Software Development Team Structure: Key Roles & Responsibilities
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The software development market is full of skilled specialists. According to Statista, the global software development population is expected to reach 28.7 million people by 2024.
However, software development teams don’t consist of engineers only. You need project managers to ensure deadlines are met, UI/UX designers to make the product good-looking and user-friendly, and other experts.
Still, with prior knowledge, it could be easier to distinguish when to hire more people, optimize costs, and stick to the bare minimum of experts. Not even mentioning that it could be hard to understand what this bare minimum is.
Softermii is here to help you figure everything out. Through our years of experience in the software development market, we’ve delivered projects of different scales and, respectively, with varying team sizes. For example, SoundIt, an audio content-based social platform, was built by a team of 11 members.
That’s why we believe that we can share valuable insights with you. Read more about the software development team structure, hierarchy, and roles.
Typical Software Development Team Structure
The typical Agile software development team organization chart looks like this:
As you can see, it doesn’t consist of developers only. Ideally, you need a team that combines three core competencies: development, design, and product knowledge. This is also known as the Product Triad.
The Product Triad is largely used by companies such as Atlassian, LaunchDarkly, and Invision. While this approach isn’t the only one available, it’s the most common and easiest to start with.
Key Roles And Responsibilities in The Software Development Team
Now that you know what a typical software engineering team structure looks like, let’s focus specifically on the roles and responsibilities of each team member.
Product Owner (PO)
A product owner is a client themselves or their representative. In the second case, this should have the client’s ultimate trust and a clear vision of the final product and can answer the majority of questions that might emerge in the development process.
The responsibility of a product owner is to define the product’s goal and clearly explain it to the team working on a product. They should also create a product backlog, outlining the requirements to meet at each stage of the development process. Such a backlog should also contain a detailed description of all the features to implement.
Project Manager (PM)
A project manager is responsible for, well, managing software engineering teams. It is a must-have role for any development project with multiple team members.
The main responsibility of a project manager is to ensure that the project will be delivered according to all requirements, models (for instance, a Waterfall one), deadlines, and budget and will perform just as expected. This involves a lot of communication with the software engineering team, the client, and their representatives. It’s also up to a project manager to spot any potential delays and budget overruns in time and reach out to the client to discuss them.
While a project manager doesn’t necessarily have to possess technical expertise, it’s still good if they have it. In this case, they could suggest ways to improve a product and explain the client’s requirements more clearly. For instance, if you need to design a mobile app, you might want to look specifically for project management for application development.
Business Analyst (BA)
The main task of a business analyst is to maximize the chances of your product succeeding on the market. To achieve that, they dig deep into the market data, analyze competitors and trends, study and compare all the information to deliver the best possible solutions to the stakeholders. Furthermore, they structure the data so it would be understandable for the team working on a project.
Keep in mind that despite the business analysts' roles and responsibilities might seem significant, they still don’t make the final decisions about a product. Instead, they present the bare facts objectively, allowing the client to take the following steps based on numbers. During the maintenance stage, they collect and analyze the feedback both from the client and the users to suggest improvements.
UI/UX designer is another vital software development team role that shouldn’t be undervalued. While user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are two different roles, they are often combined. Even if you have separate specialists responsible for each role, they still should work in a team and constantly communicate because UI and UX go hand-in-hand. An intricate product interface means nothing if this product isn’t user-friendly. Vice versa, the tool offering a good user experience but has an outdated look also won’t perform great.
Both UX and UI decisions aren’t random. They are based on data collected via market research and user interviews from the target audience.
Naturally, no development team can proceed without a software engineer. Furthermore, most likely, you’ll need to have more than just one. A software developer is usually an expert in one or two programming languages and technologies.
Their responsibilities also depend on the specialization:
- front-end developers develop and implement the part of a product that users see and interact with, making it functional from the users’ perspective;
- back-end developers create the part that isn’t seen by the users but still is no less important: a product’s structure, system, logic, and data;
- full-stack developers can do both of these things, almost always with a focus on web solutions;
- mobile developers specialize in coding for mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones.
While a software developer's main and most obvious task is coding, their responsibilities don’t end with just that. They attend meetings regarding the product, fix bugs, rewrite certain areas of the code, and even handle testing.
Quality Assurance Engineer (QA)
Testers or QA specialists might not be the most prominent part of team structure in software engineering, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t necessary. Behind every successful product, there are hours of meticulous automated and manual testing focused on identifying and eliminating all the bugs, starting as soon as the developers release the first working version.
They look for bugs and keep detailed notes on them, listing the bug itself, the operating system, the device used, and the steps they took to spot a problem. QA specialists also conduct post-release support, ensuring that a product is bug-free right after the launch and after every new update.
DevOps engineers support your project after its release. However, even with thorough testing, it’s difficult to predict how many customers a product will attract and, correspondingly, how user activity will affect its performance.
To ensure that in any case, the product will perform well 24/7, you need to implement DevOps in your software development team. They also estimate when it will require upgrades, how much they will cost along with maintenance, how the product will perform after upgrades, and so on.
DevOps engineers also update the code, push it into production, monitor its performance, run unit tests, resolve bugs, and more.
There are also other, no less important roles, such as:
- Software architect, who defines the technical and functional architecture of a product and develops the most critical system components;
- Scrum master, who is a must-have for the Agile software development team. If you want to implement Agile software development, you need an expert, who knows the methodology’s principles and utilizes that knowledge to coordinate the team’s work;
- Security engineer, who spots potential vulnerabilities in the system and eliminates them, designs and implements security plans, and tests new security features.
Although the list of roles might seem impressive, if not intimidating, top-level outsourcing companies like Softermii have all these specialists. Our professionals have average 5-7 years of experience and can handle even the most complex tasks swiftly.
Factors to Consider When Building a Software Development Team
Learning the responsibilities and roles in a software development team is just the first part of the process. The second would be building a team of your choice while using the acquired knowledge.
To make the process easier, Softermii offers you several key factors to consider to build a better team.
Define the project scope
Understanding a project’s scope can help you with a lot of things, team building included. Big and complex projects, in turn, require bigger teams with many different roles, while small ones might not need a team of 15+ people to succeed.
Conducting a discovery stage, creating a minimum viable product (MVP), and testing it in the live market before releasing the extended version, developing for several platforms simultaneously — all of these and other things can affect the scope of your project and the choice of the development team.
Determine the team size
As Softermii mentioned, the team size can vary depending on the project’s complexity, characteristics, technologies and platforms, and many more.
The Scrum methodology believes that the optimal team size varies from 3 to 9 members, with 7 being the best choice. However, the above list of roles lists at least nine members, not even mentioning that you most likely will need more than one software developer for the project.
Therefore, there’s no one-fits-all solution. When determining team size, pay attention to your own goals and needs. If you start with MVP, you might not need 9+ specialists. But if you plan big, a bigger team will most likely aid you better.
Define the type of team structure
There are three main software development team structures to consider:
- Specialist structure. All of the team members are highly skilled in their own niche and take on the responsibilities required in this area.
- Generalist structure. All of the team’s members have broad experience and skills. They use this knowledge to deliver the overall project or its specific feature.
- Hybrid structure. This is a combination of the two organization structures described above. Generally, a hybrid team focuses on the whole project. However, if there’s a need to use niche experts, they can deliver that too.
Set key performance indicators for each role
Key performance indicators or KPIs help you evaluate the performance of each team member. They help project managers and product owners understand how each professional is performing not only as part of a team but also individually.
They also help team members track their progress and timely identify potential challenges. To achieve that, KPIs have to be both specific and realistic.
Establish communication channels
Setting up concrete communication channels helps ensure that each team member is on the same page about the project’s progress. When there are too many messengers and project management tools used for each project, the information gets lost easily.
Storing all the relevant project data in one place and making sure that both the client and the team know where to look for it allows us to avoid misunderstanding and track the progress accurately.
Make Sure the Software Development Team is Efficient
When you build a software development team, you probably want to know if you’re making the right choice and if this team is truly efficient.
Here are several characteristics that can help you understand that:
- The team communicates well. They have no trouble understanding each other and updating you about the project’s progress on time.
- The team doesn’t need to be controlled. Obviously, team management is still necessary to keep track of the project’s deadlines and maintain communication between the client and the team. However, even without their constant monitoring, the team can perform well. Often this happens naturally when team members know each other for a while.
- The team has well-defined responsibilities. Each team member knows what they have to do, how, and when this has to be done. If they don’t know that, they turn to the project manager for guidance instead of expecting someone to come to them or do their job for them.
- The team works for a common goal. This means that there is no competition within the team, all of its members share their responsibility, and support each other. Because if the project goes well, it’s everyone’s win.
Softermii’s Software Development Team
Just like we’ve mentioned above, it often takes a team of people working together for a while to succeed. We at Softermii know that from experience. Although the teams responsible for various projects differed in size and responsibilities, the results were always impressive in the end.
Take a look at several examples. It took a team of 11 people to build the Esthetic platform — an online clothing marketplace with a set of diverse features, such as AI-powered content personalization, an easy-to-pay checkout system taking only three clicks, and multi-warehouse support.
Here’s how the project’s team structure looked like:
When we developed PractiCall, a Zoom-like video conferencing platform, we needed a bigger team of 14 people. As the project is scalable, adapted to web and mobile, and rich in features, it took us more than a year to deliver it. But that was worth it! PractiCall offers a very high level of protection and various useful features, such as automatic subtitles with multilingual support.
This is the team behind the project:
Our experience allows us to offer you reliable support in the software development department. Whether it’s your first time turning a project into life or you’ve been working in the market for a while, we can help you. Reach out to us for full-cycle software development services.
Building a software development team is a challenging thing. You need to understand each team member's roles and responsibilities, evaluate your project's scope, pick the right team size, set KPIs, and do other things to ensure smooth performance.
Or you can entrust the work to experts in the niche. Contact us to set up a software development team for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an Agile software development team right for startups?
In most cases, yes. As the Agile methodology focuses on maximizing efficiency, it could help startups achieve their goals quicker and with fewer resources if implemented correctly. It could also help startups quickly respond to emerging challenges.
How is the Agile software development team structure different?
The Agile software development team is usually self-organized and self-managed. The role of the project manager in such a team is to minimize distractions and prevent obstacles instead of setting up all work processes. Such a team is usually smaller than a traditional one, more cross-functional, and doesn’t take on multiple projects at a time.
What are the approaches to the structure of the product team?
There are three most common ways to structure a product team. You can allocate one product manager per product or a product feature. You can divide the product manager’s responsibilities not according to products but according to their skills (one will be responsible for managing designers, the other — for managing developers, and so on). You can also let product managers work with cross-functional teams, consisting of smaller groups of developers.
How to reduce the cost of the software development team?
By evaluating how many people you need and which roles are vital. The best way to reduce the cost of the software development team is to hire only those experts that you definitely need.
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