teams to allow for more cross-functional collaboration.

  • Prioritize social skills and communication

It’s easy to place too much focus on technical output at the cost of team-building and communication when managing a development team. 

Establish a clear priority for your team that empathy and emotional intelligence are just as essential as delivering high-quality work.

  • Create opportunities for peer learning and teaching
  • Recognize distinct personality types amongst the team, and learn to work with their strengths and weaknesses 
  • Make time for conversations!

To learn more about hiring process from start to finish, check out our article on hiring remote developers. 

3. Provide Tools and a Good Work Environment for Your Team

By establishing an adequate work environment that fosters cross-functional team collaboration and productivity amongst your team, you’ll maximize the long-term output of the team.

While maintaining their livelihood and mental health. This prevents rampant burnout, especially among high-stress members.

When building a development team, providing satisfactory resources and tools for your team, anywhere from practical mental health references to technical resources, could be a 180 degree turn gamechanger in productivity. 

A combination of adequate resources and a sustainable work environment will allow you to optimize your organization’s product goals in the long-term.

As well as nurture already-existing talent on your team and their commitment to working/collaborating.

4. Make Efforts to Improve Team Communication

When building a development team, communication is essential – especially in the context of a time-sensitive agile development team that is cross-functional in nature. 

Regardless of the team’s apparent technical abilities, a lack of communication could be the difference between a successful and failed product launch.

The following five points should be considered as you solidify communication within your team:

Define roles and goals from the beginning

Oftentimes, miscommunication stems from an unclear understanding of roles and responsibilities.

Each agile project should have a clear kick-off with roles and goals clearly and comprehensively defined.

During kick-off, you must discuss what the various roles will be and their role-specific expectations.

There should be an escalation overview that highlights how to identify and resolve problems when they arise.

Ultimately, the kick-off serves as a foundation of guidance for the team, but should NOT be rigid or set in stone to a point where the team can’t improvise.

Encourage questions

Continually encourage the team to ask questions, and never dismiss a question or belittle someone, making them feel inadequate for asking questions.

Questions lead to important clarifications, discovery, and many times, process improvements that the team wouldn’t have recognized before.

Make mistakes

For people who haven’t gotten their feet wet in agile before, mistakes are inevitable and are a core part of the learning process.

Mistakes should be encouraged and openly discussed on a mutual level, especially at the beginning of a project.

How a team manages mistakes can affect a team’s momentum and camaraderie.

Introspective/Retrospective Meetings

By having roundtable meetings where the team can focus on what went right and what went wrong (in a productive and non-accusational manner), a more transparent communication style is supported.

The result?

Team members will be more willing to reflect on work and developments on both an individual and a collective level to understand areas of improvement.

Feedback

Establish a clear channel of feedback and continually check in on each and every member regarding their feelings and logistical input on major changes/existing circumstances.

Creating a transparent model of feedback with the team places everyone on the same playing field for further improvement.

5. Consider Hiring Remotely

Although many traditional employers would taunt the idea of transitioning to remote work, remote outsourcing has key advantages including:

Final thoughts

With the ever-modernizing demands of software and product development, possessing the right team of people has never been more important.

Building a development team has proven crucial in accelerating software development projects and maximizing productivity in the process.

By adopting our above-listed five steps to building a strong development team, along with the foundational information of a dev team’s agile roles/responsibilities, your organization will be well-equipped to create a technically and culturally fit environment bound for success.

Trio offers small and medium companies competent software developers on-demand.

Trio is your software development partner, not an outsourcing vendor, and this is what makes us different. 

If you are looking to expand your software development team, contact us to discuss your project and find the best match among our engineers.

Daniel Fleury

About

Daniel is a machine learning researcher and engineer at Johns Hopkins University

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What is a development team?

For ease of understanding, this article will frame building a development team in an agile dedicated environment.