How to Build a Successful Software Development Team

Good software development teams don’t fall from trees.

Still, when tech startups plan to build their next big product, they tend to envision a self-managed technical team wholeheartedly dedicated to their work.

In reality, building a successful development team is often not as easy as it seems. What differentiates a good software developer from a great one is when team members have confidence in achieving common goals.

In fact, most development projects fail early due to a lack of collective and individual confidence in the project's success. As much as 78% of IT professionals feel out of sync with project requirements. 

In this article, you’ll be introduced to surefire strategies and best practices for building a successful software development team, from finding the right people to project management techniques. Stay tuned!

What Is a Software Development Team?

Software development teams work together to build a technical project or product. Every person on the development team plays a part in making this happen and should be held accountable for their work.

Most importantly, software development teams should be self-organizing and cross-functional. Structured and efficient work at an individual level optimizes the overall effectiveness of the development team.

At the same time, team members must make a collaborative effort when it comes to communicating and implementing shared responsibilities.

To achieve this synergy of team structure and empowerment,it is crucial that development teams have the following characteristics in mind:

 

  • The team is naturally self-organizing where productivity depends on collective contributions.
  • Teams are well-equipped and cross-functional; they possess all the team skills necessary to advance the product across all development stages.
  • Although individual members on the development team may have specialized skills and domains of focus, accountability belongs to the software development team as a whole.

In terms of software engineering team culture, successful development teams have team members who:

  • Leave the codebase cleaner than how they found it
  • Know and share the interests of their customer
  • Rather than directly criticizing people, they criticize their ideas
  • Share past and present experiences to offer new team insights
  • Have fun with each other and trust each other

What Are the Roles and Responsibilities in a Software Development Team?

It is critical that software development teams clearly define their collective roles and responsibilities to allow for effective development.

Below are the most essential business and technology-centered roles and responsabilities for any typical software development team.

Business Unit Manager

A business unit manager is a task manager of sorts. Their job is to make sure goals are being met and contributing to the company's success in the long-term. Some of their responsibilities include: 

  • initiating the project
  • providing a clear project/product vision and strategic plan
  • signing off key milestones

Product Manager

Though smaller business teams may have the business manager act as a product manager, it’s important to distinguish their roles and responsibilities. 

A product manager is responsible for overseeing the success of a specific product, rather than the business as a whole. Key responsibilities of a product manager entail:

  • translating the business unit manager’s project vision into a roadmap
  • developing and defining the criteria and features of the product

Business Analyst

Business analysts work as liaisons between the technical and business side of development. They use data to improve processes and generate reports.  

Product managers and business analysts work together to further refine and define product features along with a technical lead to ensure they are prepared for development.

Business analysts may:

  • clarify product features
  • resolve queries between the technical lead and product manager
  • ensure developers aren’t disrupted by business fluff

Project Manager

Project managers reflect business managers but on the technical end. They make sure that the software development team completes their project on time and on budget.

To accomplish this, they are in charge of: 

  • scheduling, hosting, and documenting any relevant meetings.
  • securing the software development team with the necessary resources to deliver their project
  • monitoring the performance of the software development team and making helpful suggestions

Technical Lead

A technical lead acts in conjunction with the software development team, providing the corresponding project manager and business analyst with a key point of contact.

They serve as a moderator between business management and software development and supervise the technical direction of the company.

Their role involves:

  • taking responsibility for the entire technical project
  • implementing the coding standards and procedures that work best
  • detailing the structure of the project and meeting requirements

Developer

Developers make up the bare meat of the software development team.

Given that developers’ performance has a critical impact on product development and deployment, their time is spent wisely doing the following:

  • developing and deploying features
  • updating the technical lead and project manager with project reports

UI/ UX Designer

These designers will be thoroughly involved from start to finish. To be clear, user experience (UX) designers work on the behavior of a software product while user interface (UI) designers handle the graphic design or layout of the product.

They are responsible for:

  • cooperating with the product manager to create a viable user experience that meets requirements
  • supporting the software development team throughout the build process

Quality Assurance / Product Tester

Simply put, a quality assurance testercan make or break a productsolely based on their understanding of feature requirements and resulting feedback.

Those in this position have the final say on whether or not project/product features are up to par.

Key responsibilities include: 

  • certifying that developers meet the criteria and conditions defined in the requirements.
  • actively engaging with the development team and guiding them through the quality assurance process

4 Things To Look For When Building a Software Development Team

Choosing the right software development team can easily be one of the most important decisions that you will make while running your business.

Ultimately, the team you assemble will determine your business’s success or failure. 

Assembling the right software development team means more than having employees that will collaborate and develop your project. In choosing the right team members, you are choosing the business partners who will bring your vision to life. 

Make sure you understand the roles for the software development team that you are hiring for. Who will be managing the team? How many developers will you have? 

Remember, software development and collaboration can last from a few months to several years, so it is crucial that the team you build is the right fit for both the project and your business

The following tips will lead you in the right direction when hiring for your software development team.

4 Things To Look For When Building a Software Development Team

1. Critical Thinkers

Ideally, you want to select a software development team that is able to provide you with the best solution and the optimal way to reach it. 

Sometimes this means your team disagrees with your initial ideas. But saying ‘no’ can be more powerful than agreeing to everything. It demonstrates a readiness to find the best possible solution rather than blindly follow the instructions. 

2. Domain Expertise

Every software development project is a complex process that involves more than just writing code. Your software development team should be able to simultaneously meet business needs while keeping the final user in mind.  

Look for experts with solid professional backgrounds that can bring their knowledge to the table when it matters most. 

3. Previous Projects

Prior projects that potential team members have executed are an indicator of the quality of their work. You can see what kind of clients they worked with and how they managed to meet the project requirements to solve the given problem. 

Don't forget to check the references of your potential partners. Experienced IT companies are happy to provide you with case studies, overviews of implemented projects, and all the necessary information that can help you make a decision. 

4. Sensible Pricing

High-quality work comes at a price and going for the cheapest offer doesn’t always pan out. Sometimes cheap work simply means low quality.: 

Poor communication, lack of experience, poorly written code, lack of tests, and bad documentation describe some of the problems you could experience if you simply fall for the cheapest price.

Custom software development projects are more expensive than off-the-shelf software solutions, but the benefits they create are worth the price tag. 

10 Steps for Building and Managing a Successful Software Development Team

Running a successful software development team requires taking an active part in any and all efforts that are imperative to building and managing that success.  

1. Take Control of the Hiring Process

If you take ownership of 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 the initial stages of building a software development team.

Define the job, notthe 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 talent pool. 

When hiring, outline four to five objectives or tasks that can be measured within the prospective candidate’s domain of expertise. Use them as the centerpiece of your job posting/recruitment scheme.

Publish listings that alienate passive candidates.

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.

Related read: Back-End Developer Job Description

2. Hire People Who Are Passionate About Their Work

Find developers that code their own personal projects and have passion projects just for fun!

For example, Google implemented a 20% policy that allows software employees to spend 20% of their time working on personal projects and ideas. According to business reports, the policy increased employee energy and enthusiasm.

Find developers that code their own personal projects and have passion projects just for fun!

3. Evaluate and Cultivate Soft Skills

Believe it or not, it is usually soft skills in turn for technical skills that define the success of your software development team. A well-developed project requires more than just programming, but a communicative and respectful team.

During the hiring process, you should look out for soft skills and a cultural fit. Emotional intelligence is key to a collaborative project. True cohesion is built on relatability and communication.  

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.

Recruiters often look for candidates who are suited for collaborative teamwork. They also want people who aren’t afraid to introduce a second opinion or shake up project teams.

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 software development team. 

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

To do this you should:

  • 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 conversation!

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

Cross-functional and collaborative teams come secondary to you providing the tools and environment to enrich your teams towards that goal. 

While your software development team is responsible for utilizing their soft skills in the workspace, you’re responsible for making the workspace comfortable in the first place. 

Neglecting the livelihood and mental health of your software development team could lead to rampant burnout and high amounts of stress. 

Extend tools and resources to your team — whether that be the technology to help them grow further and faster without frustration or mental health references.

5. Listen Actively and Communicate Proactively

Communication goes both ways. As a business manager, it’s essential that you actively listen to your software development team to understand the ongoing status of the project.

Ask questions such as:

  • What did you work on?
  • Did it come together as you expected? Why or why not?
  • What can be improved?

In addition, communicate proactively and check in on individuals and teams without being asked. By establishing genuine interest in each person and division of the team, you’ll establish meaningful relationships.

6. Make an Effort To Improve Team Communication

Sometimes communication isn’t as easy as just asking a couple of questions. When that’s the case, there are still several steps you can take to promote fluid communication with your software development 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 expectations

There should be an escalation overview that highlights how to identify and resolve problems when they arise. The kick-off serves as a foundation of guidance for the team, but it should not be rigid or set in stone to a point where the team can’t improvise.

The kick-off serves as a foundation of guidance for the team
  • Encourage questions

Encourage the team to ask questions. Never dismiss a question or make someone feel inadequate for asking.

Questions lead to important clarifications, discoveries, 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, especially at the beginning of a project.

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

  • Host retrospective meetings

Via roundtable meetings, the team can focus on what went right and what went wrong in a productive and non-occupational manner.

This fosters a more transparent communication style.

  • Give feedback

Establish a clear channel of feedback and check in on each and every member of the team 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.

7. Avoid Burnout

Don’t force teams to produce results beyond their capacity. And don’t dump multiple projects on your team to juggle all at once. 

This will inevitably lead to burnout, especially if you’re taking on a single long-term product/project.

As mentioned, it’s important to provide resources to your team and prioritize their mental health just as much as their technical abilities, A happy developer is a good developer.

8. Don't Add Extra Manpower for a Quick Fix

Do not add extraneous development team members in an attempt to speed up the development process.

Adding extra people will counterintuitively delay the project by dividing work into too many small parts. If you deem it necessary to add more team members, gradually recruit more individuals one or two at a time and evaluate results accordingly.

9. Create Software That People Love and Enjoy

Regardless of the technical and business requirements, if users love your software, team members will have that extra motivation to keep improving it.

10. Consider Hiring Remotely

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

  • Heightened productivity
  • Businesses save money in the process
  • Workers avoid the stress of commuting
  • Employees save money
  • Access to global talent
  • Reduced employee turnover

Conclusion

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

Using the steps above with a carefully hired software development team of technical professionals, you can accelerate your projects and maximize productivity in the process.

Trio is your software development partner, not an outsourcing vendor.

We offer small and medium companies competent software developers on-demand.

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

 

 

 

 

Cordenne Brewster

Content Writer

About

A tech enthusiast whose ardor is best expressed through the written word.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Software development teams work together to build a technical project or product. Every person on the development team plays a part in making this happen and should be held accountable for their work.

Some common titles for a software development team include business unit manager, product manager, business analyst, project manager, technical lead, developer, UI/UX designer, and quality assurance / product tester.

To build a successful software development team, you should look for a portfolio of previous work, domain expertise, critical thinkers, and sensible pricing.