Don’t count your developers before they’re hatched. How to be sure that you’ll build a successful remote software development team? First, set your baseline by having a clear understanding of the product you want to produce. Second, hire the right people for your future software development team. Read on to find out how to take a perfect crew onboard and lead them on the path to continuous excellence.
Here are 8 well-tested tips that will help you build a software development team and empower them to deliver great results remotely.
- Hire the Right People for Your Software Development Team
- Learn How to Build a Successful Software Development Team
- Define the Roles and Responsibilities in Your Remote Software Development Team
- Ensure High Performance and Secure Remote Cooperation
- Plan Focused Coding Time
- Promote the Сulture of Mentoring
- Foster Innovation and Continuous Excellence
- Provide Tools Your Team Needs
1. Hire the Right People for Your Software Development Team
Hiring is never easy. And it’s even trickier to hire a software development team remotely just based on their CVs and a few Zoom interviews. Still, there are some qualities that can shed light on the ability of a candidate to become part of a great software development team.
So what to look for when hiring a software developer?
- Good software developers are team players
The era of software developers who just write quality code is gone for good. Especially in software development, you need talented engineers who are also good communicators.
The success of your future product depends on effective communication and the team members getting along well. Try spotting candidates who gladly share their experience of achieving a goal with a team, handling controversial opinions, and recognizing the individual input of their peers.
Look for people who not only build great software, but who strive to make things done and succeed as a team instead of just collecting stars for their crown.
- They’re proactive
Software engineers you need to look for won’t sit around waiting for a task to be thrown at them. They’ll want to join your company not only because of compensation, but also because of an interesting and challenging project. This is where motivation comes in. They’ll ask questions, they’ll suggest their vision on the best way to organize sprints, etc. And even if their ideas aren’t great all the time, they’ll spark the thinking process in other team members. And these are the developers you’ll need to hire for your software development team.
- They take responsibility
I bet that ‘responsible’ is the most common soft skill you’ve encountered on CVs. And while it’s nearly impossible to guess if a candidate really is responsible, you should still try to figure it out. Ask how they plan their day, prioritize tasks, make reports, and deal with unplanned fixes, alignment meetings, or even rollbacks.
- They’re eager to push the limits of their comfort zone
Ideal members of a great developer team (and those you definitely need to find) display genuine self learner attitudes and enjoy picking up new skills. They’re fine with embracing new tasks that require going out of their comfort zone.
Ask what they would do if suggested to temporarily take on the responsibilities of their colleague in an X field and see how easily they would agree. Watch out for those who will say that unless a certain task isn’t on their responsibility list, they aren’t going to do it without being paid extra. You’ll end up having endless debates about who does what and for how much.
2. Learn How to Build a Successful Software Development Team
Healthy environment, shared working principles, and common goals are the pillars of building an effective software development team. There are no other golden rules.
To deliver great software, a developer team is not required to sit in one room and can be distributed geographically. What’s more important is a straightforward onboarding process organized before the start of the release to make sure that everyone’s in position for the adventure of building great software.
Ensure a smooth development process and the most productive state of each team member and the team as a whole. Learn how to build a software development team based on the principle of three Es:
- Make sure everybody knows their role in achieving the common goal.
- Put down precise points of your release plan with regard to deadlines, goals, and resources needed.
- Align on the solutions to possible risks and ways to manage them.
- Make sure everyone’s on the same page with regard to the way you communicate, knows who to address with questions, and understands the flow in case of unexpected issues, etc.
This document should be available to all members of the team for self control and as a standard routine for prompt actions in the event of problems.
Encourage a strong team spirit where everyone’s welcome to share thoughts and concerns without the fear of being criticized, either by you or by peers. Invite key team members to join strategic planning meetings, authorize them to drive initiatives and handle some parts of the release.
A sure sign of a healthy software development team is that if needed it can function as a self-organized entity that knows how to manage itself even in harsh times. Team members function on their own, everybody knows their role in achieving the common goal. And how this goal will be achieved is decided by the team too. The only true manager of a highly productive software development team is their goal. Outline the boundaries within which the team can make their own decisions.
3. Define the Roles and Responsibilities in Your Remote Software Development Team
Clearly outlined software development team roles and responsibilities are the key to success in any software project.
A project’s software development team structure depends on your needs. One project may require mobile app developers only, while another one — a full cross-functional software development team.
What is the ideal team size?
A typical productive software developer team consists of 5–7 people. This size allows every team member to be fully immersed in project details and understand the scope, challenges, and possible solutions. If the team is larger than 7 people, you’ll need to establish guidelines, workflows, and be always hands-on in coordinating the overpopulated group (or hire someone to coordinate it instead of you).
As we mentioned earlier, one sign of an ideal team size is that the team can manage themselves and handle project development on their own.
- Software Engineers
If you’ve ever tried building a software development team, you know that software engineers, front-end and/or back-end, are the core part of it. Depending on your needs, you may be fully happy with one full-stack engineer.
Who you’ll definitely need (sooner or later) is a senior or two. Their experience and more advanced knowledge will cost you more, but that expense will pay back. With the seniors’ strategic thinking, experience, and intuition, you can avoid many mistakes and get a better product in the end. If eventually it turns out that some other skills are also necessary, senior developers are senior enough to customize their skill sets on the go, so switching from Angular to React, for example, won’t take enormous effort.
- QA Engineer
A QA Engineer helps you analyze test results and find mistakes at the initial stage of software development and check the product before it goes live. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that the product meets all the requirements provided by the product owner.
- Project Manager
The Project Manager’s role lies in communication with the client, handling required documentation, budgeting, signing SOWs, leading the team, and making them accountable according to deliverables. They anticipate and manage risks, and ensure the project gets delivered on time, on budget, and within the right scope.
On top of managing all your projects, a project manager will also manage shifting priorities and monitor developer team members for signs of burnout.
If you cannot afford or find a great project manager, you have to become one. Consider developing your own project management skills by passing relevant training or at least consulting project managers or line managers you know.
- Scrum Master
The Scrum Master’s role is not only to implement Agile principles and ensure they’re followed by the software development team, but by the client as well — so that they don’t interrupt sprints with unexpectedly added features, etc. If there are any changes to be implemented, they should be addressed to the Product Owner and added to the Product Backlog, if there are no other agreements set. In many teams, project managers double as Scrum masters.
- Product Owner
A Product Owner performs the role of the Voice of the Business and translates the goals set by a business stakeholder to the software development team. In simple words, a Product Owner makes sure that the team builds the right product. This person is responsible for the execution of the tasks in the backlog and for planning the scope of work.
- Team Lead
A Team Lead is responsible for the technical delivery of the project. Usually, the lead is also an active member of the development team, so they know the technical needs of the project well.
Remember that a Team Lead and a Project Manager are not the same person. A Project Manager’s overall responsibility is to make sure the project is wisely planned and that their team is performing at their best. A Team Leader is responsible for the daily responsibilities and efforts of the technical team and ensures availability of all the resources needed for a project.
A Team Lead is vital for every technical team. The more teams — the more Team Leads. To become a Team Lead, a software engineer needs to be a good specialist and, what’s even more crucial, know how to lead people and take care of their needs.
- Chief Architect
Whether you need or don’t need to hire a Chief Architect depends on product complexity and the skills you have within your current engineering organization. If you have a complex company structure with a number of departments consisting of many development squads, you may need a person who can coordinate the workflow between these squads. When your technology challenges begin to grow beyond your current team’s capabilities or the technical changes are becoming very complex, then it’s the right time to think of hiring a Chief Architect.
- Business Analyst
The core job function of a Business Analyst is gathering requirements and understanding the scope of the project, the client’s needs, and pain points. A detailed business analysis includes outlining problems, opportunities and solutions for business, as well as planning, budgeting, and reporting.
- UI/UX Designer
User Experience and User Interface Designers will help you measure and optimize the usability of your web applications for end users. They create the best user experience by exploring many different approaches to solve end users’ problems.
4. Ensure High Performance and Secure Remote Cooperation
Given the context 2020 has put us in, working with remote software development teams doesn’t differ much from having a team of in-house developers working from home anymore. This means that if you’ve had even slight concerns regarding building a remote developer team, it’s time to get rid of them.
5. Plan Focused Coding Time
While building a software development team, remember that technical work requires laser focus and full dedication. Make sure your development teams have at least a few hours a day of uninterrupted time to concentrate on their core job.
Create the opportunity for focused coding time by removing major distractions. Say, plan your team meetings in the first half of the day.
You can also create a team-wide rule that the time between 2 pm and 5 pm is sacred coding time, and it’s okay to turn off notifications in the communication tools you use during these hours.
6. Promote the Сulture of Mentoring
Software development, with its dynamic and constantly evolving environment, more than any other industry needs professionals to be able to grow their expertise, develop continuously, and adapt quickly.
By promoting the culture of mentoring and coaching companies can boost leadership and development inside their teams. Mentoring isn’t just for junior members to learn from senior members, everyone on the team can learn from one another and mentor one another. Software engineers will continuously learn new skills and create a shared value for the organization.
7. Foster Innovation and Continuous Excellence
“Innovation often doesn’t come through one breakthrough idea but a relentless focus on continuous improvement.”
(c) Elon Musk
While building a software development team, promote the culture of innovation and continuous excellence. Medium-to-large organizations prefer to set up innovation governance processes and use innovation software. However, if you’re a team of ten and you’re not ready for extra expenses, keep it simple. Take in fresh ideas from your development team by organizing regular discussions to spot areas for improvement and dedicate time for sprint reviews after each iteration.
8. Provide the Tools Your Team Needs
Make sure your developer team has the tools that will make their work easier and faster. Ask them what software and hardware they lack and be sure to provide it.
Software development team leaders recommend JIRA, Clickup, and Trello. They’re often combined with other Atlassian tools like Bitbucket and Confluence. You can also opt for other products like Microsoft TFS and VSTS.
Let’s create the next big thing together!
Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.