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The 21st century executive

Building a Great Software Development Team

Great software doesn’t just get built by chance. It requires a fully functioning and efficient software development team in place behind it, who all clearly understand the aims of the project and the wider company. The team also needs to possess certain characteristics, skills, and expertise—not to mention effective leadership—if it is going to develop useful and marketable software.

This article outlines some of the roles commonly found in a software development team, their requirements, and seven tips for building a successful team.

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What exactly is a software development team?

Essentially, the team is a group of people with a combination of business and technical expertise, whose job it is to build a technical product. The precise nature of the team will depend on several factors such as the size, type, and duration of the project, as well as the individual personalities of the people involved.

It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of building a great software development team. This team is likely to determine the success or failure of the final product and ultimately that of the company. Investing sufficient time and resources to create the right sort of team at the start of a project will undoubtedly prove to be a wise strategy.

What are the main roles within the team?

As mentioned above, software development teams can sometimes look very different. However, there are often key roles that are typically found within these teams, such as:

  • Business unit manager

    —a high-level role to initiate the project and provide a clear strategic plan.
  • Product manager—responsible for developing a roadmap for a specific product and overseeing the success of the product.
  • Business analyst—the liaison between the technical and business sides of development.
  • Project manager—responsible for ensuring that the software development team completes the project on time and on budget.
  • Technical lead—a key moderator between business management and software development, taking responsibility for the technical project.
  • Developer—responsible for developing and deploying the features of the product.
  • User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers—UI designers handle the graphic design of the product, whereas UX designers work on its behavior.
  • Technical writer—responsible for end user and application programming interface (API) documentation.
  • Quality assurance (QA)/product tester—last but certainly not least, this vital role is responsible for testing whether the product actually meets the requirements.

What are the requirements for an effective team?

Alongside the common features of most, if not all, successful teams—such as collaboration, communication, autonomy, and accountability, to name but a few—there are also two other attributes in particular to look for when building a software development team:  

  • Critical and analytical thinkers

Developing software requires a critical and analytical mindset, rather than one that simply follows instructions. Software and its associated hardware are constantly evolving, and so it is vital to have a team in place who are able to identify and exploit technological opportunities. Innovation is often a very profitable long-term strategy.

Similarly, developing software also entails finding solutions to complex problems. Therefore, it is beneficial to also have a team with a strong problem-solving capability.

  • Relevant skills and expertise

This is a requirement that is common to teams in many industrial sectors, but it is particularly relevant in software development due to the highly specialized nature of the work. Hiring team members with a solid, demonstrable background in similar projects that have been a success is a sensible move.

7 tips for building a software development team 

While it might simply sound like a case of primarily hiring skilled and experienced developers to create a great team, in reality it is a little more complicated than that. Here are 7 quick tips to help with building a successful software team.

  • Define goals and understand what sort of team is needed

Before recruiting a development team, it is important to understand the type of team that is required. For example, are product generalists or technical specialists required, or a hybrid team containing both? 

It is also necessary to define the optimal team size. While small teams often function more efficiently, a complex project might require a large team, which could lead to problems around communication and cooperation. So, creating a clear hiring plan is a good starting point.

  • Hire the right people

The right people are those with not only sufficient technical and/or business skills, but also good attitudes and well-developed communication skills. Plus, someone who is a proactive team player and willing to step outside their comfort zone should also be an asset to the team.

Finally, finding someone who buys into a company’s culture will help their transition into a new role and hopefully keep them at the company for many years to come.

  • Train and develop the team

Hiring the right people to join the team is only part of the process, though. Once they are in place, the strengths and weaknesses of the team can be assessed and any gaps filled. Team members can be trained and developed in any necessary technical and soft skills—this latter point should not be overlooked.

Building a successful team relies, in part, on teamwork, mutual respect, communication, and emotional intelligence.

  • Provide the team with the right tools

This includes providing a comfortable and appropriate physical work environment, as well as all the technical tools that are required to complete the project. Failure to do so is likely to result in the frustration of many team members, which can put the whole project at risk.

  • Ensure good communication

Team communication is essential to the success of any project. This may take the form of optimizing all written and verbal communication as much as possible, clearly defining roles and aims, creating a clear roadmap, keeping people informed, and celebrating successes.

  • Look after the well-being of the team

As the world continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and companies adopt flexible working practices, this aspect is becoming more important than ever.

Working from home and the associated loss of social contact can lead to increased feelings of isolation, for example. A loss of separation between private and work lives can also occur. Developing new protocols to manage digital exhaustion, for example, and helping team members to interact, albeit online, can counter these problems.

  • Adopt the Agile approach

Many development projects are well-suited to the Agile framework of software development, an approach focused on flexibility and adaptability through interaction and collaboration. Agile development teams meet regularly between “sprints”, typically lasting for two weeks, to assess progress and reset objectives. Final delivery can be rescheduled and the feature set can be adjusted according to workloads as well as to satisfy any new or pre-existing design and customer requirements.

There are also several different types of agile methodologies available, such as Scrum and Kanban.

Bringing together a successful team is vital 

Building an effective software development team is a complex process. The specific requirements for a team might vary from project to project, but there are usually several common characteristics between them. 

It will go a long way towards building a great software development team if these requirements are identified at the early stages of a project and actions are taken to meet them. This is vital for the long-term success of a company.

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About the author
Alvaro Marinetto

Working as Foreworth’s, Development Director, Alvaro manages the day-to-day activities of the development team. He helps steer the direction of the company’s new feature development as well as their maintenance efforts.

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