Building an Effective Software Development Team: A Complete Guide

According to Statista, the global developer population is expected to reach 28.7 million people by 2024, an increase of 4.8 million from the number seen in 2019. The number of developers might be abundant but building an effective software development team has never been easy. It is not about finding the best candidates, but about choosing the most suitable one, creating a correlation between members, and well manage the team.

Here are a few tactics for building a successful software development team:
Building an Effective Software Development Team: A Complete Guide by Savvycom

In this guide, you are going to learn:

  • How to define great goals?
  • The ideal size of a team
  • Ways to delegate effectively within the team
  • Tricks to boost team members engagement
  • Efficient tools to evaluate team performance

1. Software Development Team Goals

1.1. Fulfill the work requirements 

Setting fix software specification is a must, but keeping flexibility for sudden requests remains crucial as no one can predict all the potential possibilities. Here are the tactics:

  • Establish a communal understanding of software among the members involved: In the first stages, business analysts held workshops with the customer and the team to settle major software requirements and make sure everybody was having the same thought.
  • Prepare the full-fledged change management procedure: Every change request was proceeded as a business proposal and added to the project direction. After the changes were applied, stakeholders did user acceptance testing for the final approval.

1.2. Be on-time

Meeting deadline also has a recipe, which ensures working efficiency and aids the leader to manage the team.  This recipe has several aspects, especially the long-term projects, here are two of them:

  • Automate routine: The software development team fastens up the progress and ascertains smooth functionality integration with the working solution by automating the delivery pipeline within the DevOps approach.
  • Constant progress tracking: Using burndown charts showing work progress to keep focused and plan daily resources and team velocity chart demonstrating the average scope of work finished per iteration to plan reasonable workloads for future iterations is widely chosen.

1.3. Deliver high-quality software

Thinking about software quality at the very beginning of a project is highly recommended. For instance, ensuring project’s quality included the following cornerstones:

  • Reviewing codes. Automating code reviews to track code quality was an irreplaceable part of the software development routine to avoid code complexity with software maintenance problems. Good code should be neatly organized and simplified to its max.
  • Constant testing: establishing constant testing in the DevOps approach framework to identify quality bugs before deploying into production is crucial. If testing is left for the last, the workload is too heavy to be checked carefully.
  • Nurturing agile culture: Software development teams led by agile methodology deliver high-quality software in the fast-changing market: considering both speed and quality, dividing responsibility, communicating regularly, and understanding the business side.

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2. Software Development Team Structure

2.1. Team Size

“One team should be small enough that it can be fed with two pizzas”, according to the two-pizza rule by Jeff Bezos. Small teams are more likely to concentrate on what needs to be completed than on timetables and keeping people informed. Agile methodologies use the same methodology.

The size of a software development team, on the other hand, is primarily determined by the project’s scope, available resources, budget, and deadlines. Communication becomes more difficult when you have a larger group. So, dividing the big team into a few small cross-functional autonomous teams headed by team leaders is a smart idea.

Building an Effective Software Development Team: A Complete Guide by Savvycom

Size team is the key factor affecting a team’s productivity

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, which is the tendency for individual members of a group to become increasingly less productive as the size of their group increases (Wikipedia), also called the social loafing phenomenon.

Building an Effective Software Development Team: A Complete Guide by Savvycom

How many members are there in your team? (Source: Quora.com)

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.

2.2. Team Roles and Responsibilities

A successful software development team might not gather all excellent developers. Each team members play a vital role in the efficiency of the work process. Although the team’s composition can differ depending on the situation, these are the most common positions:

  • Product Owner is a person who knows of how the final product should look like. This role is usually played by a person representing the customer or by the customer himself. 
  • Project Manager is responsible for the entire project process: planning, defining work scope, implementing, monitoring, and closing a project. PM optimizes the team’s work quality, identifies goals, and ensures the product meets all the requirements. 
  • Tech Lead is a highly-skilled software developer who can define the tech stack and review the code to ensure software quality. Tech Lead provides mentorship to developers and assists them throughout the process. 
  • Front-end/Back-end/Full-stack Developers are team members who apply their coding knowledge to building software. A front-end developer is responsible for the interior design of a house built by a back-end developer, while a full-stack developer does both.
  • UI/UX Designers are specialists responsible for creating interfaces and delivering the best digital user experience. 
  • Business Analyst analyzes the client’s business needs and searches to enhance the quality of digital products and services. 
  • Quality Assurance a person responsible for verifying software quality. Such a form of software testing makes it possible to check if regression errors occur. In other words, to check if work on new features didn’t cause errors in already existing and functioning system areas.

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Common software development team positions diagram

How to choose the right person with the right role and responsibility?
Building an Effective Software Development Team: A Complete Guide by Savvycom

Listing a number of candidates with regard to their technical background then evaluating their soft skills. Make a decision based on some extra factor like working style, personal characteristics, and logical thinking. A fit member is the one who can not only fulfill job responsibilities but will also collaborate well with colleagues.

3. Software Development Team Engagement

3.1. Encouraging Communication

Building an Effective Software Development Team: A Complete Guide by Savvycom

A software team discussion in Savvycom

“The more the team communicates, the sooner the goal may achieve”. The productivity of the software development team largely depends on communication. Transparent communication and two-way interaction among team members can hasten the project speed, boost creativity and working efficiency. Communication is also one of the core values of Agile Methodologies.

Employees should feel like they can add to the conversation both with superiors and co-workers. When people build trust on a personal level, the benefits carry over into work projects. Daily standups, programming in pairs, or meetings in person can be a great help for team members to get to know each other on a more personal level to increase mutual trust, respect, and understanding of each other’s characteristics and strengths. Praising and recognizing teams and individuals who have the best performance will boost confidence and morale, encouraging teams and individuals to keep up the good work as well.

3.2. Encourage Innovation

Developers should be empowered to try new things. The technology world is limitless, and every business is in different stages of adoption and adaptation. If developers can justify the change and is passionate about making advancement, it would be a loss to discourage them. The leader must be willing to let them try, fail and learn.

When a developer puts forward a rigorous code quality assurance process, using newly-discovered tools that he was exposed to at his previous software project, the manager should open to a demonstration or proof-of-concept. Or a group of developers comes forward to discuss changing the project’s source control technologies, believing that making the change will propel velocity and improve the team’s development performance. They are all positive signals and should be encouraged.

LEARN MORE: A Detailed Comparison between Software Engineer and Software Developer

4. Software Development Team Performance Evaluation

Dozens of mistakes might occur during the software development process. Numbers of performance measurement metrics are used to prevent any possible losses. Up to 70% of the top-performing teams have been using at least one metric, according to CodingSans. Here are two common metrics that widely utilized.

4.1. Agile Performance Measures

The agile metrics include some of the fundamental metrics, such as lead time, which is the time it takes from the idea to the final product’s handoff. The other measure is cycle time, the time needed to complete one work unit. The imperative aspect that needs to be measured is the team’s velocity – the team’s average number of tasks in one sprint. Finally, the measure is the open/close rate, expressing the number of reported and solved issues within a specific timeframe.

4.2. Production Analysis

Building an Effective Software Development Team: A Complete Guide by Savvycom

Evaluation is a necessary step for effective development team building

This measure is applied at the product’s production stage. Production analysis includes analyzing the Mean Time To Recover (MTTR), Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF), and Application Crash Rate. The Mean Time Between Failures is the period of time between occurring errors or failures – the longer, the better. The software is working great if no errors pop up during a long time period. The Mean Time To Recover means the average time needed to “fix a problem”, measured the period of time since the problem comes up until the issue has been resolved. Lastly, Application Crash Rate is calculated by dividing the number of errors that occurred while using the software by the number of times the software used. This figure is the smaller, the better.

4.3. Which Metrics To Choose?

The metrics should reflect the business goals. A meeting of all software development team members will choose the best performance measures to fit the project and vision. The chosen metrics also need to answer some business-wise questions because good software’s performance can increase sales, revenue, engagement, and many more.

4.4. Effective Use of Performance Measures

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The metrics is a powerful tool only when combined with your team’s knowledge of the project. To effectively use all of the above performance measures, the team needs to stay flexible and focused on the main goal. In some cases, to reach the requirements in the measure, the quality was ignored.

4.5. Tools And Frameworks for Evaluation

a/ 360-degree feedback

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.

READ MORE: The Essential Guide To Software Development Services

b/ Balanced scorecard

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 utilizes 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 organization.

c/ Self-evaluation

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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.

5. Applying Agile Methodology and Developing a Scrum Team

With nearly 10 years of bringing the most advanced technology solutions into the business world, Savvycom can provide a professional working process, an awesome team structure. Every software designed by Savvycom is constituted of careful planning and collaboration of the project’s team members as of this framework. Why Scrum? Agile Software Development Methodology is the most popular in IT companies, and Scrum is a framework commonly used alongside this approach. Scrum is characterized by well-planned sprints, which are continuously reviewed and adapted along the way.

Here is the example of a Savvycom team’ composition

Building an Effective Software Development Team: A Complete Guide by Savvycom

Software development team diagram

Product Owners, located at the top of the diagram, in the 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. They are in charge of optimizing 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 to make 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 tests.

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Work process

In general, after thoroughly understand user requirements, UI/UX Designers 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, there are three kinds of developers:

  • Web developers
  • App developers
  • DevOps.

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 systems.

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 organization becomes smoother.

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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 expectations. These testing cases will be applied continuously until there is no unexplained error found in the system.

Final thoughts

Building an effective team is nowhere near easy. It requires a rotation of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling, in combination with other interpersonal skills and management of the various environment. Lots of effort, 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.

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Outsourcing software development projects: Team-based or Fixed cost model?

While considering which types of outsourcing software development projects, you may come up with a lot of difficult questions. One of those is definitely: how to choose a suitable model for your business in order to optimise every resource as much as possible. In this article, Savvycom would love to help you get through all of these difficulties and manage to complete your planned purpose.

Now, let’s check out every single detail of models: when to use, how to take advantage and any other interesting things related to the model.

1. Fixed cost model or Project services Model

When to use:

This model is applied to a budget-defined project that is created based on the detailed project requirements and man-hour estimation. Not only for short-term projects, long-term projects with a very clear purpose, an established project management process and a solid stable set of requirements can also apply this model perfectly. If you already clearly defined the requirement specifications, this model is highly recommended to help you control the budget very well.

This project model is a distributed environment that both in-house and external teams can thoroughly understand the details; additionally, they are well perceptive of each other’s skills and capabilities, so they can easily cooperate and collaborate in a friendly working environment.

The requirements can become the expectation of guiding the team to reach the final goal.

As a client, if you make a decision to change the scope when the project is still in the process, your IT outsourcing partner may have to induce extra costs. Therefore, your business relationship with IT outsourcing partners as well as project management will be on the verge of the risky cliff. Those risks will get into your plan and your outsourcing software development project will deviate to risk management rather than focusing on the main business goal. This whole situation will end up with poor results at a much higher cost (more than other models).

If you and your IT partner intend to negotiate the target cost, target profit and profit adjustment formula, you two may want to consider Fixed Price with Incentive (FPI) model.

This model will benefit you to some extent: provide with an incentive and bonus for gaining significant metrics and critical milestones. Remember, an FPI contract comprises some basic elements I mentioned right last sentence:

  • Target cost
  • Target profit
  • Price ceiling
  • Profit adjustment formula

team based fixed cost in outsourcing software development projects by savvycom

2. Team-based model or Team Services Model

This model can be the best option for long-term projects with more than a phase. In this model, a suitable team will be designed and allocated to the client. Savvycom highly recommends this if your specifications are not decided yet and the flexibility is required. Besides, if the development requirements are complicated and the order is periodic, the team-based model is much better than the fixed cost model for you.

About this outsourcing software development team services model, there are 3 elements that you should concern: cost per resource, management fee and hourly rate.

Cost per resource

It means the fixed-price that your business needs to pay to your IT partner, calculated for the assigned developer on a monthly basis. The engineer works on a single project and will be always ready to accept new tasks from the client and report him.

Management fee

Just a little different from cost per resource model in a positive way: more transparent. Besides the developer’s actual salary, the client pays a so-called “management fee” on top, covering administrative, housing, social expenses of the contractor plus the remuneration.

If you choose this model, you had better partake in the screening, selecting and choosing people for the team from the candidate list provided by the contractor. This transparency gives a choice between both skills of the potential employee and his desired salary. By accepting the candidates with the best balance between cost and expertise, you can get more than you expect.

Hourly rate

It is not a new practice to convert the average working month into the 160 working hours. The key benefit between the cost per resource model and hourly rate approach is that the full-working month would be 20% more expensive on average.

With the hourly rate model, it is not necessary to pay for the time when his virtual employee sick or on his vacation.

Let’s check out Savvycom’s portfolio here and contact us for FREE CONSULTATION in any technology projects that you’re looking for an outsourcing vendor.

As you may know, outsourcing software development project team-based model comprises of 2 forms: offshore and onsite; and offshore form is made up of 2 smaller types: outsourcing development centre and dedicated resources. Without further ado, let’s take a look at one of these 2 types.

2.1. Outsourcing development centre

When to use:

For long-term projects with actively changing requirements, the unclear scope of work and varying workloads of the development team.

Basically, you can understand the Outsourcing development centre as an intermediary company connecting between your company (client having demand) and IT outsourcing company (provider are available to supply your service).

From that point of view, we can easily draft out some pros and cons of this model.


  • Outsourcing development centre can find out your suitable IT partner in a short time based on your description. So, the more detailed your description is, the more proper and matched your future outsourcing partner is.
  • Various workloads can be distributed to many outsourcing companies. Therefore, your business will optimize time in the process to reach the goal sooner.
  • You can constantly be changing your scope of work without worrying about the relationship with IT partner. After the short-term contract with your partner in a certain phase, contact with outsourcing development centre to work with a new partner in the next phase


  • The extra cost for outsourcing development centre. For a small and medium enterprise, it seems not to be the best way to IT outsourcing.
  • After a successful connection between 2 sides and complete the deal, outsourcing development centre doesn’t take any responsibility about generating issues. So, you need to make sure about this decision.

2.2. Dedicated resources

When to use:
For long-term outsource software development projects with unclear requirements and continual scope changes.
For adding more manpower to own in-house IT team and operations by building an offsite team.
For opening new opportunities to acquire new knowledge throughout outsource software development projects when working with your foreign IT partner.

The project success rate within this model is very high due to the following factors:

Team management on a day-to-day basis via Skype meetings, face-to-face communication and/or virtual project management tools.

You can use the same productivity and quality metrics and incentives you normally apply to evaluate your internal employees.

Totally predictable costs and a better opportunity to meet the budget and/or plan further actions.
A loyal team of external developers committed to your project, fully aware of your business goals, sharing your company vision and really caring about your business success (unlike developers rotated from project to project and have very little understanding of the client’s objectives and business situation).

For further information about team-based and fixed cost model or about the rate of each model, please do not hesitate to contact Savvycom to get the quotation.

We’re happy to discuss with you to find out outsourcing software development project solution or lend you our professional and experts.

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