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Development team: Overview, roles, and structure

Last updated

1 May 2024

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Mary Mikhail

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Development teams are comprised of various experts who handle specific aspects of the software development process.

This article covers what development teams are, how they work, and how to create the best possible development team for your next software development project.

What is a development team?

A development team consists of a wide range of experts in various aspects of the software development process. They work on designing, building, and managing quality software programs that address specific needs within your industry. In addition, they provide value and a strong user experience to your clients and customers.

Ideal software development team members are creative and can identify how to fill specific software needs within a particular industry. They are strong problem solvers capable of efficiently handling issues that arise during and after the development process.

A development team should be diverse enough to ensure at least one team member is an expert in every aspect of the software development process.

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Common development team roles and responsibilities

There are different roles in a software development team. This ensures innovative, quality software can be planned and created.

Let’s look at some of the most common roles filled by development team members.

Product owner

Product owners serve as the bridge between stakeholders and the rest of the software development team. They’re responsible for:

  • Describing what they want the completed project to look like

  • Defining the requirements

  • Maintaining communication throughout the process

  • Accepting, rejecting, or asking for editing of the finished project

Unlike the other members of the development team, they are not involved with designing or creating the software.

Project manager

Project managers are the leaders of most software development teams. Their role focuses on making sure other members of the development team know which elements of the project they are responsible for and what individual timelines look like. They are not part of the hands-on technical team creating the software.

Project managers are responsible for:

  • Using resources and budgets to plan projects

  • Monitoring other team members' progress toward goals

  • Addressing problems

  • Communicating with the product owner and other stakeholders to keep them informed about how the project is progressing

Software architect

One of the main responsibilities of a development team's software architect is making sure that new software is likely to meet users' needs.

The software architect is an expert in ensuring the overall structure of the software program aligns with various standards, such as:

  • Security

  • Scalability

  • Ability to meet technical requirements

  • Overall usability and functionality

Software architects create a larger picture of the overall structure of the software and its components and share that information with developers, who are responsible for building and filling in the details.

Developer

Software developers have the most hands-on role in creating a new software product. They handle many of the most essential technical aspects of bringing a software vision to reality, such as:

  • Writing and implementing code

  • Locating and fixing bugs

  • Staying on top of the latest trends within the software development industry

UI/UX designer

Clients want aesthetically pleasing software that looks up-to-date and seamlessly functions. UI/UX designers are responsible for fine-tuning these details. These development team members make sure the overall visual interface of a software program meets users' expectations and provides the best possible user experience.

UI/UX designers are responsible for:

  • Creating wireframes and prototypes

  • Conducting usability testing

  • Taking other steps to ensure the finished product aligns with customers' expectations for high-end, cutting-edge software

Quality assurance (QA) analyst

QA analysts are responsible for ensuring the software meets or exceeds quality standards. They plan, oversee, and perform a wide range of tests to check products meet these guidelines throughout the process and communicate concerns with other team members.

Three types of software development teams

Choosing the right type of software development team is an important step in ensuring the people you’re working with can meet a project’s unique needs.

Specialist team

Specialist software development teams comprise members with a high level of expertise in a specific area. This option works best for most complex projects but usually requires a higher budget.

Generalist team 

Generalist software development teams are typically smaller and made up of team members who have experience in and contribute to several areas instead of specializing in one. This option can work well for small, less complex projects. 

Hybrid team

Hybrid teams combine key elements of specialist and generalist teams, which can make them a particularly lucrative choice for especially complex projects.

Factors that influence the structure of a software development team

When deciding on the most appropriate structure for your software development team, there are certain elements to consider regarding your industry and the nature of your software.

Project size and complexity

Larger, more complex projects generally require bigger development teams so every step of the development process is handled effectively and receives enough attention.

These teams may include more than one person in each role or area of expertise, as well as specialized roles that are not necessary for smaller projects.

Type of software

Some specialized software requires development team members who are experts in a particular area, while more mainstream programs may only need the core group of common development team roles.

Client or stakeholder expectations

Clients or stakeholders with unique or especially high expectations may require larger or more specialized development teams that are exceptionally capable of handling certain details.

Project budget

Projects with higher budgets are more likely to have the resources to hire their preferred number of development team members and meet the requirements of expert developers.

Smaller budgets may limit the expertise and number of developers you can hire. These projects may have less-experienced developers handling multiple roles at a lower level. While these projects can certainly succeed, the team may struggle to produce software that can compete with that of better-resourced projects that can hire the best development team members in the industry.

How to build a successful software development team

Important things to keep in mind when building a software development team with the best chance of success include:

  • Choosing the most appropriate development team type for the nature of your software, the clients you’re working with, your budget, and other factors

  • Determining the most appropriate size for your team

  • Identifying specific roles and selecting the best possible people to fill them

  • Defining specific goals for your software and exploring how your team can make them happen 

  • Keeping your team as agile and flexible as possible

  • Emphasizing strong communication

  • Reflecting on what went well and what could be handled better next time when nearing the end of a project and during the post-launch stage

FAQs

What are the five stages of team development? 

The stages of team development, as determined by psychologist Bruce Tuckman, are:

  • Forming

  • Storming

  • Norming

  • Performing

  • Adjourning (Mourning)

What is the difference between a Scrum team and a development team?

A Scrum team is a development team that uses the Scrum framework to organize and manage software development work. “Development team” is the more generic term for anyone building a software product.

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