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Software Development Team Structure: Must-Have Players for Your Team

IT Recruitment Team Lead
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Professional IT recruiter for product tech companies with over 10 years of experience. Specializes in hiring senior engineers in Ukraine.
27 April 2022
10 min

Success stories always started with people, yet proper managing and structuring were instrumental. To bring your product to life and lead its way to success, you need to gather great specialists and an efficient way of organizing them into a team. In this article, I will shed light on two different types of team structure in software engineering that are going to be useful for tech entrepreneurs. 

 

The Key Drivers of Software Development Team Structure

 

The first step we should make is to outline some things that influence the team composition: timelines, workload, budget, type of product – everything does matter.  

 

Let’s have a closer look at some of these factors. 

 

The scope of work 

Well, first and foremost, the volume of work predetermines the number of programmers. At early stages such as proof of concept you won’t need a big team, but as soon as you step into the MVP stage, hiring new tech talents is unavoidable. Apart from this, some products require certain specialists to solve specific development issues. For instance, in a SaaS development team structure, marketing specialists and sales managers are so important for development that you should sometimes include them into the process. That’s because they interact with customers and know the market, thus can reveal critical problems and transmit them to the team. First, clearly identify who you need to make your product work, then when you aim at further product enhancement the scope of work gets bigger. Therefore, the correlation is evident: the larger the scale, the more people you need.

The timeframes 

Another point to mention in terms of structuring software development teams is time. Before you compose your team, analyze how much time you have to catch up. With fewer developers, it will obviously take more time to deliver the product. So, if you work under a deadline, you will have to engage more tech specialists to carry out the programming in time. 

The budget 

While being at the doorstep of organizing the team structure in software engineering, one should precisely think of the funds. The budget has a crucial impact on both the size of the team and the seniority of developers. Some tech companies opt for hiring offshore developers to extend their budget for further product development. For instance, hiring 3 senior JavaScript developers in the US will cost you $30,000 per month, but in Poland, you can hire 7 senior specialists and stay within this budget. Due to these beneficial conditions, Eastern Europe has become a desirable destination for business expansion. The average software developer’s salary in Poland is $3,300, and $2,500 in Ukraine, while the total number of IT specialists is more than half a million. Big-name companies such as Google, Samsung, and Grammarly have already opened their R&D hubs in East European countries.  

 

 

The project management methodology 

All projects are different, and there is no ultimate approach for all of them. There are Waterfall, Lean, Agile, Six Sigma, and other methodologies. Some of them are best suited for complex engineering processes, while others work better for unsophisticated development. Accordingly, they influence the software product development team structure. Although all methods are worth taking on board, in this article I will later dwell on the most popular ones: Waterfall and Agile. 

The roles and responsibilities 

Different kinds of software development team structure mean various roles for its teammates.  Depending on the type of your product, think about the technology stack you’ll need and what kind of IT specialists are going to be involved. As for the internal software development team organizational structure, it depends on the chosen methodology for project management. For example, some approaches have a clear distinction in roles & responsibilities, but others don’t.  

 

Key Roles in Software Development Team Organizational Structure

 

Since the responsibilities and roles tie in with management methodologies, I would like to describe the two most popular – Agile and Waterfall – and pitch upon the key roles in each methodology. Both of them are mature but widely different. One is about planning stages in advance and following an initial plan till the very end. Another implies flexibility in making changes at each stage of the project. Hence, there are discrepancies in the organizational structure of a software development team. Let’s get some more detailed insight.

 

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Different types of team structure in software engineering

 

Traditional (Waterfall methodology) is based on a well-defined hierarchy in the team where the product development process is carried out linearly, step by step, like a waterfall. Every stage of the development process continues the previous one and can’t be launched if the foregoing is not finished. Team composition in the Waterfall approach is a typical software development team structure that consists of developers, testers, analysts, and managers. Everyone has a definite role and takes full responsibility for it. Each stage is precisely planned, and the development team sticks to this plan, since this approach doesn’t imply any changes or modifications after the technical task is compiled.

 

This approach is a good fit for projects with well-defined boundaries and requirements. There is no team size limit, but I would like to share key roles of the software project organization structure in this methodology. 

 

Manager role

 

The manager role implies a specialist who rules a team and runs the development process. In this software engineering organizational structure, the titles of managers can be different: team leader, project manager, business analyst, product owner, devops engineer, etc. Some of them are concentrated around the team, whereas others take care of the development process. The main responsibilities are to organize the workflow, control product development, monitor performance, set priorities, coordinate deadlines, and surely care about a healthy working environment. The manager has to ensure that programmers do their tasks in accordance with the initial plan, eliminating obstacles during the operational process.

 

Designer

 

A designer is a creative specialist who deals with product visualization and user interaction (UX/UI). UX design is one of the primary stages of product development that includes the experience a user gains while interacting with the product. UI design is a visualisation of UX design. A UI designer deals with forms, colors, icons, pics, etc. Their main task is to make the interface attractive and user-friendly. Usually, UI and UX designers work in tandem, although it could be one specialist.

 

Software developer

 

A software developer is the magician of a product, an engineer who actually codes a website or application. The one who creates a visible part of a website or application for a user is a frontend developer. They also ensure that the website works well on any device (a computer, smartphone, or tablet) or operation system. A backend developer works with the internal content of the system and server, in other words, everything a user can’t see. And the next stage after coding is testing, where another specialist comes into play.

 

Quality assurance

 

The main task of a QA is to test a product and make sure that everything works correctly. Quality assurance specialists not only spot the bugs but also check whether the product scope reflects specified requirements. When new features are deployed, a quality assurance automation engineer is also involved in the process. Their responsibility is to write an automized script that will check the product, reflecting user behavior.

 

 

Agile management methodology is the opposite of Waterfall. This method is based on the principle of self-managing with no definite leader. Thus, the team members can prioritize and organize their work autonomously, having a more democratic team structure. The roles are cross-functional, so the IT specialists take shared responsibility for the final result, helping each other and working beyond their competence. Therefore, teams are usually small with about 6-9 members, promoting quick synchronization and collaboration. One more crucial point is that Agile is much more flexible than Waterfall. It’s more important for Agile teams to respond to changes and stay flexible than follow the original plan. This approach enables more frequent communication with a client or users and, hence, more frequent feedback. Agile has a more modern software development team structure, distinguishing these key roles: 

 

Product manager

 

This is a specialist who ensures that the product satisfies users’ needs and accomplishes the company’s goals. A product manager is responsible for market analysis, product portfolio policy, promotion, feature prioritization, and KPI planning. In Agile, this role may be defined as a product leader that collaborates with the development team to help realize new features and lead the product into the market.    

 

Team lead

 

In an agile team, this role may be described as a servant-leader. The main responsibility is to guide the team and support it. From a technical point of view, the team lead also allocates the workload among developers and has to make sure that the working process goes well. This position also implies boosting the team’s motivation and tracking their performance. 

 

Software engineers, designers, testers

 

These are core team members who are directly involved in the web development process. The team consists of software developers, quality assurance engineers, UX/UI designers and other specialists. In contrast with Waterfall, Agile tech specialists don’t have definite roles, so everyone is equally responsible for the end product.     

 

Typical Software Development Team Structure Example

 

Based on Agile methodology, some tech companies use Scrum – a flexible development approach. Its software development team organization structure (as in Agile) implies three key roles: a product manager, scrum master, and the development team itself. Following Agile principles, Scrum is an approach that makes this methodology work. The development process is subdivided into sprints. These are time chunks from one week up to a month. It’s up to the development team to decide on the sprint duration and the tasks they want to perform within this sprint. As soon as the sprint finishes, the team discusses its results and starts a new sprint. Let’s have a look at the example below.  

 

Sift is an American IT company that creates their own products for digital trust & safety. Its solutions help big companies track illegal fraud actions. Due to fast development, Sift decided to hire a dedicated development team in Ukraine with the help of Alcor as their recruitment services provider. Our top headhunters took care of the recruitment process to hire tech specialists with rare skills. Our recruiters hired 17 tech specialists for Sift in less than a year, and as a result the patron got its team of specialists with a unique stack. The company uses Scrum with 2-week sprints, and its Ukrainian software engineers are in different teams that are responsible for different areas of product development. Thus, 5 senior back-end developers extended their API team, while other back- & front-end developers joined the core product development team. We managed to hire not only software developers but also talented product designers, infrastructure engineers, and closed the position of the Head of Software Engineering.  

 

 

How about a Well-Structured Turnkey Software Development Center?

 

Whichever team structure for software development you choose, consider assembling a team of top tech specialists with Alcor. 

 

Alcor is an all-in-one place company that delivers recruitment services and other operational support for your offshore team. We specialize in hiring IT professionals from Eastern European countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and the Czech Republic. Our recruitment team has access to a vast pool of tech specialists, ready to find rare programmers that will meet your requirements. We organize the full recruitment process that covers talent sourcing, technical pre-screening, interviewing, and the employer’s brand management. That means we are out for long-term collaboration, creating any organizational structure of the software development team that will follow your company’s culture and contribute to product enhancement. 

 

We also assist in opening your own software research and development center, taking care of all back-office operations: office searches, equipment purchases, payroll & accounting, legal compliance on labor law, IP law, and tax planning. Alcor helps you assemble your team and transparently run your business processes in Ukraine or Poland, offering you a flexible pricing model. We don’t get into your product development, as you keep the core processes in-house.  

 

Our client People.ai experienced our full cycle of services via opening their own R&D center. Alcor’s recruitment team hired more than 25 tech specialists with a rare stack for their Ukrainian team. Our legal specialists ensured that the People.ai company was compliant with both American and Ukrainian law, while Alcor’s accounting team helped with bookkeeping and payroll. Through joint efforts, People.ai got their new branded office within just one month. Read more here about this case study.

 

your-software-rd-center-1

 

Final Thoughts

 

Structuring and organizing your team are crucial things that contribute to future success. Now, you can consider all the key drivers and choose the software development team structure that will lead your ideas to desirable results. An unwritten rule to mention: all prosperous projects start with people. Let Alcor get into the act of finding your committed team!

5/5 - (6 votes)

FAQ

💡 What are the different kinds of software development team structures?

The team structure depends on the management methodology chosen. There are plenty of them, but Waterfall and Agile remain the most popular. In Waterfall, the team members have definite roles and responsibilities, and there is no team size limit. In Agile teams the specialists have no definite roles, except the team lead and product manager. Other specialists are the core development team.

💡 How to structure a software development team?

Software development project team structure depends on many factors, but you should take into account these in the first place: the workload, budget, and deadlines. The management methodology also impacts team composition and structure.

💡 What is the difference between Agile and Waterfall?

Waterfall is a methodology that follows hierarchical management, where the product development process is organized linearly. The initial plan doesn’t imply further changes, and every development stage sticks to it. Agile appeared as an alternative to Waterfall, promoting flexibility and democratic team management with more frequent client involvement. In this approach, the team embraces changes and everyone shares responsibility for the final result.

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