Software Development Team
Structuring your software development team properly is critical for the successful completion of any project you embark upon. If you have faced any problems figuring out what makes up for a good team, here are some bulletproof ways to maximize the efficiency and productivity of your team.
1. The Size Matters
Most software development organizations still believe that the more people they throw into a project, the better the result will be. Unfortunately, this, what may seem to be a very simple and straightforward way, is not how software development works. Of course, there are large projects that require enormous numbers of human hours to complete, but more workforce rarely translates into better results. In fact, small teams are often more efficient than large ones. Therefore, sometimes less is more.
There is no perfect number of people that would be universal and suit all the software development teams, and you’ll have to determine your perfect team size yourself through your joint highs and lows. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says that you can feed a perfect software team with two pizzas, which makes up to 15 people maximum. Considering how reasonable this is in practice, there’s actually a good point in it: the more people are involved, the harder it becomes for them to communicate. Eventually, miscommunication or lack of information from someone’s side leads to delays in the progress, which affects the entire project.
Takeaway: Make sure the size of your development team allows for efficient communication. A team of 5 to 10 people might be your target. This approximate number of people will have no problem communicating with each other, which will translate into a decent efficiency and productivity.
2. Desired Software Team Type Must Be Defined
Depending on what kind of project you work on, you must assemble a team that consists of people with specific skills to fill the talent gap for successful project completion. You can form one of the three major types of software teams: Specialist, Generalist, or a Hybrid team.
Specialists, as you might have already guessed, are highly skilled professionals that know their job description well enough to perform the assigned tasks with no extra micromanagement or frequent errors. Having these guys in your software organization is always great because they usually do their work flawlessly while sticking to the set guidelines and timeframes.
The downside of the Specialist type of teams is that their area of expertise is quite narrow. They work by the book and rarely deviate from the ordinary course, so you can assign them for specific tasks only. In addition, hiring experts can cost you a fortune since they are true gurus in their field.
The Generalist group implies the type of employees that are also great for software engineering teams because they can complete almost any task you assign to them. Generalists are really flexible and able to learn fast to prepare for almost any challenge. This type of team gives you an opportunity to experiment with your approaches while getting things done according to schedule.
But there is a different side of Generalists to keep in mind. Do you know what they say about jacks of all trades? They are masters of none. These guys are always good but rarely great, so you can end up neglecting the quality of work with this kind of team.
Obviously, a Hybrid team implies that you have both Specialists that focus on what they’re most qualified in and Generalists that can perform a wide scope of tasks. This kind of team organization in a product development team structure gives you the best of two worlds. You can throw a couple of Generalists and Specialists in and get the combination of flexibility and precision, varying the number of each type employees, so give it a shot.
Which to Choose?
The decision on which of the three team types, Specialists, Generalists or Hybrids, would be the best fit for you must be made depending on what software product development team structure suits your interests in the first place. If your goal is a short-term project you’ll finish in a couple of weeks and will have to move on to the next one immediately, then the Generalist team is your best choice because of the small but specific workload. If you are up to some serious long-term project, then it is best to employ more specialists to divide the workload into numerous smaller and diverse tasks. In this case, your employees will do the job with precision while having a longer period of time to complete the project.
If it is something in between that you need, then you should consider a hybrid software development team structure.
3. Documentation Is Key
Though it might sound like a monotonous and tiresome job, you need to keep track of all steps in the course of project completion. First of all, you need to define your objectives to set clear goals according to who owns software developed for your company. This will help move towards and think about people you might want to have in your team. Create a software development organizational chart and include the specialists you want to see in your team, assigning a detailed profile of their both professional and personal traits. Maybe there already are some people you know or used to work within your application development organizational structure, so you might want to contact them first since it is always better to work with someone you’re confident in because of your experience or some trusted positive recommendations.
Then, after you came up with the software development organizational chart you think will work best for you, try to document all of the following things:
- your software development team roles and responsibilities;
- goals of your application development team;
- resources your team will need to function properly;
- obstacles you might face along the way.
Providing the answers to these points at the beginning only is not enough though; you should better document all of these throughout the project completion to see whether your plans need any adjustments and change the points as you keep progressing.
4. Stages of Working in a Software Development Team
In any software development organizational structure, the teams of developers go through a number of similar stages. Generally, there are 5 major stages in the functioning of each team, regardless of the field or industry where they operate, which includes software development:
- Forming. At this stage, you, as a leader, start assembling the team. You plan its functioning, create your software development organization chart and divide the roles and responsibilities of your team members. Finally, you gather them all in one room.
- Storming. Storming is the stage in team formation at which the majority of troubles begin. After the excitement of meeting the new team, the members start to compete and expose their strengths and weaknesses. Some of the examples of where conflict can occur are the brainstorming and decision-making processes. In the course of these, team members will most likely be overconfident in their opinions, neglecting those of the rest of the team.
The aim is to normalize the situation and avoid conflict because some of them will try to challenge your authority, some will provoke their colleagues, some will just show little to no respect to you and others.
- Norming. This one is the stage at which people start to work in a more or less efficient manner. If you survived the storming stage, then you are up for some productive work from here on. It’s the transition to the quiet period of your collaboration.
- Performing. It is where your team works together as a real, disciplined and self-organized entity. They will help each other and perform to show the best of their abilities with the intention to produce the desired outcome.
- Adjourning. This is sometimes the saddest stage because it is when the team finishes the project and no longer needs to exist. Thank all of your colleagues for the hard work and excellent performance they have shown and wish them good luck in their future careers. If you’re lucky enough, they will do the same for you.
5. Powerful Leadership Is Essential
Although most development teams work in a more or less liberal way these days, a leader still plays a major role in the functioning of the application development organizational structure. Choose a proper leadership style that assists you in managing software teams effectively depending on your experience in team management, personality and the subordinates’ traits of character.
There exists a wide variety of leadership styles that fit different kinds of teams and organizations. Of course, it also depends on your personality, but you might want to adjust your personal view on leadership and collaboration to address the differences in an application development team structure.
First of all, your leadership style depends on how well you know people you are going to work with. If you are an old-timer in your software development organization, then you should probably know people you are supposed to work with pretty close. It this case, it might be better to apply a rather independent approach to their work and reduce your micromanagement practices. You know each other, and if your team members are decent and experienced workers, they know what to do already, no need for you to keep a close eye on them.
In case you are about to meet an entirely new team you know nothing about, it is best to express confidence and control over the situation. These people don’t know you, so how do they know who is in charge of software application development teams? Your task is to show them exactly who is the boss around here. Don’t be too harsh on them though, find the balance.
You need to inspire and motivate people, so try your best and the results will be more than rewarding.
As you can see, there are some important aspects of software development team formation to consider when wondering how to run a successful software product team. Among such, you have to choose the right size of the team to ensure excellent communication, define the type of subordinates you want to have in your team, document all of that, realize the stages that your team will go through and establish yourself as the team's leader to guide it in the right direction. Overall, creating a good team is a challenge, but keeping the listed points in mind and using them in practice should simplify the task for you.