How to Structure Your Software Development Team for Success

For every type of software development team, there is a methodology that fits the project more than others. In this article, we look at a few methodologies, tasks they complete better than others, and types of teams that would reap the most benefit from each.

Agile Team Structures

Each project has the methodology “attached” to it by a common experience of what works better for each task. Commonly, a project is characterized by three parameters: novelty, complexity, and urgency. Novelty is the acceptance of the established ways of completing a task at hand. Complexity is an innate quality of the project and depends on the complexity of the final product. In other words, no reason to expect the development to be simpler than the product it makes. One final element, responsible for making agile a prevalent choice for many teams is urgency. Agile is structured from the bottom up with the constant intensity and focus in mind. Data-driven decision making managed to secure its success in a modern deadline-driven world.

In this article, we’ll cover agile and it’s rapid acceptance in a modern development as well as the classical waterfall methodology that has been bringing a massive success to the software development industry for years.

Here are the most common agile team structures:

1. Generalist Agile Team

At this structure, each member vast in all areas and would comfortably pick up any role in a task. This works best, however, in projects that do not require specific expertise in specific subjects and are well suited for Agile for small teams.

The peculiarities of this type of structure are that it works best when it`s small, it is hard to scale. As well as, the project you are working on should not require a lot of special knowledge in narrow areas.

2. Specialist Agile Team

Unlike the previous methodology, in this type, the members’ skill sets overlap less and are more in-depth in their area. As the benefit of this structure is high-quality software, tests, and data analysis developed by a team of highly qualified professionals.

However, the problem of this structure type is a small number of tasks in the market that involved each member in the work.

Specialist teams work most productive with larger team sizes — somewhere around 20 people or more rather than 5 or 6 people.

Also, they cross-train members of the team to minimize the downtime

3. Parallel Agile Team

In this format, everyone changes jobs per sprint. Every member writes code and after that, he moves to test it.

This set up is good for cross-training, but you have cross-sprint release cycles.

There are a few reasons to try it. For example, your experienced Agile team is starting in a new, uncharted area of business or who is new to the agile, employs the parallel agile as testing grounds to experiment with the nuances and make the transition smoother.

Small Agile Teams

There are several roles, which have different names and they depend on the type of methodology used.

Anyone can fulfill a role or several ones, and over time can change it. And any of the roles may have zero or more people in it at any given point in a project.
The common agile roles are:

  • Team lead
  • Team member
  • Product owner 
  • Stakeholder
  • Technical experts
  • Domain experts
  • Independent tester

Large Agile Teams

When the size of an agile team gets to be around twenty you discover that you need to make changes to the structure. The typical strategy is to organize your larger team into a collection of smaller ones. The most effective way to do so is around the architecture of your system.

Each subteam should be responsible for one or more subsystems. Therefore they able to work as a small agile team responsible for delivering working software on a timely basis.

The additional roles on agile teams at scale include:

  • Architecture owner 
  • Integrator

Also, angle methodology has such other team types as Scrum, Kanban, Transitioning Agile Team, and Agile Product Sub-Team. 

Agile methodology is not unique by having requirements for team composition. For example, the waterfall methodology. 

The waterfall methodology

In the waterfall methodology, all the stakeholder and customer requirements are gathered before the design begins and the following sequential steps (Development, Quality Assurance, Deployment). If the team implements the waterfall model formally, each of the above phases takes place after the previous one is complete – in a linear fashion. Phases never repeat, unless there is a massive failure discovered at a testing or deployment stage making the project fail to meet one or multiple of the exit criteria.

Furthermore, each phase is discrete and pretty much exists in isolation. The phase that often benefits from such isolation the most is the requirements one. Once the customer’s requirements are collected, the customers cease to play any role in the actual development of the software.

As we’ve explored in this article, that each type of team benefits the most from a specific methodology and each methodology is suitable for a specific type of project.

Agile is a hugely dynamic methodology that has something for every team in almost every industry. But don’t write off the waterfall methodology whose success and problems gave rise to the agile, scrum, and other approaches.

Author avatar
Julia Melnik
Content Writer