With over 20 years in outsourcing behind us, we know a great deal about software development. In this blog post, we share practical tips on determining the size of a software development team and what to pay attention to.
Table of contents
When it comes to building a startup, what is the right team size for a software development project? The matter of creating the right team size appears on the agenda each time a new software development team needs to be organized, or an existing team is being assessed.
On the one hand, quality is always more essential than quantity. But on the other hand, project team members need to have enough resources to be productive and cover all phases of the development life cycle.
To help you decide on the optimal software development team size, we’ve gathered useful tips from our experts in this article. Enjoy!
The recent findings by ResearchGate state that the development platform, programming language, and team size are key factors influencing the productivity of software development. We’ll focus on the last one to show you how human resources are vital to project success.
Any project presupposes teamwork and it’s likely that it can’t be completed effectively by one person. Your IT project might need several people working on it. However, if the team has too many members, there is a hazard for the productivity level of each member to go down with the team’s growth. This theory has been called “Social Loafing” or the “Ringelmann Effect.”
The Ringlemann effect theory stipulates that a company can achieve much more with a greater number of team members, but the individual members of the larger team are less productive than their counterparts in smaller teams. According to this theory, the individual efforts of each group member decrease due to the larger workforce.
The “Ringelmann Effect” has been proven in the course of research. It illustrates the dynamics of team size for the software project. Through a series of experiments involving large groups of people pulling a rope, Maximilien Ringlemann concluded that individual contributions were decreasing for every person who is added beyond 5-6 people who pulled a rope.
Consequently, some employees might want to weaken their work resolve at their workplaces, thinking that their lack of effort will be complemented by the overall team’s greater effort. Others won’t simply work hard as they did before because their efforts may be unacknowledged. Even if the company increases in overall output, it’s not where it should be when its individual productivity level decreases.
In the case of software development team size, the “Ringelmann Effect” is limited by keeping the number of professionals to fill necessary software development team roles to a minimum. A competent PM selects the exact number of specialists for an IT project, oversees their work, and motivates the team to mitigate the “Ringelmann Effect.”
Now lets further explore factors you should consider when determining the right software development team size.
Before starting a hiring process, think about the key factors influencing the number of specialists required for the particular project. Below, we’ve gathered several valuable things to consider when deciding on the agile development team size.
The project scope and complexity define the number of tasks, specialists, and resources. That’s why you need to assess the scope of your project first and then decide on the size of the development team required to cover every stage.
For example, when you start a project from scratch, you’ll need a bigger team rather than when you need some redesign or rebuilding. Project complexity may also depend on the industry and type of software.
Balance in skillset
How many people do you need to fill the unique roles and responsibilities on the team? You should make sure that there is not a skill gap on your team. On the other hand, too many people with the same skills on your team might lead some people to loaf and be less productive.
Thus, try to keep a balance between required skills and avoid duplication of competencies. An employee skills matrix is a great way to help teams distribute the skills among specialists the right way. Here is an example of such a matrix:
Work that should be completed quickly calls for a larger team with more hands on deck to do all the necessary work on time. Longer-term projects can be best accomplished by smaller teams as they tend to be more cohesive and less friction-oriented.
Typically, people are more open to sharing their joys and pains about their work in a small group environment. Additionally, smaller teams are easier to monitor and are the most active “rope-pullers.
Your software development team size may greatly depend on your budget. If your project runs on a shoe-string budget, we recommend you focus on the alternative employment models rather than hiring fewer in-house specialists for your project.
For example, you can choose between freelance, part-time, contract, or outsourcing options. Based on our deep expertise in gathering dedicated development teams, we can say that outsourcing is one of the best-working and reliable employment models in the software development industry today. You can hire the brightest IT minds from any corner of the world according to your budget, goals, and required skill set.
An experienced, reliable, and open-minded team with in-depth expertise in various domains is key to your project development success. In this section, we consider key software development team roles and explain their responsibilities to help you know who you should hire.
To drive your product to success, you'll need the following members of a software development team:
- A Project manager will control your development process and keep you informed at all stages of development.
- A Business analyst is responsible for setting goals, analyzing and documenting key processes and systems, and ensuring consistency between the business model and technologies. They assess what works and what doesn't work and set the direction for business development.
- Backend developers will write web services and APIs and integrate server-side logic and work done by frontend developers.
- Frontend developers will bring your software design to life and create user experience and interaction.
- UI/UX designers will create a customized design, trendy icons, beautiful themes, and stunning banners for your project idea.
- QA engineers will collaborate with developers to test the software and ensure your product looks good on all devices.
In most cases, software development teams work according to Scrum, Kanban and other Agile methodologies. Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software development method for managing software projects and product or application development. Moreover, Scrum is the agile project management framework that is widely used in software development.
Agile has mainly two roles within it: primary or required and optional roles that depend on the project needs. For example, a software development team may include, but not be limited to, the following roles:
- Project manager (PM)
- Product manager
- Business analyst (BA)
- Backend developers
- Frontend developers
- Mobile developers
- UI/UX designer
- Tech lead
- Quality assurance (QA) engineers/QA automation engineers
Optionally, if your project requires, you might also need the help of software development team roles such as:
- Solution architect
- DevOps engineer
- VR designer
- 3D modeler
If your software development team gets too big, its members will get in each other’s way more than they help each other, productivity will fall, and there will be too much social loafing. To avoid these problems, we will look at the key signs that your team has become too big.
Signs that the software team size is becoming too large:
- Each standup takes more than 15 minutes. This causes people to lose interest in keeping track of everyone’s progress.
- There is little significant improvement in velocity after your team's growth.
- Your team members create too many interaction combinations, all of which are potential points of conflict.
- Some of your team members have less motivation since there are other specialists they can fall back on.
If you're facing the above concerns, it's a strong indicator that the size of the development team is too large. There are different ways to resolve this. You could: lay off redundant employees, move extra specialists to other teams, or divide your team into small ones. Below we share a useful formula plus thoughts that help you find the optimal team size in software development.
Useful Software Project Team Size Formula
The number of your software development team members directly depends on your project's complexity, requirements, needed expertise, and so on. Teams with less than five members may experience skill gaps and awkward team dynamics, while teams consisting of more than ten people require more time for communication and management, compromising the overall performance. So it's generally accepted that seven specialists on a team is an ideal number.
The formula we used: N (N-1) / 2.
Deciding on the size of the software development team for your project requires deep research and analysis of all influencing factors.
Onix has over 100 IT specialists with a variety of skills. Our PMs will select a dedicated team based on your needs. The number and expertise of the company's programmers, UX/UI designers, quality assurance engineers, and project managers ensure that necessary team member roles and responsibilities will be assembled. A culture of cooperation and team-play facilitates teamwork for the best results.
You can be confident your software product will be delivered on time and within budget. Contact us for more information and let us form the best project team for you!
1. How many people are in a software development team?
The size of a software development team depends on several factors: project goals, complexity, budget, timeframe, and required tech skills. In general, development teams include from 5 to 10 specialists.
Teams with less than 5 members can experience skill gaps and awkward team dynamics, while teams consisting of more than 10 people require more time on communication and management, compromising the overall performance.
2. Who are the members of the software development team? Software development outsourcing team key positions are the following:
- Business Analyst (BA) is responsible for setting goals, analyzing and documenting key processes and systems, and ensuring consistency between the business model and technologies. They assess what works and what doesn't work and set the direction for business development.
- Project Manager (PM) is responsible for planning and execution. The PM is responsible for getting the job done. They also take care of building relationships between the client and the various parts of the organization. Project managers oversee all processes, delegate tasks to other team members, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
- UI/UX designer creates the way users interact with the product. They ensure that all functions solve people's problems and achieve 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) are the people who do the coding. While the front-end designers are working on the customer-centric elements of the product, the back-end designers care about the functionality.
- Quality Assurance Engineer (QA) tests the product to make sure it performs well, meets quality standards and customer requirements. QA is like the ultimate editor that pays close attention to the smallest details. They catch bugs early so the team can fix them before they reach users.
3. How to define the software development team size? You need to decide on your project goals, functional side, employment model, and budget. We recommend getting help from experienced software development companies that can form a perfect team with the required skills and expertise.