How To Manage a Software Development Team

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
how-to-manage-a-software-development-team

Managing a software development team is a huge task for anyone. Many software development team leaders are software developers in upper management with little experience managing a software development team successfully. 

While they have a technical background in software development, they tend to lack formal project management training. 

This article will teach you how to manage a software development team without tech experience. 

Let’s get started. 

How to Manage a Software Development Team with Project Management Software

Running an effective software development process is easy with a project management system. The most popular software development methodologies are Agile, Scrum, and Waterfall.

Top Software Development Methodologies
Source: GoodFirms

Software development managers ensure software development teams deliver on set project requirements. It requires implementing already designed methods and strategies to execute projects

Project management software tools help make the project management process easier for software development teams. 

1. Define and Map Out Expectations

Identifying and detailing key requirements is crucial for managing a software development team. The goal is to set up key components that guarantee success.

Ensure the team understands upper management's requirements for the software project by defining the project scope to the team of developers and expected project deliverables and due dates.

Product Scope Statement
Source: TemplateLab

Creating a centralized location where you can easily access key project determinants through project management software ensures all developers are on the same page.

You can commit these key project requirements to prevent the occurrence of scope creep, which curbs the occurrence of late task feature requests.  

Scope Creep Statistics
Source: IEEE Xplore

2. Define Roles of Developers and Assign Them to Tasks Accordingly

Task lists that developers have to carry out can often be quite bulky and can overcrowd development teams. 

Prioritizing software developers' workload can be even more challenging, especially when plagued by defects, bugs, or writing code to replace default ones. 

With all these expectations, you need to have a mechanism in place. Eliminating barriers and exceeding set project goals are achievable using key technical skills with project management software. 

Assigning tasks with project management software helps keep the team on track. Status reports are crucial for effective project management. 

Software development teams can manage the project process better by detailing status reports of tasks being undergone and focusing on tasks needing urgent attention.  

3. Track Deadlines Better

The habit of not delivering required results at the appropriate time or within the specified timeframe costs the organization valuable clients and the team's time. 

No matter how minute the deviation from the set schedule can be, your team will likely be affected by missed deadlines and due dates. 

Although certain task deadlines are more like estimates, they are interconnected to the overall project outcome. The project manager must keep regular tabs on scheduled task deadlines as they all play a part in the project's success. 

The team structure should accommodate an effective communication mechanism for managers to reach out to developers for status updates. Project schedules and milestones are crucial for tracking project progress. 

Project management software is an added benefit for managers as they provide a detailed overview of all assigned tasks. They can track the progress of all these tasks from a single centralized location.

4. Proper and Prompt Dissemination of Relevant Information 

Ensuring effective information sharing and collaboration among the many expert developers under their watch is one of the qualities of an effective manager. 

By instituting regular communication among their team and putting measures in place to receive feedback back and forth from the team, managers are kept in the loop on happenings around the software development process. 

Communication among the team is beyond issuing out emails and memos, as it is important to get feedback from the teams on changes that would directly affect their normal way of operation. 

Effects of Collaboration on Company Success
Source: Zippia

You can better manage a software development team by using a more defined communication system such as team communication software to provide feedback. 

Team communication software ensures communication flows from the management to the technical team. It ensures that the information is received by the right quarters and is distributed on a get-to-know basis. 

5. Monitor Real-Time Updates

Project management systems come with the right tools to monitor and track the status of tasks assigned to developers. 

A software development manager gets direct reports on task completion and schedules with adequate project management software tools. They provide a vivid outlook for more effective management. 

Many managers depend on a project management system to assist them in identifying resource gaps and better managing task dependencies. This platform avoids clashing or conflicting tasks as developers have different schedules and have their tasks properly scheduled.

Implementing technical skills in project monitoring is reduced significantly as the software does the bulk of the work required to ensure the software development team effectively functions. 

Task Dependencies Types PPT Samples Download
Source: SlideTeam

How to Manage a Team of Developers Without Tech Experience

Managing a development team with little or no technical or specialized skills is often a tough task for many managers. It requires using non-technical strategies for proper management. 

Here is a guide on some non-technical strategies to implement when managing a team of developers with little or no tech experience,

1. Reduce Over-Emphasizing on Writing Code

As much as the goal of a software developer is to write high-demand codes for clients, writing codes should not be the basis for measuring expert developers' performance. 

Identifying and fixing defects discovered in software are important aspects of software development. 

Software development is much broader than assigning developers to write code. In managing software development, every team member has a role in the project's success. 

Software Development Team Roles & Structure
Source: TatvaSoft

2. Find Source of Motivation for Development Team

Many developers are driven by their desire to embark on projects that test their resolve. Incorporating remote work into the setup of development teams can motivate developers to embark on projects in the comfort of their schedules. 

A remote development team provides additional comfort, free space, and time for developers to develop innovative ideas. 

Software development managers use this fact to their advantage in serving as motivation to their respective teams. They need to know how to manage remote teams effectively using the best apps for managing remote teams

Sources of Motivation for Development Team
Source: Otter AI

3. Seek Advice from Other Software Development Managers

As a newbie to the software development field, you would be introduced to terms you are unfamiliar with during team meetings. Seek clarity for these terms when necessary or expert advice from other managers when you feel stuck or constrained at any point.

4. Provide the Team with the Needed Project Requirements

The right requirements, when utilized properly, deliver high-quality software. 

As a newbie without tech experience, you must understand the project's expectations properly. Doing this ensures everyone is on the same page on what is expected to be produced. 

The feedback mechanism you choose to communicate with the team is very important as it often guarantees timely delivery of project deliverables. Dishing out assignments without going back in time to check the task's status is insufficient. 

Software Project Requirement Document Template
Source: Smartsheet

5. Minimize Likely Distractions

You stand a chance of doing a better job as a manager by cutting ties with things that would only slow you down. As much as project requirements are important, they can pose as distractions if not properly managed. 

Unnecessary meetings and project information can derail the team from the task ahead by affecting their level of focus.

Distractions can be in the form of unrealistic deadlines as they put unnecessary pressure on the software development teams. 

6. Understand the Importance of Your Role

Your knowledge of software development is inconsequential in as much as you offer valuable insights into the client's expectations. 

Your ability to interpret the idea and vision of your client and break it down into smaller, minute, detailed tasks is just enough to please your client. 

An effective manager ensures every client's expectation concerning software development is met. Understanding your role ensures you are better positioned to manage proceedings better. 

You need to have basic interpretational knowledge of the workings of developers. This knowledge is necessary because it forms the basis of your client's regular statutory report and other project management reports.   

How to Manage and Lead a Team of Remote Developers

Many software development teams operate either fully or partially remotely. Managing and leading a team of remote developers differs from managing and leading them on-site.

What's your biggest struggle with working remotely
Source: The World Economic Forum

Here are better ways of managing your team of developers to ensure they succeed in a remote environment.

1. Appoint a Trustworthy Team

Micromanaging a team of developers is one of the factors many managers dread, aside from failing to deliver on expectations. 

The idea of micromanagement can be attributed largely to a lack of trust. Choose a team you can trust from the onset, as you will not be on hand to watch all activities closely. 

However, it does not exempt you from performing your oversight function as a manager, but you are placing much of your confidence and responsibility on your remote team of developers. 

Setting up clear project guidelines at the beginning of every project ensures the responsibilities showered on your team do not come back to bite you. Provide the team with the necessary tools and information required to ensure the timely delivery of projects. 

For remote projects to work, a working relationship solely dependent on trust and transparency is required.

2. Take Advantage of Overlapping Time Zone Hours

Failure to construct and find a time zone arrangement that favors your team of developers from all over the globe can cause a hindrance to the project process. 

Communication is key and only effective if all parties are involved in the discussion. To ensure maximum attendance, managers must ensure the most convenient time for scheduling team meetings. 

Time zones can be an advantage to the team and should be considered during meeting scheduling. 

Meeting schedule plans and dates should be drawn up and disseminated to the team ahead to give room for preparation and ensure it does not clash with ongoing projects. 

3. Adopt Collaboration Tools

Effective communication and collaboration are the backbone of successful software development but pose a huge dilemma for remote teams.

Several online collaboration tools are available to managers, but all vary in their effective implementation based on the team's specific needs.

Collaboration features and tools such as direct messaging and chat functionalities, a file-sharing system, and a backlog requesting tool for reviewing a pull request are some of the managers' most popular and widely used collaboration tools.

The specificity of each team's need differs for each team, and it is instrumental you discover the team's own needs. 

Upon ascertaining the team's needs, you can now decide on the best and adequate collaboration tool or tools to assist in streamlining those needs.

The Benefits of Workplace Collaboration
Source: FinancesOnline

4. Provide and Request Regular Feedback

The mechanism created for passing feedback should outlast beyond software development. Feedbacks are important to a project as they provide firsthand knowledge of the happenings around the project process. 

But this feedback should not be constrained to software development but should span way beyond delivering project deliverables to clients. 

Feedback should go both ways. It is not enough to give feedback but also to get feedback from the team to maintain a strong and successful team partnership. 

Upon the successful completion and delivery of the finished software product, feedback should be provided to the team on the acceptance level of the product by the clients and the consumer audience. 

This process ensures the team knows the quality of their products and makes recommendations on how to improve their service delivery for subsequent projects. 

Software development, like agile project management, is an iterative process; incorporating feedback into its structure is one of the major ways of improving the process. 

Best Tips for Managing Software Development Teams

Most software development managers were once developers at one point in time and grew in capacity into their current role. 

These managers have the required technical skills for the job but fall short in the project management skills, especially soft skills, required to lead the team to success. 

The good thing about this situation is that they are very effective online project management certifications that can bridge this bridge.

1. Schedule Regular Check-Ins 

Scheduling individual meeting sessions with software development team members is one of the effective ways of keeping track of the project proceedings. 

The meeting should be as open and free as possible. Allow team members to air their grievances and concerns about the project process that limit them from effectively carrying out their tasks.  

2. Empower the Team to Make Individual Decisions

The oversight function required of managers on the job is a very keen and pivotal aspect of managing a software development system. 

Managers are at the center of the decision-making process, and the task can be overwhelming. Being actively involved in all decisions the team makes can limit the value being delivered by managers. 

Empower your team to make individual, independent, and less high-value decisions to reduce your workload and allow you to focus on other key aspects of the job. 

3. Set Clear Goals for the Software Development Team

Defining set goals for the team is one of the ways of ensuring the team works efficiently.

Clearly defining the team's expectations keeps everyone in the loop on what is required. Setting SMART goals ensures new additions to the team can easily blend in when the goals are on display for everyone to see. 

SMART - Goals
Source: Indeed

4. Set Clear Individual Performance Goals

You can trace the overall project goals to small, key individual goals that sum up to the larger goals. Projects are often divided and carried out as a series of tasks, which you assign to individuals, in the case of software development, developers. 

Apart from assigning tasks, they should set goals and deadlines and create a template to track their success. The goals should be kept as realistic and attainable as possible in order not to overwork the team. 

5. Be Consistent in the Management of the Software Development Team

A manager whose decision can be predicted by a large majority is said to be consistent. You must find the balance and a standard for handling the process operations. 

Inconsistency breeds doubts and a lack of trust among the team, and this can pose a huge challenge if not properly checked. 

Your consistency in giving out directives and instructions to software development team members would go a long way in building a conducive working environment for the project.  

6. Identify Individual Skill Sets in the Team

Your software development would most likely consist of individuals across various areas bringing their skills to the table. The project manager must identify each individual and their respective skills and devise the best way to utilize them for the project's success. 

Each team member brings their unique ability and area of expertise to the table, and managers are tasked with finding the necessary balance when distributing them into teams. 

The teams should be structured to allow personal growth without interfering with the project outcome. 

7. Set a Good Example

The foot map of what is to be accepted and generally tolerated falls to managers' feet. It is important managers lay good examples for the team to follow. 

Showing up to meetings on time, prompt delivery of reports, and effective monitoring are ways to set a good tone for the team to follow. It goes a long way in cutting rebellion or breeding contempt among the team and fosters a feeling of respect on the path of team members. 

8. Provide Adequate Information

Provide the team with all relevant information and resources when designating tasks and issuing directives. This move ensures no disparities between what is assigned and what is expected. 

You must detail how and when you require certain tasks done based on the client's instructions. Any other team member is unlikely to be in contact with the client, so the project managers must deliver all relevant guidelines. 

9. Offer Relevant Training to the Team

Setting a considerable amount of resources to train the team to carry out their assigned tasks more effectively can save time and valuable resources. 

The team's personal growth must also be factored in any project process, as the more they know, the less likely they are to spend on skill sets. 

Organizations with multiple teams should enroll selected team leaders in beneficial online courses such as the Scrum Master certification and the Agile project management certification. 

10. Encourage Open Communication

The benefits that open communication brings to the table are numerous. Managers can account for more effective use of resources by sampling and providing an open channel for team members to communicate closely. Open communication can help with large-scale reduction in duplicated tasks. All team members are kept regularly updated on the progress and expectations of the project in an open communication system.

Martin Luenendonk

Editor at FounderJar

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.