The era of startups has opened the doors of entrepreneurship for almost everyone who has a groundbreaking idea.
Practice shows that the team structure plays a crucial role in the success of the final product. The proper teamwork gives the right direction to product development. So if you want your product to reach the stratosphere, gather your development team, like NASA selects the astronauts.
As a Product Manager, I have gathered teams for many projects, and I know which factors should be considered when choosing the development team structure. In this article, I will talk about these factors, types of development team structures, Agile approach and share the tips for building an effective development team. So let’s start!
Importance of Setting the Right Development Team Structure
People are the key to the success of your product. Even if the lack of some specialists feels normal during the development process, it might have an effect at the end of the day.
For example, if you hire a high-end designer but your team has no UX expertise, you'll end up having a marvelous app with top-notch graphics and animations but with no one wanting to use it. Because they will simply be confused or disoriented inside it. Without such a specialist on the team you will get a deftly engineered software with second-to-none functionality, that…. Fails to meet users’ needs.
3 Common Types of Development Team Structures
Let’s start with the basics and look at the typical development team structures you might meet in the market. They are three – generalist, specialist, and hybrid. Now let’s look at the characteristics of each one:
Generalist Team Structure
A generalist team consists of professionals with general remit of skills and experience. Each team member is partially experienced in many product development fields, but none has deep expertise in a specific branch.
Specialist Team Structure
As you could guess, it is a specialist team structure approach, everyone is solidly experienced in a specific field but poorly knows the general development issues. Everyone knows his own niche or technology well enough to do a particular part of the job in such a team.
A team of such a composition guarantees high-quality for your product. Yet, it may be challenging for individual specialists to communicate together without a moderator.
Hybrid Team Structure
You can easily guess that a hybrid team is a combination of both specialists and generalists. Such teams can generally start working on the project but narrow it down to more specialized features when necessary.
As a compromise between the two worlds, the hybrid team structure approach gains the day among other formants. As a result, many startup cofounders prioritize this format, among others, as maximally effective.
However, the hybrid team structure has its pitfalls, and communication is one of them. It may come as a challenge for hybrid specialists to agree on certain issues, as they work in different niches and specializations. Again, effective facilitation is the key here.
4 Factors that Define the Development Team Structure
Building a development team structure is like preparing a team for a battle: you always need to know who plays which role. For that, you need to assess the circumstances you have and build a strategy.
So here are the factors to take into account. When building a development team structure.
Complexity of the project
First and foremost, the structure of your development team will depend on how complex your project is. For example, is it an e-commerce platform or a web app in a specific domain (like NFT trading marketplace, for example)? The first case is quite typical and does not require specialists on the team (unless this is a specific niche domain). The second case is, reversely, would require a bunch of specifically trained specialists with a broad background experience.
Conditions of team collaboration
Or, more specifically, whether you can create the conditions for the team you need. For example, in hybrid teams, specialists may often misunderstand each other. Or, in other scenarios, they may become codependent and ineffective in their collaboration.
Thus, you need to have overall expertise in many fields of product development (design, programming, domain knowledge, marketing, etc.) to coordinate the specialists and help them communicate with each other. Or, you will need to hire a person with such general knowledge, like a product manager.
How soon you need to get your product on rails also influences the structure of your team. If you have tight deadlines and a fewer team, it might be hard to deliver on time. So, in this case, you will need a team of senior engineers and product manager (if you also plan to develop the product from scratch) who will be able to deliver a full-fledged product timely and efficiently.
Budget of your project
The last but not least is the budget issue. Deriving from the previous factors, the budget allocated to the project affects several factors like seniority or the number of specialists. To optimize your budget spending and still get a quality result, I recommend using the Agile team structure framework.
Building Agile Team Structure: Uptech’s Best Practices
At Uptech, we are no strangers to structuring teams for projects. We always stick to the Agile team structure model, which provides the clients and us the flexibility that everyone needs. Here are the main steps that we take into account when gathering an Agile team:
Learn what the client needs
From the very start, we hold calls with the product manager, architecture, and sales specialist, who try to learn what the client needs in particular. We learn what challenges they are facing to gather a team that would respond to these challenges. The individual approach to team structuring is at the core of the process.
Gather a team of collaborative people
People and their relationships are the prerequisites of a successful team structure. With that in mind, we always try to gather people who have experience working together, or will surely get on well in their cooperation. Thus, our Agile team structure usually consists of:
- Product Manager
- UX Designer
- Developers (Front-end/ Back-end)
- Quality Assurance Engineer (QA)
That said, we encourage the whole team to work together on one task. When making decisions about UX or product development, we invite all people to discuss.
Sticking to Agile team structure
We always try to approach the team structuring flexibly. In that, we follow the Agile methodology manifest. The core of this instrument is treating people and cooperation over the processes. Besides that, the Agile approach encourages team-customer collaboration. And that we also follow to the fullest extent. Besides these, there are other characteristics of an Agile team structure:
- Self-managed team. Agile team structure implies that the Project Manager is only there to help the team, coach them, remove blockers or prevent destruction. In their day-to-day workflow, an agile team has the freedom of decision. This is a very valuable characteristic for aspiring startups, where decisions need to be made fast.
- Dedication to one project at a time. Unlike the classic approach, where developers can be busy with several projects at once, the Agile team is focused on one task at a time;
- Cross-functional teams. People in Agile teams are not limited to the scopes of their positions only. Everyone can take part in the discussion of any issue they find meaningful. Besides that, designers, developers, product managers, and the team lead work together to solve one problem.
With its flexibility, Agile team structure comes as the best choice for startups.
Thoroughly pick each professional
Gathering a team, we assess how a professional fits in the project suggested. Next, we determine how the suggested person is loaded with the current workflow and ready to start the new project.
Also, we look for the kind of person that would suit the project. So, for example, if this is a challenging idea, where risks are expected, we will appoint a person prepared to take risks.
If the product is something we've worked with (like known and widely used technologies or domains), we can schedule a team of people who have some relevant experience but there won't be a lot of risks.
Why Agile Team is the Option for Startups
Building startups is a specific form of software development. It requires resilience, flexibility, and ability to make hard decisions quickly. So if you are building a startup, you might want your team to be also flexible and resilient. In this case, there is no better option than Agile team structure, and here is why:
Space for flexibility
In an Agile team, people are multitasking and ready for challenges. For example, in one of our projects, we faced a problem from a third-party contractor, whom we asked to make changes to the existing software. The contractor told us he could do it within no less than three months (because of other more priority requests he had), which was a long time for us.
Luckily, we had a T-shaped specialist on our development team, who managed to implement the necessary changes by himself in no more than a week. That was a big help for the team and a saving hand for the project as a whole.
Imagine if you are building a startup with a specific monetization model in mind. However, after several user tests and trials, it turns out the chosen model won’t fit the bill.
In fact, this is a real case from my practice. Thanks to the Agile team structure, we managed to adapt to the swift changes by using the advantages of the Agile team:
- Involving the whole team to brainstorm on the solution and following plans;
- Including clients to all the team’s meetings;
- Direct communication between the client and all the team members;
- Using the Dual-track approach in software development.
Thanks to the team’s Agility, we managed to find the proper model in a limited time and go on with the development.
Proof of concept
Working in an Agile environment, you always have an opportunity to suggest hypotheses and put them to the test. We believe that every hypothesis has the right to exist. However, before implementing the project, every hypothesis should be “proved” or validated. We test every sensible idea with users to find out if it is valid to become a part of the product. Idea validation is central to the hypothesis-driven approach that we stick to in product development.
3 Tips in Building an Agile Team Structure
Structuring a team for every project is a very individual process that demands a special approach and steps. However, there are some techniques that come in handy for structuring any team. So here are some tips of Agile team structuring and management that come from my practice:
An Agile team means a flexible team. As simple as that. In practice it means, you should be adaptive to change, treat people as humans, not as human resources, and deliver an individual solution to every problem that comes up.
Mind interpersonal skills
Again, teams consist of people. And people can be different. Everyone has their own style of behaviour and communication that can hardly suit someone else’s. If gathered together, some people cannot cooperate effectively. And this is ok.
The good news is you can use people’s personal skills and characteristics to gather a strong team of collaborative people. For that, you should know those people well enough. As a project manager, I always check in how everyone feels in the team, how motivated they are at the moment and how comfortable people are working together.
Also, when structuring a team, we try to gather all the inputs on people's desires for growth and collaboration with each other. We bring info about every candidate's strong and weak sides and discuss what composition would be the best for the product
Communicate the goals
People on the project should know their work has value. To that end, I always keep my teams aware of the business needs, goals, challenges, and any developments that occur on the client’s side. Thus, the teammates have a feeling they are a part of something important and are motivated to do their best.
The development team structure is an essential prerequisite for effective product development. Who will be on your team is influenced by many factors, like the project’s complexity, budget, or deadlines. Agile team structures are most effective for startups, as it provides the flexibility and freedom the startup environment needs.
At Uptech, we always gather a team that directly matches the goals and needs of the business. Contact us to learn more.