How to Build a Software Development Team in 2023?

2747 Updated 01.17.2023
Vasyl Polych

Founder & CEO at Northell


Table of contents

As a business owner, you may face many scenarios when hiring a software development team. You may have a brand-new idea for a new multi-functional product, or you may finally come up with a software solution that will bring your company to the next level, or you may plan to embrace complete business modernization. For each case, you will need to understand how to build a software development team to provide you with the maximum value for your business and software.

In this article, we’d like to share valuable insights from our professional background to help you assemble a group of professionals and establish effective cooperation.

Below, we’ve compiled a detailed guide that outlines every step you need to take to build an effective software development team: from identifying the talents you need to sharing valuable advice on result-driven management and productive recruitment.

Standard software development team structure in 2023

At Northell, we believe that the software development team is one single mechanism of professionals working towards one common goal: to create a great software solution tailored to the business’s specific needs. The way you want to build the development process and the kind of team you want to create directly affects your project progress and overall business outcomes.

So, before starting the development, we should clearly understand which chunk of work each specialist is responsible for. Usually, we assign different specialists to work on numerous project tasks, including product discovery, requirements gathering, design, development, testing, deployment, and management. We assign from three to ten members to each software development team from a list of such software specialists:

  • Business analyst (BA)
  • Project manager
  • UI/UX designer
  • Software architect
  • Software developers
  • QA engineers
  • Chief technical officer (CTO)

The number of roles and duties of a required software team can vary depending on your unique project scope and requirements. There may be more or fewer roles inside a team, or one person can perform several roles.

How to build a software development team step by step?

How to build a software development team step by step?

How to build a software development team step by step?

As a business owner, there are many things you need to consider before building a software development team: from identifying project resources to analyzing the roles and responsibilities you want to delegate inside your team. So, let’s detail each step to help you come up with a required team structure to complete all your project’s tasks successfully.

Step 1. Identify your project size and complexity

To understand how to build a software development team, your first have to work out your project scope. Four specialists will be enough if you need to redesign a platform or create a product prototype.

The opposite situation may happen if you decide to build an application from scratch with custom features and multiple third-party integrations – the number of specialists will increase. You may also need to assemble several separate teams with different roles to work together for large-scale projects.

Furthermore, you may often need to attract narrow-profile specialists for your project—for example, developers specializing in game development, robotics, desktop development, etc. So, we recommend you outline these aspects right from the start to move forward smoothly.

Step 2. Allocate budget and set project timelines

There is no one-size-fits-all approach suitable for each unique case. So, the next vital aspect to consider when building a software development team is the availability of project resources and the goals you want to achieve within a specific timeline. The available budget will affect not only the number of team members but also the seniority of specialists you’ll be able to hire.

When our customers turn to us, we help to estimate the entire work and carefully consider the software requirements to avoid project missteps while optimizing resources. To reduce project expenses, we suggest our customers focus on high-priority features and stick to Agile development methodology to ensure cost flexibility without sacrificing quality.

Step 3. Explore the software development approaches

The roles of the effective software development team are versatile. Depending on the project management methodology you choose – Agile or Waterfall – the key roles and team composition will also differ.

Let’s highlight the key differences between Agile and Waterfall teams in the table below.

Criteria Agile team Waterfall team
Team size 4 to 10 people per team No team size limit
Team members  Team lead or tech lead, product owner or customer, PMs, BAs, developers, designers, testers, QAs, other project stakeholders   Developers, testers, business analysts, and project managers
Management approach  Self-managed and self-organized team where each team member is responsible for the specific task Top-down management
Team synchronization Small teams with a high degree of coordination A lower degree of team synchronization due to vertical hierarchy 
Customer involvement  Customers can participate throughout the project thanks to a transparent development process Customers are involved during delivery presentations 
Project focus  A team focuses on one project  Several projects at a time 

As you may notice, Agile development teams’ roles and responsibilities differ from a traditional Waterfall model. The Northell team adheres to agile or mixed development methodologies to create a productive work environment with transparent workflows. When sticking to the agile approach, each team member plays a crucial role in the project. Thus, each specialist is highly committed to reaching outstanding results and influencing overall progress.

Step 4. Conduct analysis and define the size of a team

Building a software development team with a clear analysis of the specific roles of the team members is a must. Once we have analyzed the project’s type, scope, available resources, deadlines, and complexity, we can clarify the size of a team and set expectations for each team role.

To visualize this, look at the examples below:

Project type Project size Complexity  Team size Team members
Example 1 Cross-platform Proptech app Medium to large High 10+ experts  CTO,1 BA, 1 PM, 2 UI/UX designers, 2 front-end and 2 back-end developers, 2 QAs
Example 2 Edtech startup  Small Medium 7 experts  CTO, 2 UI/UX designers, 1 back-end developer, 1 front-end developer, 1 QA expert, 1 PM

To ensure all the necessary software development team roles are covered, you should carefully analyze which team member is responsible for which exact tasks. The following steps will explore each team member’s roles and responsibilities to help you shape a dream team and hire the best talents.

Step 5. Define the key requirements for a project manager (PM)

A project manager (PM) is a team member responsible for every aspect of the software development process, from project planning to delivery, while overseeing how the team completes tasks on time and within budget.

The list of main responsibilities of project managers:

  • Schedule, host, and document all relevant project meetings
  • Provide the team with the necessary resources to deliver their work
  • Monitor the software development team performance
  • Update the customer and project stakeholders on project’s status
  • Build relationships between the customer and all company’s departments
  • Identify the goals for the team
  • Ensure the team meets the software requirements
  • Manage risks, resolve conflicts
  • Foster communication and motivate the team

Soft skills must prevail for the project manager position. This is because most of the tasks that a project manager is responsible for relate to communication, negotiation, and management.

The required soft and hard skills are:

Project manager skills

Soft skills  Hard skills 
Communication Negotiation
Leadership Relevant technical skills
Motivation Reporting and business correspondence
Conflict management Organization
Adaptability Prioritization and goal setting
Resourcefulness Project planning
Teamwork Delegating
Influence Budget management

Product manager qualifications and skills can also differ according to the seniority level: junior, middle, and senior.

Step 6. Define the key requirements for a business analyst (BA)

A business analyst (BA) is a team member responsible for translating customer business needs into tangible software requirements for the development team.

The list of main responsibilities of business analysts:

  • Conduct market research and analyze target audience demands
  • Understand business processes from different perspectives
  • Gather and prepare business requirements
  • Plan and document business requirements
  • Analyze and model business requirements
  • Implement project changes if needed
  • Perform acceptance testing

The required soft and hard skills are:

Business analyst’s skills

Soft skills  Hard skills 
Communication Technology savviness 
Critical-thinking Research skills
Problem-solving Analytical skills
Negotiation Organizational and project management skills
Attention to detail

Business analysts key role is to interact with project stakeholders to understand their problems and needs, document them and find an optimal solution. Each seniority level implies a different set of qualifications needed.

Step 7. Define the key requirements for a UI/UX designer

A UI/UX designer often encompasses two aspects of their profession: user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design. UX designers are responsible for considering the entire journey of a user’s interaction with a product, while UI designers handle the graphic design of the software solution. In other words, the UX designer focuses on functionality and user interactions, while the UI designer is responsible for the look and feel of the software solution.

Let’s detail the responsibilities of UI designers and UX designers separately.

Main responsibilities of UX designers:

  • Perform user research
  • Design information architecture (decide how information is organized and presented to the user)
  • Create wireframes and prototypes for user testing
  • Describe user stories and behavior
  • Create user personas
  • Conduct usability testing

Main responsibilities of UI designers:

  • Create an intuitive and attractive design from a graphical standpoint
  • Create graphics (logos), select visuals (colors, fonts, overall style) and create navigational (search fields, icons, footers, headers) design elements

The required soft and hard skills are:

UI/UX designer’s skills

Soft skills  Hard skills 
Teamwork User research
Time management Information architecture
Empathy Wireframing
Problem-solving skills Prototyping
Communication  Visual communication
Flexibility  Figma

At Northell and at most development companies, a single designer develops both UI and UX. However, if your project requires more work than one person can handle, you can hire different designers to fill separate roles.

Step 8. Define the key requirements for a software developer (front-end, back-end, full-stack)

Building a software development team to create great software solutions is not possible without software developers. The front-end, back-end, and full-stack developers are responsible for building the software according to software requirements.

Front-end developers are in charge of creating the part of the application the user interacts with. Back-end developers are in charge of implementing the application logic while ensuring a smooth operation, implementing necessary integrations, and covering security aspects.

Full-stack developers can handle all the work at once.

Main responsibilities of front-end developers:

  • Work with clients to develop the overall look and design of a website
  • Write website code with programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Produce, maintain, and modify websites and user interfaces
  • Incorporate applications, graphics, audio, and video clips into client websites
  • Create tools that enhance the user’s website experience
  • Ensure websites are accessible across many platforms, including laptops and smartphones
  • Maintain software workflow management
  • Look at SEO best practices
  • Test the site for usability and fixing any bugs

Main responsibilities of back-end developers:

  • Troubleshoot and debug applications
  • Conduct UI tests and optimize performance
  • Participate in the application lifecycle
  • Develop sustainable web applications with clean codes
  • Write code with programming languages like Java, Ruby, PHP, and Python
  • Provide training and support to other team members

The required soft and hard skills are:

Software developer’s skills

Soft skills  Hard skills 
Communication  Data structures and algorithms
Time management Programming languages 
Problem-solving skills  Source control
Adaptability and flexibility Text editors 
Critical thinking IDEs (Integrated Development Environment)
Emotional intelligence  Databases 
Teamwork  Operating systems 
Networking basics 
Encryption and cryptography
Basics of testing 
Object-Oriented Programming Systems (OOPS)

Step 9. Define the key requirements for a software architect

A software architect is a team member responsible for the entire architecture of the system or product in development. This person envisions the overall application architecture, decides which services and databases should communicate, and how integrations should work while ensuring the solution is secure and stable. The architect participates in defining the technology stack and project estimation.

Main responsibilities of software architects:

  • Design a high-level software architecture
  • Select appropriate tools and platforms to implement the product vision
  • Set up code quality standards
  • Perform code reviews
  • Control the process of software development

The required soft and hard skills are:

Software architect’s skills

Soft skills  Hard skills 
Decision-making skills Familiarity with diagramming complex architectures
Clear communication Unified Modeling Language (UML)
Management skills Extensive knowledge of different programming languages and frameworks
Resilience System diagramming 
Analytical skills
Problem-solving & conflict resolution
Detailed and creative thinking 

Step 10. Define the key requirements for a QA engineer

QA engineer or tester is responsible for testing the product for usability, performance, functionality, and security, finding bugs and inconsistencies while ensuring the product is ready for release. Depending on the testing approach, the QA engineers perform all testing types in one person or separately.

Main responsibilities of QA engineers:

  • Create test scenarios
  • Run manual and automation tests
  • Make sure an application performs according to requirements
  • Spots functional and non-functional defects
  • Create test reports

The required soft and hard skills are:

QA engineer’s skills

Soft skills  Hard skills 
Empathy Maintaining the bug database
Attention to details Understanding the systems’ specifications
Communication skills Familiarity with tools for test management and bug tracking
Problem-solving skills Knowledge of a particular programming language (for test automation)
Analytical skills Understand different SDLC models
Persistence Knowledge of software testing types, methodologies, and techniques

Step 11. Define the key requirements for a tech lead

A tech lead is a person responsible for the technical implementation of the project: quality, performance, efficiency, and durability. These specialists work as a mediator between business management and software development.

Main responsibilities of a tech lead:

  • Take responsibility for the technical project side
  • Implement the code standards and procedures that work best
  • Detail the project’s structure while ensuring to meet the core requirements
  • Align technological, and business strategies

The required soft and hard skills are:

Tech lead’s skills

Soft skills  Hard skills 
Business focus Data analysis 
Communication Programming 
Ability to hire and motivate  DevOps
Stakeholder management  Tech project management 
Empathy  Software and technology skills

Important to note, the qualifications and skills required for each seniority level may vary depending on your financial capabilities and the level of expertise required.

Step 12. Consider software development outsourcing or staff augmentation

Suppose you’re not technically savvy in understanding how to build a software development team or want to delegate this task to a reputed software development agency. In that case, you’re on the right path.

By hiring a dedicated software development team, you can fully delegate your software idea implementation to a group of professionals with broad experience to create great products in your industry.

If staff augmentation suits your project needs most, you can easily supplement your ongoing project with the necessary specialists without wasting time and effort on the recruitment and management process.

How to hire software specialists? (Northell’s hiring tips)

How to hire software specialists? (Northell's hiring tips)

How to hire software specialists? (Northell’s hiring tips)

Clear hiring guidelines will help you discover how to build a software development team without extra effort. So, we’ve gathered valuable insights from our professional background to help you quickly and efficiently make the final job offer.

Scan online platforms or look for referrals

Looking for answers on how to attract software developers to assemble a professional team, you can start by sorting out your contact book. That means you may already know people from your industry who can recommend particular software developers or outsourcing agencies.

Otherwise, you can scan specialized professional platforms to find the perfect match for your needs. As examples of such websites, we recommend visiting:

Check out CVs and portfolios

After we’ve prepared a clear job description with specific requirements, we start searching for talents. During talent acquisition, we pay attention to candidates’ work experience, claimed expertise, previous work achievements, and employers’ recommendations. The next critical aspects to check before selecting candidates are previous projects and similar case studies to check if this experience fits our current needs.

Interview candidates

We start the interview process when we’ve created a pool of potential hires. During the interview, we make sure to check the following:

  1. Previous experience – to understand the candidate’s expertise and ability to demonstrate their work and project deliverables
  2. Tech stack they’re familiar with – to check if the candidate has practiced using the technologies and tools we expect from them (e.g., Figma, Jira, ClickUp, etc.)
  3. Attitude to work – find out their main motivations
  4. Collaboration skills – to understand the ability to communicate with team members, project stakeholders, and other teams and resolve possible misunderstandings
  5. Soft and hard skills – to verify if they match the expected ones

The interview helps us gain a deeper insight into the candidate’s approach to work and experience and outline the future workflow.

Hire your perfect match

After all the recruitment jobs are done, we can finally sort the list of candidates and choose a candidate that suits both our budget and project needs. In our recent article on programming outsourcing, you can learn more about the legal aspects that need to be included in your contract. However, before sending a job offer, we also make sure to include:

  • Main goals and responsibilities that we expect during the probation period
  • Payment and terms of payment
  • Trial period
  • Terms of contract termination

Following the hiring procedure right, we can assemble not only a team of the best talents but provide an attractive work environment and get a reduced employee turnover instead – as the primary indicator of our professionalism.

Refresh your knowledge on how to hire an app developer risk-free with our latest guide.

How to attract software developers? (Northell’s recruiting tips)

How to attract software developers? (Northell's recruiting tips)

How to attract software developers? (Northell’s recruiting tips)

Discovering how to build a software development team is the first step toward a successful project start. The Northell team strives to stand out among the many software development companies, so we create a system of benefits and incentives to motivate the team and increase employee retention. Below, we’d like to share the best practices that help us achieve these goals.

Create a well-documented onboarding

We prioritize a well-documented onboarding process to support new engineers when they join our company. This can help spend less time mentoring newcomers while supporting them in quick project adaptation. We’re also pairing new hires with experienced engineers who can share their knowledge, help address organizational issues and offer valuable support during the project acquaintance.

Provide employment benefits and a social package

In our search for ways how to attract software developers, we prioritize a strong corporate culture that can bring multiple benefits to both the company and its employees. Building such a culture means a prominent company image, a solid reputation on the market, and high employee retention.

So, we provide employment benefits and social package to support employees’ health, avoid professional burnout and motivate people to move up the career ladder. To the list of such benefits, we include:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Paid vacations and sick leaves
  • Competitive salary
  • Team-building activities
  • Relocation bonuses
  • Mentoring
  • Corporate English classes
  • Discounts for attending sports activities and professional courses, etc.

Create a PDP plan

A Personal Development Plan (PDP) is an action plan designed for employees to outline the goals they need to achieve to reach the next career level and receive a pay raise. Both short-term and long-term goals will become valuable beacons that will help them to level up their professional skillset, acquire new competencies and succeed. In this way, we motivate developers to grow expertise inside a project and accomplish professional goals faster.

How to manage software specialists? (Northell’s management tips)

How to manage software specialists? (Northell's management tips)

How to manage software specialists? (Northell’s management tips)

As post-hiring advice, we’d like to share our experience on how to build a software development team to ensure a collaborative and productive work environment.

Facilitate cross-team communication

When a new hire or the team joins our company, we help everyone to get acquainted with our in-house approaches, workflows, and processes. We set up weekly meetings with all company departments to update everyone on the projects’ statuses and make general announcements. This way, we let everyone ask urgent questions and provide quick support while ensuring everyone works aligned.

Set task priorities and KPIs

The Northell team adheres to Agile software development, which helps us to break the project scope into smaller tasks by priority. This flexible approach allows us to increase productivity, balance the daily workload, and deliver project results during every short iteration.

Setting KPIs drives results and adds to the project’s progress. In turn, employees can clearly understand the goals they need to achieve or understand what needs to be improved further.

Schedule regular meetings to track team progress

Regular team meetings are the way we ensure every team member is on the same page regarding the task execution and project vision. We can also organize Q&A sessions so everyone can take the initiative and get everything they need to complete tasks. In addition, we hold retrospective meetings to bring together all participants in the process, discuss possible bottlenecks, plan process improvements, or highlight project achievements. This method provides greater transparency in both communication and overall workflow.

Encourage team-building activities

Team-building activities are valuable to let our development team bond together and build a strong team spirit. To create a collaborative work environment and reduce burnout, we take care of our employee’s work-life balance. During such activities, our teams can get to know each other closely and rest together. Thus, we can have lunch or dinner together, participate in group training, attend different sports events, watch movies, volunteer, etc.

Maintain a healthy work environment

By fostering a collaborative and healthy working environment, we avoid stressful situations and destructive conflicts in the team. Thus, we create fair and equal rules for every team member regardless of their position in the company. To avoid communication gaps, we set up video calls to resolve misunderstandings and reach a compromise.

How much does it cost to develop a software?

As a business owner or G-suite representative, you might want to know how to attract software developers to get the jobs done on time and within budget. Although we helped you understand how to build a software development team, there are other questions we can answer before you decide to hire a team: how much does it cost to develop a software, and how long does it take to develop a software?

At Northell, we divide the development process into four major phases where our clients most often need professional help. In the picture below, you can look at rough costs based on the project stage and team location.

Rough project costs

Rough project costs

The cost for your software project can also be dependent on such factors as:

  1. Business model
  2. Features package
  3. Expected time to market
  4. Development approach
  5. Team location
  6. Team size
  7. Team expertise
  8. Hiring model

How long does it take to develop a software?

For more information on project timelines, below you can also see Northell’s timeline calculations based on project size and stage.

Our work estimate

Our work estimate

While you can understand how long it takes to develop software, there are several reasons why timelines vary. The first reason is the availability of an extensive portfolio with similar projects. That means that we have already worked out the best practices and approaches, so we know how to speed up the overall development process in our teams. Another reason is the wide range of industries in which we have in-depth experience and expertise. That means that we already know the critical industry specifics, know the key regulations, and have analyzed relevant markets to offer the most optimal solution for our customers quickly.

In any case, contact us to get a project estimate that matches your budget and expected release time.

Building a software development team: Summary

The success of your final project highly depends on the team you choose to collaborate with throughout the project. For this reason, you should clearly understand the roles and responsibilities of each team member to come up with your requirements and find a perfect match.

Hope the above guide was helpful for you to understand how to build a software development team and how to attract software developers based on our extensive background. Following the steps and tips above helps us recruit a highly skilled team and maximize process productivity. If you’d like to hand this responsibility over to professionals, we’re here to take on your next software project and help you find the right talents. Let’s meet up and discuss all your needs!

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