Software Development Team Structure: Simplified

Software Development Team Structure Simplified

By: Erik Birkfeld

March 2, 2021

Effective teams are vital for software development, as software development is inevitably a collaborative process, with multiple teams having input. But how do you create an effective software development team structure?

What Does Effective Really Mean?
Agile Team

An effective team works in harmony and delivers results within a reasonable timeframe. This requires several things to happen:

  • The team must remove communication gaps that hinder their ability to understand what other team members are doing and understand what their role in the project is.
  • The work environment must be mutually supportive, with team members understanding each other and supplementing each other’s efforts.
  • The team must approach the problem using flexible methodologies and be ready to handle change to create the best possible outcome for the project.

Essentially, the team must be agile.

✓ The Structure of an Effective Agile Software Development Team

While many discussions of teams state that every member is equal, the reality is that there is always a hierarchy — this is necessary because someone needs to set direction at some point. A true nonhierarchical structure ends up floundering most of the time because it can’t make decisions effectively.

✓ Project Manager

At the top is inevitably the project manager. This person develops the overall plan, ensures the team has the right assets in the right place — including people and equipment — and assigns tasks. Ultimately, the buck usually stops with the project manager because they are the one taking ownership of the project.

✓ Functional Managers

A step down from the project manager is the functional managers. These managers work closely with team members and translate the requirements from the project manager into tasks for individual people. Their role is to manage the people involved in creating the software. In some methodologies, such as Scrum, they will monitor the process but allow developers to make decisions on what to do when.

✓ Other Managers

QA is often a separate side of the development process, but the QA team and QA managers should be involved in all steps of the development process. Their role is to ensure that the software meets the project requirements and that it works as intended. The software test engineers are usually part of this team, as well.

The change manager — if separate from the project manager — usually makes decisions on the budget, requirements, and timelines required. In some cases, they report to the project manager, but they may also be slightly separate.

✓ Developers and Programmers

Developers and programmers do the main work of coding. If using a Scrum methodology, there will be five developers to every functional manager (known as a scrum master). In other methodologies, there may be more or fewer.

✓ Other Roles

There may also be subject matter experts for specific issues who focus on certain areas of expertise. They may be particularly adept at working with certain databases and automating a process for converting information from that database into usable data for the code base, or they may have other talents such as working with specific programming languages or handling particular issues expected to crop up.

✓ Different Teams for Different Jobs

There are several parts to any software development process, from the code that forms the backend to the bit that users actually see. Different teams will do different parts, depending on their own areas of expertise.

In an organization that is dedicated to producing software, different teams will migrate to different projects at different stages in the project development life-cycle. In a company that doesn’t have the same level of flexibility, generalists will generally take on the project most of the way through, although the results may take longer.

Ultimately, creating a good team of software developers and the infrastructure to support them is vital to ensuring that a project gets off the ground and achieves its end goals within a reasonable amount of time. If you’d like to know more about our software development team structure, talk to us today.

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