The term “Agile software development” is used to denote a system of approaches, aimed to boost the effectiveness of the software development team. It consists of a wide range of methodologies and practices. Agile software development methodologies, in particular, include extreme programming, DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method), Scrum, FDD (Feature Driven Development), BDD (Behavior-driven Development), and others. Most of such methodologies are targeted at the minimization of possible risks and are organized as a series of short cycles (iterations). Each of them doesn’t last more than three weeks.
According to statistics, in 2020, 71% of companies will have adopted the Agile software development team structure. About 98% of them have achieved successful results. As you can see, this system has brilliant statistics.
Agile Team Structure
The Agile methodology is applied for the organization of small group work. Like any software development team structure, it’s ruled by a product owner and a project manager. For Agile software development, you need to build a Scrum team structure. According to Lucidchart, “Scrum is an iterative project management framework for implementing the Agile methodology.” The Scrum team typically consists of 5 – 9 members. So, minimally, it must include:
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Product Owner (PO)
The product owner is responsible for providing all the necessary information about the product to the team members. The PO should always stay in contact with the team, monitoring the processes and making sure that all deadlines will be met. Some POs, however, entrust their role to the other team members that can represent their interests and don’t directly participate in the development process.
The PO isn’t always a technically inclined person. They may be newbies in the world of software development. Nevertheless, a PO must keep abreast of any aspect of the product and be able to answer any question about it.
A product owner creates a detailed and well-understandable plan and defines the requirements. Generally, these requirements are functions and features that must be implemented into the software.
It may seem like a product owner takes responsibility for the success of the end product, but it’s not true. The PO just guides the team, but the responsibility for the successful results lies on the project manager.
Project Manager (PM)
The project manager’s main goal is to make sure that the interests, priorities, and requests of the client will be respected and fully satisfied. This person organizes the work of the team and is responsible for ensuring that all the processes run smoothly. The manager should assign the roles of the team members and organize the fulfillment of clients’ requests. The PMs also organize communication within the team. A project manager should make sure that everyone keeps up with the deadlines. Besides, the PM ensures that the principles of the Agile software development model are preserved.
If the project failed, the deadlines were missed, or the budget was exceeded, a PM is the one to blame. This person takes responsibility for each step of the process and for the end result. As you can see, it’s hard to over esteem the role of PM in the development team. You won’t need a PM only in one case: if you are the only person working on the project. However, big projects with great perspectives can’t be completed by one person: you will need a PM and a team with at least 3 members.
A project manager also must constantly communicate and share information with a product owner. Just like PO, a PM should possess information about the software’s audience, financial aspects of the project, target market, and so on.
Unlike the PO, a project manager should have at least basic technical knowledge and skills. The PM should be able to estimate the work of any team member to make sure that the requirements of PO and stakeholders are satisfied. A manager should propose ideas for software development optimization and improvement.
Business Analyst (BA)
A business analyst is responsible for the formulation of goals for the rest of the team. This person analyses data to find out what is helpful and what is not to define the direction of the development. The BA must foresee the possible issues and see the potential of the software.
They also gather data about competitors and find ways to outperform them by spotting their weaknesses. The BAs also should find out what may push away the users to create a more user-oriented software.
However, that’s not all: a business analyst must prove and explain his/her point of view to the rest of the team and be able to answer their questions. If you don’t have a business analyst in your team, your product may not interest the users and won’t meet their demands. However, some companies use outsourcing for business analysis (which also helps reduce the budget), or hire part-time business analysts.
User Experience (UX) Designer
The UX designer is responsible for defining how users will interact with the product. More precisely, this person focuses on the product’s usability, determining its user interface, features, and tools that will solve the users’ problems and fulfill their needs. Forrester claims that attractive, easy-to-use, and convenient design can boost the conversion rate up to 200%, so the importance of a UX designer in your team leaves no doubts.
Of course, the developers (i.e. software engineers) can follow template design but, in this case, the interface won’t have any memorable features and will drown in thousands of other similar designs. A UX designer must be aware of modern trends and have a creative imagination in order to create a unique design that the majority of users will find attractive.
A designer is involved in each step of the process, being able to propose several concepts at the initial steps for the business analyst to test them and find the best one.
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As you can guess, these people are responsible for the actual coding and bringing all the ideas to life. The number of developers in the agile team may vary. It actually depends on the stage of the developing process, on the amount of work, and how difficult the software’s functionality is. The developers are responsible for the quality and upgrading of the end product. There are front-end developers and back-end developers.
They develop customer-facing elements. Front-end engineers create user interfaces according to designs.
They work on the product’s functionality that is invisible to the user. Back-end developers ensure that the software not just looks good, but also performs perfectly. Their responsibility is to make the software function impeccably.
Quality Assurance Engineer (QA)
The low-quality product is the main reason why you may lose your users. No matter how hard the team worked to provide a successful result, you can’t notice all the small issues that can spoil the impression of your product: it’s a human factor. In addition, if developers will be losing their time on testing each function, it will be impossible to follow the deadlines as you can’t know how long all tests will take during the development process. That is why you need a quality assurance engineer.
In simple words, a QA engineer is a tester that ensures that the product works according to initial requirements and meets the needs of the client. They should be able to detect the smallest errors and bugs and convey information to developers to let them know what needs to be fixed before it gets to the users’ hands.
The QA engineer must create a testing plan and realize it in order to test each aspect of the software functionality.
A stakeholder is, in fact, an end-user, expert, or investor that is not directly involved in the creation of the product. However, this person is interested in its success. Staying in close connection with the team leader and team members, a stakeholder may contribute to the development process for its improvement. If stakeholder communicates with the developers regularly, this minimizes the risk of failure.
Building The Agile Software Development Team
If you want to successfully build an Agile team, follow these guidelines:
1. Define the roles
Estimate the skills and abilities of each team member and assign roles for each of them. It’s very important to make sure that everyone is capable of doing what is required of him/her.
2. Be adaptable
The main peculiarity of an Agile team structure is its flexibility and adaptability. Don’t be afraid to change the roles and make the necessary customizations.
- Ensure that the development life cycle consists of 6 essential phases: concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement.
- Follow the Agile Manifesto
In the previous paragraphs, we have mentioned the principles of Agile software development that must be followed. They are outlined in the Agile Manifesto. Shortly, it consists of 4 values and 12 principles.
The values include:
- changes over the strict following to the plan;
- collaboration over negotiation;
- stable software work over documentation;
- people over tools.
Among the principles, I would like to highlight the following ones:
- the main focus is on the satisfaction of client’s requirements;
- be ready to change the requirements at any stage of the development process;
- deliver working software in short timelines;
- developers and sponsors/managers/owners/stakeholders must always stay in touch and communicate daily;
- each one involved must stay motivated to get a successful final result;
- face-to-face conversation must be over remote communication;
- the work must be consistent and stable, so all team members must maintain the same speed of work;
- each iteration should bring innovation;
- Agile is all about simplicity, so don’t waste your time trying to make more than it is required;
- don’t over-run the team — you must allow the ideas to flourish by letting the team members self-organize.
- you should regularly monitor the team’s effectiveness in order to spot problems and eliminate ineffective practices.
Why Not Traditional Software Development Organizational Structure?
Traditional software development structure has a clearly articulated hierarchy where one person (team lead) gives tasks to everyone else and dictates how to do them. Such a structure is relevant for large teams, but, as was already mentioned, the Agile system is designed to work for small groups. By the way, according to Financial Times, “a hierarchical structure can hinder a team by encouraging politicking and unproductive rivalry”. The Agile software development model doesn’t encourage rivalry between the team members. On the contrary, it promotes mutually beneficial work where team members interact rather than compete.