How to Build a Strong Software Development Team From Scratch

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In the digital age, it is increasingly challenging to make the distinction between a technology company and a non-technology company. In fact, as enterprises across industries start leveraging technology to gain competitive advantages, all companies will eventually become technology companies.

For any business to remain relevant in this economic environment, it is critical to build a strong team of software developers. However, hiring top tech talent poses its own unique set challenges.

How can businesses build the strong software development teams they need to succeed?

To begin, building highly efficient teams is all about whom you hire.

Invest in the Hiring Process

In my experience, the best method to identify potential software development candidates is through referrals. Your employees, relevant Meetup events, and social platforms like LinkedIn are great resources you can exploit to source talent for your software development team.

Whenever referrals don’t work, you’ll have to take the traditional approach of placing ads on job sites. However, this should always be your last resort.

Strong teams are marked by many particular characteristics that enable them to deliver great products. When you start putting together your team of developers, make sure you do the following:

1. Hire Some Senior Developers

A highly efficient software development team demands at least one senior developer, though ideally you should have two or more. While a senior developer’s extensive knowledge and experience will undoubtedly cost a lot more, the enhanced efficiency and quality they bring to a project makes the price tag worthwhile.

Thanks to their time in the industry, senior developers often have highly developed intuitions and can think strategically. These are significant assets to any team, as they will help avoid mistakes and ensure products are delivered on time and within budget. Senior developers will also be better at writing clean code and reducing technical debt. When there’s less technical debt, you are better positioned to scale the product in the future.

2. Hire a Quality Assurance Engineer

Every strong development team must have its own quality assurance (QA) engineer. Like senior engineers, QA engineers will help the team avoid technical debt right from the early stages of the software development cycle.

A QA engineer is tasked with ensuring the software meets all the product owner’s requirements before it goes live. By continuously testing the code, the QA engineer sees to it that the team consistently delivers quality products.

3. Consider Candidate Personality

Knowledge, skills, and experience are important factors in any hiring decision — but so is a candidate’s personality. It is futile to hire a top software engineer if they can’t get along with their teammates. If you don’t want your project derailed by big egos and arguments, invest in software developers who are also team players.

4. Establish Development Standards and Best Practices

Once you have all your new hires in place, you have to lay the foundation for their work within the organization. Therefore, it is critical to establish development standards and best practices before the team writes a single line of code.

Each individual will have their own style when it comes to things like naming conventions and organization, so setting standards early on can help negate incoherent development practices. Whether standards are based on external best practices or established through internal consensus, it is important the standards be thoroughly documented and followed by all team members. This approach creates cohesion now and allows new software engineers to seamlessly integrate into the team at a later date.

5. Equip the Team With the Right Tools

As soon as the team is established, ask team members exactly what hardware and software they need, and then provide it. When the team has the right tools for the job, it can work rapidly and effectively toward its goals. Without the right tools, very little can be done — no matter how skilled your team members are.

6. Maintain Continuous Communication

The most efficient teams have high levels of communication, so take steps to maintain continuous communication between team members and between the team and its organizational stakeholders.

As part of their continuous communication, team members should meet often to ensure everyone is on the same page. At these junctures, the team can set clear goals and parameters that will dictate each member’s work going forward.

Communication between team members can be drastically improved if you make an effort to expose people to team members they wouldn’t otherwise interact with on a regular basis. Group brainstorming sessions and post-work casual gatherings are good ways to facilitate such interactions.

7. Help Developers Grow Professionally

Attracting software engineers is a challenge, but retaining them is even more difficult. The job market is highly competitive, and competitor companies will always be trying to poach your top talent.

Replacing lost team members is time- and resource-intensive, and it can lead to delays in project delivery and increased costs, so it is in your best interest to retain as many developers as possible.

One of the best ways to hold on to your employees is to support their professional development. When you invest time and money in your developers, you not only boost their loyalty — you also help them cultivate new skills that will benefit your business.

Highly efficient software development teams build quality software products on time and within budget, so it is crucial to invest the time and resources in building the best development team you can.

Graham Church is the managing director of CodeFirst.

By Graham Church