What Agile Software Development Team Structure Looks Like

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When partnering up with the software development team, many clients discover that quite a few people belong to its structure. And while it’s pretty clear with the responsibilities of developers, things tend to get confusing with BAs, PMs, and POs. 

In this article, we’re going to explain to you how software development teams structure their work, what are the roles and responsibilities of each team member, and how to know whether your team is doing a good job with your product.  

Table of Contents
  • Three approaches to product team structure 
    • Generalist 
    • Specialist 
    • Hybrid 
  • Typical software development team structure 
  • How is the Agile software development team structure different? 
    • Traditional team vs Agile team 
  • Roles and Responsibilities in the Agile software development team
    • Product Owner (PO)
    • Scrum Master
    • Development team 
  • Characteristic of an effective software development team 
  • Summary 

What Agile Software Development Team Structure Looks Like

When partnering up with the software development team, many clients discover that quite a few people belong to its structure. And while it’s pretty clear with the responsibilities of developers, things tend to get confusing with BAs, PMs, and POs. 

In this article, we’re going to explain to you how software development teams structure their work, what are the roles and responsibilities of each team member, and how to know whether your team is doing a good job with your product.  

Three approaches to product team structure 

Let’s start with the basics. There are several ways to go about the arrangement of an agile software development team – generalist, specialist, and hybrid. 

Generalist 

A team that consists of individuals with broad skill sets and expertise is called the “generalist” one. Such teams are usually responsible for the end-to-end development of the whole project or individual feature. It’s the most common project team structure for outsourcing companies. 

Generalist approach PROS:

  • Every team member has a good understanding of the product so they can focus on improving it as a whole.
  • Each person is competent enough to complete their work without dependency on others.

Generalist approach CONS:

  • Since nobody has a specific knowledge, it’s sometimes necessary to onboard a new team member in the middle of the project.

Specialist 

A “specialist” product team structure involves experts with super-specific skill sets who are proficient in handling narrow tasks. Everyone is a pro in one’s niche and therefore is fully responsible for their element of the project. Such an arrangement is also fairly common for software development teams. 

Specialist approach PROS:

  • Profound knowledge of every project elements.
  • The team can build complex high-quality systems very quickly. 

Specialist approach CONS:

  • Since everyone is working individually, there is a possibility that the components won’t fit from the first iterations. 
  • There might be communication gaps due to the lack of general knowledge.


Hybrid 

A “hybrid” project team structure is basically a combination of generalists and specialists. Such teams work on a project as a whole but they can narrow down their focus whenever necessary. The hybrid approach is by far the best of both worlds.

 

Hybrid approach PROS:

  • There are both specialists who build separate components and generalists that make sure that the system is integrated. 
  • The development process is maximally effective. 

Hybrid approach CONS:

  • It may be difficult to coordinate people with different approaches to workflow.
  • Building a hybrid team is time-consuming and very expensive. 

Typical software development team structure 

In the ideal world, everybody would have a handful of generalists and specialists in-house and they would get on very well with each other. But the reality is that every business has limitations – time and budget. That’s why most outsourced software development teams are generalist ones. 

So who exactly makes up these teams? Let’s go through the key positions. 

  • Business Analyst (BA)

This is someone who is responsible for formulating goals, analyzing and documenting the core processes and systems, and ensuring the alignment of business model and technology. BA is all things for everybody. They evaluate what works and what doesn’t work and set the direction for business development. 

  • Project Manager (PM)

This person is in charge of planning and execution. PM is responsible for getting things done. They also take care of building relationships among the client and various organization departments. PMs oversee all the processes, delegate the tasks among other team members, and ensure that everyone stays on track. 

  • UX Designer

This is someone who designs the way users will interact with the product. They ensure that all the features solve people’s problems and fulfill business goals. Namely, they determine how the product will look and how it will work. The main focus of a UX designer is functionality and usability. 

  • Developers (Front-end/ Back-end) 

These are the people who do the actual coding. Whereas front-end developers work on the customer-facing elements of the product, back-end developers take care of its functionality, which is everything the user doesn’t see.

  • Quality Assurance Engineer (QA)

This is someone who tests the product to make sure that it works well, meets the quality standards and client requirements. QA is like a final editor with meticulous attention to the smallest detail. They detect errors and bugs early on so that the team can fix it before it gets to the users.  

How is the Agile software development team structure different? 

On the surface, Agile team has a few more extra job roles. But let’s recall the Agile Manifesto for a second. 

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The core difference between the traditional and Agile team structure is in the way people cooperate with each other. 

Roles and Responsibilities in the Agile software development team

Product Owner (PO)

PO is usually a key stakeholder of the project. This is someone who has profound knowledge of the user and the product and is responsible for the internal side of development. Their job is to make sure that the final product/ service meets the client’s needs. PO keeps an eye on the team, supports and coordinates their work, and ensures that all the product requirements are met. 

Scrum Master

First of all, let’s define Scrum. It’s a methodology that helps agile teams self-organize and adapt to changes following the Agile development principles. And Scrum master is a process owner who coordinates the team’s work. He facilitates and master manages everything that’s going on the team. 

Development team 

It’s a group of in-house or dedicated developers that work on the project together. Similarly to a traditional team, the Agile development team includes front-end/back-end developers, UX designers, and QA testers. They work on the product in close cooperation. 

Characteristic of an effective software development team 

Not a single outstanding product was ever built by a mediocre team. So the greatest challenge of every organization is to ensure that their people and motivated to perform to the best of their abilities. And while pretty much everyone can find skilled employees, not every organization manages to create empowering collaborative environments for their teams to thrive. 

How to tell that your team is effective? Look for the following traits. 

  • They communicate well

Communication is always at the heart of teamwork regardless of the industry, and software development is no exception. In great teams, people have all the necessary tools and processes for regular healthy communication.  

  • They work for a common goal

Great teams don’t need strict top-down management. They have clear goals and a shared mission. In such environment, the success of the team is perceived as the success of each individual. 

  • They have well-defined responsibilities 

Whereas the team shares a common goal, every person knows exactly what they need to do to make the whole thing work. The expectations, roles, and areas of responsibility are defined from the start and people hold each other accountable for making progress. 

  • They have a strong culture

Having a strong culture means developing professional bonds, supporting and respecting each other, and feeling comfortable in each others’ company.  Such teams enjoy spending time together both at work and outside the office. 

  • They don’t need to be controlled

Top-down manageSment is slowly becoming a thing of the past because great teams with common goals and shared vision don’t need to be pushed. They do their job well because they want to, not because they are forced to do so. 

Summary 

All in all, it’s not enough to hire people and get them in one room. Teamwork is complex. It requires the knowledge of software development team structure and a certain degree of understanding of how software development works. Here at Relevant, assembling dedicated teams for our clients is our specialty. Check out some of our case studies for more details. 

Source: Relevant Software

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