SoftwareBY RabIT software engineering · April 06, 2020
Significant advancements in cloud technology and automation over the past decade have led to the rise of new, disruptive outsourcing solutions. Remote personnel can now be more closely integrated into a company’s everyday work processes. Compared to traditional IT outsourcing, hiring a dedicated software development team is seen as more like a strategic partnership.
Apart from providing staff augmentation services, these teams also actively participate in making critical product-related decisions. Working with a dedicated software development team can feel like having your own remote IT department, with the added flexibility of an on-demand service.
However, reaching this level of efficiency requires careful planning, effective management and a lot of optimization.
The goal of this article is to guide you in building a high-functioning dedicated software development team and identifying ways to improve their efficiency.
Why should you consider hiring a dedicated software development team?
While cost optimization remains one of the main reasons for outsourcing, it’s no longer number one. Today, most businesses primarily hire dedicated software development teams to gain access to technical skills that are not available in-house.
When executed well, this can also provide competitive advantage by improving organizational operations, making them more agile, efficient and effective.
Other benefits of hiring dedicated teams are:
- Faster, more cost-effective hiring process
- Improves flexibility in use of resources – they can be scaled up or down quickly
- Allows management to focus more on core business processes
1. THE SELECTION PROCESS
Of course, at the core of every development project there is the product itself. Before starting the search for a dedicated software development team, you must already have a clear, well-defined product vision.
Here we’re referring mostly market-related questions. You must define who the intended users are, what the software should do and for which platforms (and devices) you want to develop it.
One of the greatest benefits of working with a dedicated team is that they can contribute to the project from the early planning stages, well before the actual development work begins. They can help you make key technical decisions related to software architecture, features and user stories, and then plan the development process accordingly. This is especially useful if you don’t have any in-house technical expertise.
When selecting your dedicated software development team, keep in mind that you aren’t simply looking for a service provider, but rather a strategic partner. Apart from having the necessary technical skills and experience, they must communicate exceptionally well, and be open to work with you in a completely transparent manner.
This means giving you full insight into their processes and a clear understanding of the ongoing work at all times. Without this, you wouldn’t be able to keep control over the project, and it could easily lose direction over the long term.
When making a decision, collect all relevant information such as team size, composition and seniority, technical knowledge, project history etc., from at least 3-5 vendors. When this is done, evaluate them based on the following criteria:
- How they communicate – language skills, response time, detail and clarity of information.
- Have they successfully completed projects with the same level of complexity?
- Do they have developers with the required level of seniority and technical knowledge?
- Since we’re talking about long-term cooperation, do they also have a system for expanding their knowledge pool and incorporating new innovations?
- Do they have effective project management quality assurance processes in place?
- What did their previous clients say about them? Try to find third-party verified reviews from sites like Clutch.co, or ask if you can speak to any of their former clients directly.
2. DEVELOPMENT METHODOLOGY
There is no such thing as a perfect, one-size-fits all development methodology for all teams and all industries. The recommendations in this section are based on our own experience and preferences.
We usually recommend using an Agile methodology based on Scrum or Kanban. We prefer these as opposed to the traditional waterfall methodology because they allow us to include development partners much more closely into the development process. Thanks to regular meetings and product demonstrations, they are constantly able to provide feedback about the completed work, making sure that project stays on track.
Scrum is a project management framework that breaks up longer development processes into two-week periods (or sprints). After completing each sprint, the progress is demonstrated to the product owner, who can then give feedback and make adjustments to the project if necessary.
Close communication and constant inclusion of the client makes the project much more likely to stay on course and deliver positive results.
Scrum board example
Unlike Scrum, the Kanban approach is not iterative, so it allows the software to be developed in one large development cycle. This cycle has no predefined end point. The software requirements get broken up into smaller work items, which then enter the development process in a prioritized order.
A work item is not allowed to move on to the next phase until some capacity opens up ahead. This approach is more useful if fixed timeframes aren’t sustainable for the project.
Kanban board example
As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all methodology. Copy-pasting the Agile manifesto for your team won’t be an ideal solution.
This is why we only recommend it as an outline for your process. It will be up to you and your partner to optimize each aspect of the methodology to fit your organization and in-house team composition as much as possible.
What we do is optimize every aspect of the development process to the needs of each individual client. Everything from frequency and channels of communication, team size, composition, monthly work hours, issue tracking and reporting and much more can all be customized to fit unique organizational requirements. Because of its flexibility and iterative nature, this is called an Adaptive Agile methodology.
3. SETTING UP THE INFRASTRUCTURE
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, recent innovations in cloud technology provided developers with some essential new tools for working together from different locations. There are many available solutions for communication, issue tracking and version control that can greatly improve development speed and efficiency.
Which tools your team uses will depend on specific project requirements and personal preferences as well. From our own experience, we recommend choosing from the following solutions:
1. Communication & presentations
- Skype – For daily updates, group calls and live demos
- Slack – Dedicated channels where development teams and the client can discuss project-related issues
- Hangouts – Group video calls, video meetings
- TeamViewer – Great for screen sharing during live demos
2. Issue tracking – tools for managing and maintaining a list of issues (or tasks). We use these to manage tasks during development sprints. We also give access to clients to help them oversee what’s happening with their project. Issue trackers are absolutely key to keeping the development process efficient.
3. Version control – tools that allow teams to track changes to a set of documents. They are an essential part of every software development project, where a team of people concurrently make changes to the same files over a long period of time.
- GitHub – one of the world’s largest software development platforms that provides hosting for software version control using Git.
- GitLab – popular web-based DevOps lifecycle tool that provides a Git-repository manager providing wiki, issue-tracking and CI/CD pipeline features.
- BitBucket – also web-based version control repository hosting service for source code and development projects that use either Mercurial or Git revision control systems.
4. Other tools
- Atlassian Confluence – an enterprise knowledge management system that is used to help teams prepare and share software documentation (setup guide, technical details, etc.) efficiently.
- Jenkins – a CI/CD tool (Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery) that helps automate building, testing, and deployment, to allow continuous integration and delivery during software development projects.
4. QUALITY ASSURANCE
Quality assurance plays a very crucial role in the process of software development. It saves money and time by spotting bugs and errors early in the software development life-cycle.
Software that is newly developed may have inconsistencies, redundancies, and flaws; therefore, we think that proper QA should be mandatory. Software testing ensures that the product a company is developing meets all requirements, truly provides value to end users and has a long lifespan.
When hiring a dedicated software development team, make sure they have quality assurance processes in place to perform at least the following types of tests:
- Usability testing – Checking if end users will be able to easily use and understand the software. Helps identify usability issues and improve user experience.
- Compatibility testing – Verifying that the software works perfectly on devices with various screen sizes, running different operating systems. In case of web applications, this includes testing cross-browser compatibility as well.
- Functional testing – Checking whether the software works in accordance with feature specifications and business requirements.
- Performance testing – Also known as load and stress testing. It means testing the robustness and stability of the software under extreme conditions.
We recommend that quality assurance should be done by at least one person on each team. Before committing new features, their functionality and effect on already existing features should be thoroughly tested in a safe environment.
If done properly, this will greatly improve software quality throughout the software’s entire life cycle.
Example of our own dedicated software development team composition
5. CODE REVIEWS
Code review is also a kind of quality assurance activity, where a software developer checks an already written source code for errors and bugs. Apart from manual code reviews, there are also a lot of automated tools available for static and dynamic code analysis.
We also consider code reviews to be an essential part of every development project. The work of each developer on the team should be reviewed by a senior colleague. This is especially important for junior developers, but everyone else’s work should also be reviewed by at least one other expert.
Here are some commonly used code review methods:
- Over-the-shoulder reviews – When the author writes a code and simply calls the reviewer over to have a look at it.
- Pair-programming – Two developers write code together at the same workstation.
- Tool-assisted code review – Reviewers and authors use specialized tools designed for code review. The tools are used for collecting metrics, transmitting and displaying files, commentary, collecting files etc.
- Email pass-around reviews – Most open-source projects used to prefer this form of code review. Here, the author emails complete files to reviewers. Reviewers then examine the files and suggest changes. It is rarely used today, mainly as an alternative if tool-assisted code review isn’t an option.
In our own development processes, every line of code must pass peer review before being committed. This might seem like a lot of extra work beforehand, but it actually saves clients a considerable amount of time and money in the long run. If the code is clean and low on errors, new features can be developed much faster. It also decreases time is spent on fixing errors later, because most of them were already discovered during reviews.
Throughout our work we’ve encountered many software projects that were struggling to move forward because the code base had gotten so unstable that it was difficult, or straight up impossible to develop further. In a few cases, more than 12 months worth of development investment would have resulted in an unusable product without intervention.
You can read about our approach to code reviews in much more detail in our earlier article:
Why Source Code Quality Is Crucial in Software Product Development
As opposed to traditional outsourcing, dedicated software development teams can serve as integrated product development partners. If managed properly, they can work closely with you to deliver top-notch digital products while also helping to make your entire organization more agile, flexible and efficient.
From selecting a qualified team, all the way to managing development and quality assurance processes, they should be seen as a strategic partner, instead of simply as a service provider.
Your management team must work together with them to optimize work processes, just like they would with an internal IT department. This should include everything from development and project management methodologies, all the quality assurance and code reviews.
Building an effective cooperation with a capable dedicated software development team can provide ways for your organization to constantly innovate and gain a competitive edge while also reaping the benefits of traditional outsourcing.
RabIT software engineering
RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.
Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.