How to build an effective software development team

Almost every business has software development operations in this day in age, whether or not the organization is actually a “tech” company. But if your business needs software developers, and you’re not especially familiar with the development process, or you’re not quite sure where to start, what do you look for in and how do you hire development teams to meet your organization’s needs?

As with any hiring decision, building a software development team to carry out your organization’s technological plans and projects comes with plenty of important considerations. For example, you’ll evaluate a prospective employee’s job history, knowledge of your business, and fit with your company’s work culture.

Hiring a software development team comes with additional demands and requirements. Team members must be highly knowledgeable and have expertise in their responsibilities, whether they are software developers or quality assurance engineers. Where do you begin? Follow these steps to build and maintain a strong development team — one that will deliver quality products and give you a competitive edge.

1. Establish your goals

Before you determine which positions you need to fill and hire development teams, you must establish what the goals of the development process are. Are you building an iOS app? Do you need web development? Is there a specific problem you want to be solved? Are you looking for a back-end or front-end developer?

Once you’ve determined your needs, create more specific goals for the development team itself. They might include, for instance, how the team will manage deadlines and prioritize tasks and responsibilities or the specific methods you’d like them to use.

2. Determine the positions you’ll need to fill

Once you’ve established your goals, consider the roles you will need to create to meet them. Most likely, you will need experienced, senior front-end and back-end developers, as well as a quality assurance (QA) engineer. You may also need a project manager and a UX or UI designer for web development. These roles entail:

• Front-end developer: codes the visual layout of the product, such as a website

• Back-end developer: builds the back end of a product, creating and maintaining the infrastructure that powers the front end

• Project manager: organizes and keeps the team on task, managing aspects of the project such as budgeting and scheduling

• UX/UI designer: enhances the user experience by researching, testing, and improving elements of the product such as its design and functionality

Consider the scope of the project or projects and the size of the team you’ll need to put in place to meet your objectives. This will depend on the needs of your organization and your projects.

3. Evaluate your candidates

After creating the positions, it’s time to hire software developers and other personnel for the roles.

Of course, hard skills and experience will be the biggest factors in your hiring decisions, but you should also consider soft skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking, along with personal attributes. In addition to having the necessary technical expertise to complete your projects and produce high-quality work, employees must be able to collaborate, communicate, and work together as a team. This is also true of software development outsourcing, in which off-site developers will need to work with you and your in-house team.

4. Define best practices

After hiring your development team, you should establish best practices for all areas of the development process. This is essential, because individual team members will probably have their own methodology and preferences, and you must have a cohesive, defined set of standards that keeps everyone on the same page.

5. Establish channels for communication

Communication is key for any project, software development, or otherwise. While onboarding new hires, explain how you expect team members to communicate with you and others during the project cycle. You should also establish channels for communicating outside of work and explain your expectations for the frequency of the communication. For example, you may want your team to be on Slack during non-working hours in case any urgent issues arise.

Make time for face-to-face interactions as well. You might, for instance, have coffee breaks or after-work meetups to boost morale and facilitate teambuilding in an informal setting. It’s important for team members to get to know, trust, and respect one another since they will be working together on critical projects.

6. Nurture your team’s professional growth.

You don’t just need to hire development teams — you also need to invest in their professional growth. The competition for top software developers is fierce, and if you don’t provide opportunities for your employees, you risk losing them to competitors.

Part of investing in your team members’ professional development means promoting from within the team when you establish new roles or lose senior employees. It’s beneficial to both you and your employees: you know your employee and his or her work, so it’s less of a risk than hiring externally, and your employee is receiving recognition — and probably a larger paycheck.

You should also offer professional development opportunities such as workshops, mentoring, speaking events, and resources. Your employees will learn new skills that they can apply to their work, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

Building an effective software development team is a continual process. Hiring is only one step — you’ll also need to invest in your team members, assess processes such as workflow and communication, and update your procedures as needed. While the process never really ends, the payoff — delivering high-quality products and services — is worth the effort.

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