This article was originally published on .sect Through Chamera Dulanga. .cult is a Berlin-based community platform for developers. We write about all things career, make original documentaries and share tons of other untold developer stories from around the world.
Software development is team work and having a good team structure is essential for its success. But even a small deviation can have a negative impact on the output of our teams. That’s why we have to be extra careful when putting together a team.
In this article, I’ll discuss some key factors to consider when building a software engineering team for your company.
Why is team structure important?
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When building a software engineering team, look at several things that affect the team’s productivity and effectiveness.
In modern agile teams, we hardly measure effectiveness by the lines of code produced. Instead, we pay more attention to quality and continuous improvement. And the team must be able to produce the “desired result”.
So we need to answer the following questions:
- Do we have the right skills?
- Technical skills
- Soft skills
2. Do we have the right environment to work together?
- Clear roles and responsibilities
- Means of communication are available
3. Does the team know their goals?
- Clear communication from top to bottom so the team knows what to expect
- Precise requirements that reduce rework
4. Is the team able to produce better quality results?
- Processes present
- Leadership provides the right guidance
- Correct wage
- A culture that values and celebrates wins
5. Can the team achieve a better result than any individual?
- Team synergy
- Continuous improvement
- Self-managing and self-healing teams
We also have to consider the budget. You should always have an upper limit to find the right balance for optimal team structure.
But the question is, “How should we determine the perfect team structure?”
Determine the best team structure
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when building a team. And some you only identify after the team starts to perform.
However, finding individuals with a proven track record, especially for the leadership level, will help you mitigate the risks.
Let’s focus on the main factors we have control over when choosing the individuals for a team;
- The number of team members
2. Level of experience of the engineers
3. Costs of running the team (fee and other costs)
1. Number of team members
We usually determine the number of people on a team based on the project estimates and delivery milestones. One thing you should not do is run the project with fewer developers than required, even if they are very talented. You risk sacrificing quality and causing more problems in the long run.
However, things get complicated when you need to determine the structure of the team. Since not all individuals play the same role, we need to start thinking about the composition of the team by identifying different roles.
- Who leads the team and manages the project?
- Should we break into sub-teams? (which might mean more leaders…)
- Who will own the architecture?
- What other roles are required e.g. Quality Assurance, UI/UX, Project Management, Business Analyst?
2. Level of experience
The level of experience of the engineers has a direct influence on quality and productivity. But that doesn’t mean we need a team full of highly experienced people. Remember we talked about team synergy.
We need to think about the different levels of experience available in the team. Because people work together, they can learn from each other and achieve the desired result.
Why experience levels affect quality and productivity
Quality cannot be built in a day or two. It comes with experience.
Let’s say you’re starting a new Java project and you’re looking for a developer. If you use developers who are new to the technology, they will need time to learn, which means the project will be slower.
They also do not have the necessary experience with best practices, which results in more rework. In this case, choose a developer who is proficient with Java. Simple!
However, if you need more than one developer to work on a project, you may want to reconsider different experience levels. You can let the experienced developer(s) guide the team to the goal without affecting your productivity. It also means that, from a recruiting standpoint, you can consider a broader pool of developers to join your team.
Having a team full of experienced people becomes a challenge
First of all it affects your budget, more experienced developers will obviously demand higher rewards!
In addition, they expect better opportunities, such as playing leadership roles, and they will not always be available. All this experience can become a bottleneck if the goals and ambitions of the teams are not aligned.
Having a balance between junior and senior members will be better and also increases developer retention as expectations and growth can be better managed.
3. Cost of running the team
Software engineering teams differ significantly from teams in other professions. They can work from remote locations, have flexible working hours and sharpen their knowledge through continuous learning.
So if we can leverage those factors, we can look at optimizing costs.
Experience comes at a cost
As we discussed earlier, finding skilled individuals on a particular technology or domain comes at a cost. And since it’s not a binary decision to have all or none experience, we can balance the experience levels, also taking into account the cost structure.
This is also another dimension to think about when controlling the costs of software development teams.
However, having multiple workstations can increase or decrease the cost of your project.
If you have more than one workstation, you will have bills to pay, maintenance for each workstation and no doubt energy costs will rise.
But on the bright side, we can look for locations to attract more talent or have tax incentives. Moreover, if you can arrange a workplace in a country where the cost of living is low, you can effectively reduce costs.
Home workers and outsourcing
So if you look at the other options available, you can outsource your work to a remote worker or a company where costs are low.
However, there are few other challenges you need to address to make your distributed team effective.
- Increase the overlap
If your team works in different time zones, it’s good to have reasonable overlap where possible. This can be achieved by shifting working hours or reserving time for collaboration.
2. Balancing expertise and dividing the work
It is also necessary to balance the experience of individuals and distribute work, reducing dependencies between time zones.
3. Streamlined processors
A good set of processors is needed when working with remote or outsourcing teams (e.g. agile processors like Scrum, Kanban). It will help to align all team members with the end goal.
As you can see, there are several ways to reduce costs by maximizing results.
This article has discussed several factors to consider when determining the team structure for effective software engineering teams.
Some of these decisions need to be made ahead of time, so you won’t know what needs to be adjusted until the team gets going. Over time, it will be easier to identify where changes need to be made, be it cost or collaboration.