Building an Effective Software Development Team: A Complete Guide (+REAL Example)
I know jumping right straight to the content from literally nowhere is not sweet, but:
75% of business and IT executives anticipate their software projects will FAIL.
It’s been quite a time dated back to when this number was reported. The percentage might increase, decrease, remain the same, et cetera since then, but still, it was once a fact (with over 30% of chances it’s still a fact).
During the history of software development, countless failures have been recorded.
There have been lots of laughter and tears, jokes and regrets following software malfunctions, recalling back to St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital’s computer errors “killing” 8500 people, IT defects in National Health Service that prescribes wrong medications, or a series of things wrong in Toyota cars’ installed software.
The consequences of such cases, more or less, were a big humiliation to their developers, leaving people with a question: Who and what is to blame for those faults in software?
Of course, there are many ways you can mess a software project up such as the lack of capability, usage of immature technology, or having an ineffective development team.
The dynamic within a team plays an ultimate-important role during the development as it guarantees the level of synergy among different phases and functions. Without a capable, collaborative and dedicated team, chances are your project is screwed.
Still, building an awesome software development team requires some tactics to hack the game.
In this guide, you are going to learn:
- How to define great goals for your team?
- Ideal size for your team
- Ways to delegate effectively within your team
- Tricks to boost employee engagement
- Efficient tools to evaluate team performance
- [Real Example with Explaination] How Savvycom built our dream software development team
Wait no more to find out!
Table of Contents
- Team Goals
- Team Structure
- Team Engagement
- Team Performance Evaluation
- Applying Agile Methodology and Developing a Scrum Team
Do you know what the first step of every software development process is?
Yes, you’re right!
Planning. Goal setting.
Building software for the mere sake of building software is not efficient. You have to know you’re building something worth sacrificing your hot dates, sweet dreams and TV-binging popcorns for. You have to know where you’ll lead your product to, more or less.
That being said, unclear instructions and miscommunications are the cause of many problems while teamworking.
Different organisations have different needs, so your goals shall vary as per each’s distinctions and requirements.
Each team should know exactly what they’re working toward including what goals and when they need to be hit.
Is the project about Android app, iOS app or Web design?
With a long-term and complex project, how many employees would be the most effective?
This should be a major factor in your new business strategy. A team who knows where they are going to is a happily oriented team.
The structure of a team is like a skeleton. Without a strong, robust skeleton, a body cannot function at its best.
That being said, the size of the team and the role each person plays must be in harmony with each other as well as the team body (goals, visions, missions, etc).
On the other hand, a team, pretty much as a skeleton, is quite fragile, to a degree that even one malfunction component can cause the whole figure to collapse, which leaves you with a tremendous pressure to keep everything in control.
Understanding the complication in deciding an ideal size for your team as well as a suitable task-allocation tactic, in this part, I will elaborate some basics for you to ease the process.
Do you think the quantity means nothing if the quality is well-reserved?
Think those are two different aspects that do nothing to the other?
Uh-oh. False. You’re out of the game!
The quantity, in the context of a team, does play an essential role in boosting the performance.
To be exact, it’s a factor that directly influences the quality of your process and your product – those 2 are always in close relation.
According to a poll on HackerLife, the most optimal size for an IT project is within 4-5 people and on average the team comprises of around 6 people. This conclusion is proven by an experiment called the Ringelmann effect, also called social loafing phenomenon.
The experiment involves increasingly large groups of people pulling a rope, Ringelmann deduced that for every person added beyond 5-6 people, individual contributions to the group became smaller.
In simple words:
The bigger the team are, the less effort the workers put into common tasks as their contribution are less visually recognised.
Yet, if a team is too large there is a potential risk of productivity of each individual employees decreasing while the composition of the team gets bigger.
Notwithstanding, some specific tasks require a large number of software development team members.
Sports teams composed of a different number of players. 11 players for a football team, 6 players for a volleyball team and etc but on average not more than fifteen. Members of small teams are more devoted to others and everyone’s success.
Still, in software development, larger software applications take more effort to develop than smaller ones. There are a lot of approaches to managing huge software development teams.
A long-term outsourcing development project may require up to 20 members. However, whether a project is successful depends mostly on the human factor.
IT development teams often conquers several problems like human resources management, lack of communication, and motivational loss.
How to address and manage those problems in compatibility with team size will be discussed later in the next part.
Team Roles and Responsibilities
Can work be done by a single person?
Yes sure. If it’s not teamwork.
In order to maintain a sense of justice and equity within your team as well as for the work to be done as fast, as excellent as possible, equipping yourself with a set of delegation skill is necessary.
Having too many people doing the same jobs, or even worse, having the wrong person to do tasks that are way too much for them are always the start of corruption, whether you can foresee it or not.
How to choose the right person with the right role and responsibility?
To avoid having too many people with similar roles in the same team, you should first list a number of candidates with regard to their technical background.
Then, trying to evaluate their soft skills and finally, make a decision based on some extra factor like working style, personal characteristics and logical thinking.
A web development team must be composed of UX/UI designer, quality assurance (QA) tester, server administrator and project manager (PM).
In a mobile development team, developers should have experience in working with a platform of choice and its languages: Java/Kotlin for Android, Objective-C/Swift for iOS and C# for Windows Phone.
For every IT project, these roles are indispensable, so make sure you recruit wisely.
You should also do the same thing in order to avoid suffocating your members with never-in-the-wildest-dreams tasks.
It makes no sense if you assign a level-10 task to a level-4 member since the possibilities of them messing it up is high, not to mention the deterrence they get when doing something far too hard for them.
As such, the point is not to give everyone an equal number of tasks but to allocate adequate and suitable tasks to each of them.
You don’t season every dish the same amount of salt, right? It’s just not the way they are cooked fresh and nice.
That’s left us with you doing some researches about your members beforehand. Learning your member core competence, range of professions and the level of pressure-taking are all essential steps for an effective delegation.
Divide the task in a way that’s challenging, but achievable. Setting reasonable deadlines to reminds everyone to stick to their task, therefore, avoids slowing down the working progress of the whole team.
Those guarantee everyone can work their best in their power yet still be motivated to be better versions than they were yesterday.
Commitment. Engagement. Sense of inclusion and alliance. All the ingredients you know should be in the pot, but find it hard to buy and to measure how much shall be added.
How about me showing you a method?
Communication is a two-way street and employees should feel like they can add to the conversation both with superiors and co-workers.
The more the team communicates, the sooner the goal may achieve.
Before starting a big project, you could plan a casual meetup beforehand that allow colleagues to get coffee or dinner with each other.
The coffee time or tea break also boost team members to get to know each other on a more personal level to increase mutual trust, respect and understanding each other’s characteristics and strength.
When people build trust on a personal level, the benefits carry over into work projects.
On the other hand, the workers would not hesitate to give feedback about their works. In turn, group efforts have a higher likelihood of success.
Praising and recognising team and individuals who have the best performance will boost confidence and morale, encouraging teams and individuals to keep up the good work as well.
Helping developers grow professionally
Technology is a competitive world. This world requires developers to constantly upgrade themselves and desire for new innovation.
Attracting competent developers is a challenge, retaining them is even more difficult. That is why HR managers and company leaders are paying so many concerns about developing employees.
When you invest time and money in your developers, not only do you boost their loyalty, you also help them cultivate new skills that will benefit your business.
Some companies introduce mentoring programs, which pairing employees with mentors.
Employees would choose to pair up with a person who they feel the most comfortable with and want to learn more from mentors.
Other companies offer workshops, where they share working experience, tips for work and anything that is helpful to the audiences. These workshops and mentoring efforts not only improve employees skills but also strengthen bonds between team members.
Just like in Savvycom, internal workshops are remained monthly to keep our developers updated with new technologies or to share each other’s experience and to train new skills.
Besides, Savvycom leaders often send our developers to external training to improve their skills with giant technology firms like AWS, Google or Apple.
Team Performance Evaluation
Evaluation is the ace of controlling.
Without an ace, can a game a good game?
Without evaluation, can you realise what’s good and what’s bad, what to be maintained and what to be improved in order for your project to rock?
No, you can’t.
Through evaluation, you can see where your team is standing, recognise problems before things fall out in a messy bowl of soup and act on the necessities immediately so that your project could end up a success.
It helps you not only track the status of the whole team, but also the progress of each individual.
Encouragement, appreciation and appraisal play a huge part in members’ motivation, development, dedication and commitment, therefore, you must always have a heads-up on who are the best players, the people that are worthy of receiving credits for their hard word and prosperous results.
You shall also be aware of the falling-behind because they are likely to lose hope and productivity in their work.
They need consolations, encouragements, or simply someone who listens to them and has their back.
They need you as an empathetic, understanding manager to show them that work is still fun, that even though they are doing not too well, they are recognised for the effort, and that they have your belief and support to do better in the future.
Therefore, they would turn back to their lovely, happy, satisfied-with-work selves and function 10 times better than they did before.
But to do that? Evaluate each of them.
How to track down your team performance efficiently?
Here are the tools and frameworks that you can apply right away.
360-degree feedback is one of the most popular methods for evaluation because of its confidential nature.
In this framework, managers receive anonymous feedback from individuals with whom they interact frequently in the course of daily operations. These can include internal and external customers, superiors, direct reports, subordinates, vendors, etc.
Evaluators are then chosen at random from the above groups to avoid skewed results. Based on the interpretation from the evaluators, you will be able to filter out the information you need for evaluation and appraisal.
Another method you shall put into use is the balanced scorecard. This approach combines quantifiable information, such as sales quotas and budgetary requirements, with performance standards particular to the position.
This method utilises key performance indicators, or KPIs, to track how well the employee has reached short- and long-term goals.
These take into account the employee’s career growth and adherence to best practices as set forth by the individual organisation.
Lastly, self-evaluation. This allows the employee to rate himself/herself against the same or similar criteria used by his supervisor. Often this involves qualitative and quantitative criteria.
This method can raise the credibility level of the process in the view of the employee; especially when the employee’s self-assessment score lines up closely with that of the supervisor.
When the scores are somewhat at odds with one another, this tool offers discussion processes whereby these differences can be discussed in a safe, constructive manner.
Applying Agile Methodology and Developing a Scrum Team
With nearly 10 years of bringing the most advanced technology solutions into the business world, Savvycom is proudly confident to provide you with a professional working process, an awesome team structure.
Every product designed by Savvycom is constituted of careful planning and collaboration of the project’s team members as of this framework.
Let’s have a closer look at an IT Outsourcing company like Savvycom to find out how the teamwork delivers a successful software development project.
In this article, we will only focus on team development but no stakeholders, who are responsible for delivering an ideal software product.
Product Owners, located at the top of the diagram, in case of an outsourced company, could be the company’s client. They have a vision of what their product is, whom it serves, and how it should be.
Commonly, they will give the project manager a set of product requirements and expectations that he/she desires their products will have.
Leading and managing the whole team is a Project Manager (PM), who identifies where and how the team members will go to achieve their goals.
PMs are right under the Product Owner in the diagram. They are in charge of optimising the work efficiency and ensuring the product meets all the requirements.
PMs will take charge of recruiting team members, identify their strengths and weaknesses to assign prosper tasks for everyone in the team. More importantly, they are also responsible for tracking team members’ workflow and make sure they strictly adhere to the timeline.
Lying at the lower level are Business Analysts (BA).
BA acts as a bridge to connect business challenges with technology solutions. Their role is making a set of questions to ask their clients in order to have a deeper understanding of the project.
This can be done by an array of assignments such as asking clients for explaining requirements for developers, gathering comprehensive information about project needs and conducting user acceptance test.
In general, after thoroughly understand user requirements, UI/UX designer will illustrate design ideas using process flows, storyboards, and sitemaps as well as design graphical user interface elements like menu, tab, and widgets.
On the premise of UI/UX, developers will use an appropriate programming language/required technologies to create clean, efficient codes based on specifications.
The team members must collaborate well with each other to build and implement ideal functional programs.
In this phase, we have to differentiate three kinds of developers.
- Web developers
- App developers
These two first terms are simply distinguished by their platforms.
Web application developers engaged in developing and designing web/network applications and make sure they work well on the internet.
As a web contains both the interface – what users can see and the code – which is only be seen by the developers, it is typically divided into Front-end developers and Back-end developers.
- Front-end developers manage everything that users visually see first in their browser or application, in other words, they are responsible for the users’ sense.
- Back-end developers manage the server-side of an application and everything that communicates between the database and the browser.
Mobile applications developers include iOS and Android developer teams, sometimes could be cross-platform developers who can play well on both iOS and Android system.
Another essential part of a software developer is DevOps. They are a combination of Development & Operations team.
The main goal of DevOps is to increase the quality of the product to a great extent and to increase the collaboration of Development and Operation team as well so that the workflow within the organisation becomes smoother.
Finally, Quality Assurance (QA) is at the bottom level in the diagram.
After having the first version of the product, the QA department will implement testing whether the draft has any bugs or not.
They convert requirements and documents into a set of testing cases and scripts, which can be used to verfìy if the application meets the client’s expectation.
These testing cases will be applied continuously until there is no unexplained error found in the system.
Building an effective team is nowhere near easy. It requires a rotation of planning, organising, leading and controlling, in combination with other interpersonal skills and management of the various environment.
Lots of efforts, persistence, observation and improvision must be exerted while facing up with the changing situation within the team, therefore you shall never put your guard off.
As strength in building an effective software development team, Savvycom has rapidly raised our flag in the IT outsourcing industry, delivering hundreds of projects to many businesses across the world and became a trusted partner with worldwide clients.
If you have any requirements in software development outsourcing, please do not hesitate to contact us to get a FREE CONSULTATION with our experts, or keep subscribing us to get more updates in the technology world.
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