Software Development Team: Structure, Roles, and Tips

Starting a new software development project is no easy feat. Surely, you want it to be a great success. “How to build a strong software development team?” will be the first question that pops into your head. This is the crucial point that will make or break your project; only united efforts can ensure outstanding accomplishments. What structure is better to choose for your team? What should you take into account when hiring devs? Such questions might leave you confused. This article has all the information you need for setting up a product development team that will bring your ideas to life.

Software Development Team Structure

First things first, you have to understand all the ins and outs of the project. This will help you figure out what kind of team structure fits it best. There are three main kinds of software development teams you can assemble.

1Generalist team

This is an approach that brings together specialists that possess a highly diverse set of skills. Their responsibilities are not limited to one specific area. The team members contribute in many ways without being dependent on others completing some part of the work. For example, a front-end dev can be familiar with back-end Java or have some knowledge in UI design.

When to choose: when you have end-to-end projects of moderate complexity that don’t require a large number of specialists.

Pros:

  • Fast delivery
  • Simple management
  • Diverse points of view on one problem
  • Skill development in the long run
  • Clear structure
  • Easy communication

Cons:

  • A limited set of skills and lack of deep knowledge
  • Not suitable for complex projects
  • Possible issues with assigning requirements
  • Possible need for a team member with a specific expertise mid-way through the project

2Specialist team

This kind of team engages specialists who have extensive expertise in a particular programming language, framework, or technology. Each team member is responsible for their team role and works on completing their specific task. A large team can be re-assembled into smaller teams, or several “specialist” teams can be built from the start. So, you can end up with a team of back-end developers, mobile developers, etc. In theory, the number of such teams involved in software development has no limits.

When to choose: when you have complex projects requiring deep technical expertise.
Pros:

  • Deep understanding of each part of the project
  • Simultaneous development of each project’s element
  • Clearly distributed responsibilities
  • A high level of expertise
  • Unwavering focus on a specific area

Cons:

  • Developers are not interchangeable
  • More coordination of the workflow is required

3Hybrid team

A hybrid software development team combines two previous approaches. There are people who understand the project as a whole and those who can narrow their focus down. Blending deep expertise and the ability to integrate the system alleviates most of the drawbacks of the team types mentioned above.

When to choose: when you have a large-scope project that you plan to scale.
Pros:

  • Maximized efficiency
  • A diverse set of skills and expertise

Cons:

  • Challenging coordination
  • Building such a team is expensive and time-consuming

The Must-Have Team Composition

When you’re done choosing the suitable approach, your next step is to decide what software development experts you need. The typical software development team consists of:

  • Software Engineers
  • Project/Product Manager
  • Quality Assurance Engineer
  • UI/UX Designer
  • DevOps
  • Business Analyst

Software Engineers

These specialists create the architecture of different development solutions and do the actual coding. There are three main types of them.

Back-End Engineer

This is a specialist who works within complex systems to create smooth functions behind the user interface.

Primary duties:

  • Designing and implementing the core logic
  • Creating and managing databases
  • Integrating data systems, logging systems, and caching systems

Mobile Developer

They write code for mobile applications. Some specialize in one mobile operating system (Android or iOS); others are fluent in both (for example flutter app developers).

Primary duties:

  • Ensuring smooth work of the functional and technical side of the application
  • Complying with the guidelines of the app store operators

Project/Product Manager

The product manager plays a strategic role that involves gathering requirements from the potential users and identifying opportunities for new software to be launched.

Primary duties:

  • Researching
  • Setting the product vision
  • Developing a strategic plan
  • Creating a product roadmap

Project managers focus primarily on the execution side of the product manager’s plan.

Primary duties:

  • Breaking down the plan into straightforward tasks
  • Planning project timelines
  • Supervising task completion
  • Allocating project resources
  • Risk and cost management

It can be two different team members, or one specialist can do it all.

Quality Assurance Engineer

They are responsible for creating software to validate the quality of the application developed by the software development team.

Primary duties:

  • Testing, reviewing, and assessing the product
  • Creating automated tests, tools, and methods to make sure systems are running according to requirements
  • Pinpointing problems and working on their solutions

UI/UX Designer

Their role is to create the best user experience possible for their product, making it visually captivating and psychologically comfortable.

Primary duties:

  • Producing user-friendly design, user flows, wireframes, prototypes, and mockups
  • Catching and troubleshooting UX problems

DevOps Engineers

Development and operations engineers automate the application life cycle (including design, development, testing, deployment, support, and monitoring). Basically, it’s merging the skills of software developers, testers, system administrators, and IT managers into one specialist. DevOps reduce software development time and help you implement new features in your product on the go. But their presence is optional, depending on the scope of your project.

Primary duties:

  • Applying processes and methodologies to streamline product development
  • Managing the application infrastructure

Business Analyst

This expert ensures that the development team and stakeholders are on the same page. They translate business goals into clear development tasks to match the final product with its business value. Smaller software development projects don’t require a BA.

Primary duties:

Software Development Team Size

To determine the team size, you have to consider project complexity, its platform, schedule, budget constraints, and the type of project management approach. Keep in mind that there is no ideal number. Smaller teams mean smoother coordination, but you can’t afford to lose anyone from the team. Members of a big team are easier to substitute, but managing the communication might be a challenge.

Project Complexity

As mentioned above, some software development experts like business analysts or DevOps are not a must for a team. But if your project is large-scale, it will be hard to complete it without them. At some point, you might require specific consultants if such a need arises. Also, if you don’t consider yourself an IT genius, consider hiring a CTO (Chief Technology Officer). This person will supervise matters related to the tech stack.

Project Schedule

Software development team size can also be dependent on how much time you have. Usually, the tighter the deadline, the more professionals you have to bring in.

Project Platform

Sometimes, the team size can also be affected by the software you plan to make. If you want to build a mobile app development team, the basic number of specialists required is five or six (e.g., a project/product manager, UI/UX designer, IOS/Android developer, back-end developer, and quality assurance engineer). If you’re after a desktop app, then your team will be larger. You’ll need extra specialists who know how to work with different popular operating systems (Mac OS X, Windows, Unix, and Unix-like systems like Linux, Ubuntu, and FreeBSD). And for web development, such professionals as web developers and solution architects are needed.

Project Management Approaches

There are two common management styles: Waterfall and Agile. A Waterfall team is built on a strict hierarchy with well-defined team roles for each member. An Agile team is self-organized and self-managed; it employs cross-functional talent instead of roles set in stone. There is no limit to team size for the first style. But those who adhere to agile methodology believe that the optimal team size is between three and nine members. And seven members is considered to be the perfect fit.

Budget Capacity

You might have figured out the team size you need at this point. But you understand that your budget won’t cover the expenses. In this case, you’d better save money on the employment model instead of hiring fewer specialists than the project requires. We’re going to talk about these models later in this article.

Software Development Team Roles and Stages

There are five main stages of software development: (1) analysis, (2) design, (3) development, (4) testing, and (5) implementation & maintenance. Each stage involves specific team members.

1Analysis

Here, you have to identify the problem that your software must solve. This stage sets the foundation for the whole project’s direction. It also makes sure that the client’s business goals will align with the final product.
Team members involved:

  • Business Analyst
  • Product Manager

2Design

Now, it’s time to build the architecture of the project by creating the SRS document. It describes all the features and performance expected from the software.
Team members involved:

  • Business Analyst/Product Manager
  • UX/UI Designer
  • Project Manager

3Development

This is when expert software developers get to the actual business — coding. The required components and functionalities of the software finally come to life.
Team members involved:

  • CTO
  • Front-end Engineer
  • Back-end Engineer
  • DevOps Engineer

4Testing

When the software is ready, it’s time to assess its performance. This stage allows fixing critical issues before they lead to critical losses.
Team members involved:

  • QA Engineer
  • Project Manager/Product Manager
  • CTO

5Implementation & Maintenance

Finally, the developed software is ready to be used by real users. It’s crucial to have a team of software engineers who can respond to service tickets, suggestions, and technical questions promptly. This will ensure the users’ loyalty. The maintenance stage deals with fixing problems that weren’t noticed before and adapting the software to changes by upgrading it regularly.
Team members involved:

  • Technical Support
  • Product/Project Manager
  • Database Analyst
  • CTO
  • Data Scientist
  • Head of Engineering

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Software Development Team?

To answer this question, you have to consider three major things: the location of specialists, the team type, and the employment model.

The Team Type

Here you have three options: hire freelancers, in-house developers, or dedicated offshore teams.
If you have a small-scope project, you can use one of the freelance websites. For example, this is how much it costs to hire specialists depending on the software development role on Upwork.

But if your project needs constant attention and uncompromised quality, go for an in-house team or dedicated team. Getting an in-house team is a rather expensive approach since you have to cover hiring and retaining staff expenses and keep them in-house for a longer period than the project may last. Salaries for the in-house team members depend on their location and skill.

Region Average hourly rate
North America $55
Western Europe $66
Eastern Europe $37
Latin America $50
Asia Pacific $28
Africa $31

Hiring a dedicated software development team is easier and cheaper since you cut the HR costs. But you still end up with a well-structured team of professionals ready to carry out your project through all stages. In this case, location mostly affects the rates. For example, Eastern European markets provide highly skilled English-speaking software engineers with 20-30% lower rates than in Europe or America.

Employment Models

There are two of them:

  • Fixed-price
    You decide on the project scope, and team members agree on a price before development begins. This way, you stay within your budget limits. But if the software development changes at some stage, you might pay more for less work.
  • Time and materials
    You approve the budget for each stage of development and pay for the time of the developers, as well as for whatever tools or software they need to use. It’s convenient since you get the freedom to request new features or change the development direction altogether.

However, it’s hard to estimate the costs for building a software development team without taking into account the project’s complexity, scope, and timeframe.

Where to Find a Software Development Team

Google has it all, of course. You can pick a development team by assessing their already completed works on websites like Dribbble or Behance — or you can go straight to software development companies that provide outsourced services. In both cases, don’t forget to look up their reviews and ratings on sites like Clutch, GoodFirms, and Manifest. There are also reviews and portfolios for freelancers on Upwork, Upstack, TopTal, Hired, and Fiverr.

Things to consider:

  • Apart from reviews, check the companies’ websites and their social media accounts.
  • Opt for a company that has substantial experience in building dedicated development teams that deliver the solutions you need.
  • Take time to learn about the expertise of all the specialists who will be part of your potential team.
  • Make sure the company complies with security standards that are demanded of your project, such as ISO, PCI, HIPAA.

Takeaway

Building a successful software development team might seem daunting if you’re running a startup and it’s your first time. But if you have a great idea, along with understandable project goals o and insights from this article, you’ll be fine. Choosing the right people is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Gathering professionals together won’t make it work unless you define the team type and establish clear roles and responsibilities for each member.

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