It is not a secret that people are the most important factor in the success of your software product or service. In one of our recent articles “How to create a killer product” on the Visual Craft blog, we already mentioned who should be included in the software development team, and this time we will elaborate on the inner workings of assembling teams in IT to provide you with maximum business value.
We will discuss the key roles of software development experts, the most common stages of assembling a team, and which approach (in-house, freelance, or outsourcing) is better for particular situations and businesses of a certain size.
There is a lot of available information on finding an IT vendor on the Internet or hourly rates of programmers, however, the team structure is one thing that is highlighted quite rarely. While it is obvious what software developers do, the roles of Business Analysts (BA), Project Managers (PM), and Product Owners (PO) can be misunderstood by business owners, and we will have clear definitions to fix that.
In this article, we will explain how teams of software developers structure their work, what are the roles and responsibilities of each team member and how to monitor the results of the development team properly.
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Assemble your powerful team
Like with everything else, your team can make or break your project. The outcome of your project relies heavily on whether you’ve been able to build a healthy ecosystem with proficient experts in your organization.
Define the size of a team
Every case is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all approach here. When figuring out the number and types of experts you will need for your project, you should keep in mind the complexity of the tasks, your budget, deadlines, and available resources. The basic team composition for the software development project looks like this:
In the next section, we will discuss what each team member is responsible for.
Key roles and responsibilities
When your team of software developers has a common goal and each expert understands his or her role clearly, it is way easier to stay productive and reach outstanding results. You should define responsibilities from the very beginning of a project to ensure the completion of all goals following the set timeline and budget. Here are the main roles of experts that exist in the software development industry:
Product Owner (PO) or a Client
This person is responsible for the evaluation of new solutions and decision-making on new functionality. The person taking this role must know how the final product should look like, how it functions, and who the end-users are.
Chief Technical Officer (CTO)
CTO ensures that the resources of the company will be distributed wisely and effectively, maintaining controllable processes with tangible results. The focus area of a CTO is technical aspects of the product: quality, performance, efficiency, and durability. The goal of a CTO is to make sure that the technological strategies of a company would be aligned with business strategies.
Business Analyst (BA)
BA is responsible for the connection between customer workflow, the vision of stakeholders, and the actual product that the development team is creating. BA experts are able to conduct market research and convert a high-level vision into a set of tangible requirements for the development team. The biggest value of this expert is the deep understanding of business processes from different perspectives.
Project Manager (PM)
In the context of sequential engagement models, PM is distributing tasks among experts in a team, setting goals, and keeping the board updated on the project status. A project manager oversees the development process, and keeps all possible risks in check, dealing with roadblocks, when necessary.
Among other notable responsibilities of the PM, is ensuring effective communication between all participants of the software development process, including building relationships between the client and different departments of the company. Simply put, a Project Manager is the one who is responsible that every aspect of the development process will work in cohesion, from planning to the actual execution.
Front-end & Back-end Developers
It is quite easy to distinguish between the two. Front-end developers are in charge of every detail the user sees and interacts with, while Back-end developers are making sure that the app, website, or service will operate just as planned. Back-end developers are working with the code, solution architecture, covering security aspects, etc.
Ultimately, the user experience relies heavily on the effort of these two types of experts, so they can’t be the weakest link in your team.
This expert creates user-friendly designs and user journeys that are aligned with the high-level product vision. The goal of the UX/UI Designer is to provide the best user experience possible and ensure the highest conversion rates.
As you see from the name, there are two aspects of this profession: user experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design.
The goal of UX design is to provide consistent and intuitive interaction with your product for end-users. When creating UX design, the expert builds prototypes of the product, conducts usability testing, collects early user feedback, and works with other experts in your team to develop the most convenient product possible with the necessary features in place.
The goal of UI design is to create an intuitive interface of the product from a graphical standpoint. UI design includes colors of the interfaces and logos, and such navigational elements as search fields, icons, footers, headers, etc.
Quality Assurance Engineer (QA)
QA experts are responsible for ensuring that the product meets both functional and non-functional requirements. Functional requirements are the list of actions that the product is designed to do, while non-functional requirements are the specification of how these actions must be achieved.
The job of Quality Assurance Engineers is to run all necessary checks, analyze the results on the performance of the product and report to the developers on the quality of it, so the developers would be able to fix possible bugs before the release.
DevOps experts are working to ensure effective cooperation of software developers with infrastructure team members, such as database admins or network engineers. DevOps is the expert to build CI/CD pipelines that will result in faster delivery.
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Setting Up Your Agile Team
Now that we discussed the types of experts, it is time to talk about effective team interaction and workflow.
Conduct analysis and decide on the size of the team
Foremost, the structure of your team will depend on the complexity of the project. The chances are, you don’t have enough tech experience, and it will be hard for you to evaluate team size properly. Luckily, the proficient Project Managers and a CTO, we mentioned above, will help you with this task.
Once you decide on the timeline, team size, team structure, and set up a budget, you can start the development process. We, at Visual Craft, prefer Agile methodology while gathering effective teams. This approach has proven to be one of the best in the world of technology. Here are the main advantages of the Agile approach:
A team that uses Agile equals a flexible team. In practice, it means, that this methodology will allow you:
- to adapt to changes
- to treat people as people, not as human resources
- to offer an individual solution to each occurring problem
The Agile team also means that the Project Manager will facilitate the team in completing tasks and learning new skills, eliminate roadblocks and keep the project going according to the plan. The Agile team has the freedom to make important decisions when they are necessary. This is a very important advantage for early-stage startups, which require quick decision-making to succeed. The speed of decision-making and flexibility make Agile the best choice for startups.
Top-down management is slowly becoming a thing of the past. To get the most out of your talent, you need to listen to their ideas and allow them to offer their solutions to problems when needed. Agile methodology allows for achieving that and creating great teams with common goals that don’t need to be pushed by upper management to deliver results.
The stages of forming a software development team structure
In most cases, there are 4 essential steps to creating any software development team:
Where to find a Software Development Team?
Forming an in-house team
If you choose this approach, you will have to hire full-time employees for your company, and, possibly, open new offices or expand existing ones. The first major disadvantage of forming an in-house team is the fact that the necessary experts can simply not be available locally. Once you form a team, a second disadvantage arrives, as your organization will be responsible for legal work, payroll, and taxes, and you will also need to hire additional experts for this.
Having an office and employees is a big responsibility. You will need to have plans for a long-term perspective, and always have alternative routes to go if your project will change the development direction, reduce scope or take a pause to raise some more investments.
As you can guess, this is the most expensive option, if we talk about building an MVP for a startup. While calculating estimations, you should include recruiting costs, salaries, taxes, office rent, and expenses on hardware and software.
For an enterprise that has long-term plans for creating software, forming an in-house team work well, even for creating an MVP.
Speaking of advantages, the amount of control you will have is the biggest benefit of this approach. If you need full control over each expert, require the highest level of communication, and want to easily change the direction of the development process, this is the way to go.
If you can take on the role of a tech lead and system architect or have a technically skilled partner in your team, you can consider this option and hire remote experts for the job. The biggest challenge here is the fact that you need to know exactly what product you want to create (including all features, tech stack, prototypes, or mockups), and you will have to manage all freelance experts by yourself. The range of hourly rates of a single developer for an MVP is $15-$150 depending on the location, expertise, experience, complexity of your project, and other factors.
The drawbacks of this approach include:
- The chances are, that freelancers will be working on multiple projects at the same time, and they could lack involvement in your product.
- In case you are building a remote team from scratch, it will be very hard to manage it and build an effective communication process between multiple independent experts.
- There are fewer chances that you will have high-quality results, compared with other approaches.
- The level of control over freelancers is much lower compared to other options.
- The combination of the factors mentioned above can lead to the highest (compared to other types of arrangements) level of risk for your product.
Choosing an Outsourcing Vendor
Joining forces with an outsourcing vendor can bring your organization such benefits as more cost efficiency, access to modern technology and skilled experts, flexibility and scalability on demand. Be careful, and partner up with a company that has a proven track record of previous work, great reviews on platforms like clutch.co/profile/visual-craft, and references from previous clients.
If your internal processes are set properly you will not have to make any dramatic changes, however, certain adjustments need to be made in order to cooperate with an outsourcing vendor and receive all possible advantages.
Outsourcing won’t solve all problems by itself, this approach will work efficiently when:
- the processes of your outsourcing partner will match your project and goals
- outsourcing partner will have all necessary resources that you require
- communication of your team with an outsourcing partner will be set in the most efficient manner
To get the most out of the outsourcing approach, you must choose a vendor who will:
- be willing to commit to a long-term partnership
- be interested to understand your business and goals
- be engaged in your product and customers
- optimize the interaction with your teams
- be working on improving the skill set of its teams
- associate its success with the success of your company
Carefully choose your outsourcing IT vendor among available options, and you could add tangible value to your product development process, get more cost-efficiency and receive higher revenues as a result, add expertise and introduce new technologies and tools that you might not have access to. Always look for maximum involvement, proactivity, and understanding of your business vision from an outsourcing partner!
Having a great idea is awesome, however, you need to have proficient experts to make your software product vision a reality. Hopefully, our blog post shed some light on structuring a software development team and improved your knowledge of software development processes.
If you still have questions, we are here to help! Visual Craft has been assembling dedicated teams for over 16 years, and we are ready to start building your Agile team that will lead your project to success in your industry. In the meantime, you can check out some of our case studies and find out what great things we’ve built for our clients.
What is the best way to organize a software development team?
To allow for effective communication and collaboration, it is best to create teams with a large number of members and more communication channels. Minimize the number of teams you require a person to participate in. Within each team, think of channels as topics or workstreams that organize the team's work on delivering their joint objectives.
What are the four basic steps involved in developing software?
During the specification, development, validation, and evolution stages of a product's life cycle, different development processes organize the activities differently. In the waterfall model (a sequential process), these four stages are organized in sequence; on the other hand, in an incremental process (an interleaved process), each stage is completed before the next begins.
Which two items should the development team consider first?
The Development Team must deliver an increment of potentially releasable software during the first Sprint. The team also determines the complete architecture and infrastructure for the product and develops at least one piece of functionality.
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