How to Choose the Right Software Development Team Structure for a Startup

software development team structure

Every product leader knows the importance of building an effective software development team that is both agile and future-proof. And key to this effectiveness is a smart team structure that can drive quality without accruing expensive costs down the line.

However, creating your ideal software development team structure isn’t always easy; it requires research and strategic decisions to get it exactly right. 

In this article, we’ll show you why proper setup matters when it comes to creating the ideal software development team structure and how to ensure you have balanced dev teams from day one.

Table of Contents

The Importance Of Setting The “Right” Software Development Team Structure

Running a successful product development group within a startup or high growth company is both an art and science as it involves different disciplines, processes, tools and – importantly– a well crafted team structure.

Optimizing your development team structure creates several key benefits, including streamlining your development workflow, saving management time, maximizing workload balance and efficiency, and building trust with customers through a higher quality product experience. 

The outcome of a startup is risky enough – don’t make it riskier with a bad software development team structure. Instead, make it one of your fundamental building blocks moving forward.


Four Key Factors To Consider When Creating A Software Development Team Structure

Setting up the right software development team structure is critical to ensuring the long term quality (and success!) of your product. To this end, there are four main factors to consider when creating a dev team structure:

1. Complexity

The type and complexity of your development initiatives is one of the most important things to consider for your team structure. Software development efforts may range from single purpose and shorter duration to longer-term with greater complexity that requires different skill sets. Understanding which categories your goals fall into should help you determine the size and makeup of the software development team needed.

2. Timeline

Key milestones and timelines are another key factor to weigh when setting up a team structure.  Timelines for software development are beneficial in helping teams plan and create achievable goals within their given deadlines. Timeframes should be realistic, so the team has a clear goal and can measure their progress towards that goal. 

Furthermore, having the right structure in place helps startups and high growth companies more easily manage against timelines.  Teams can build product faster while avoiding unnecessary delays and roadblocks along the way.

3. Budget

Understanding budget constraints is also essential. Investing in the right personnel and technology upfront can save time and money, as you can ensure that you allocate sufficient resources to meet your software development goals. Choosing the correct team structure involves careful consideration of how to effectively manage staff and resources, keeping in mind both existing and future commitments.

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4. Development Approach

Basing a team structure on your preferred development approach ensures that all of the resources required to implement that approach are correctly identified and organized into a successful team. Without taking the time to consider which method of development best suits the product development requirements, implementing an effective team structure can be difficult or even impossible.

Taking the initiative to select the right process first will help software development leaders maximize their return on investment with respect to time, money, and resources while building a more cohesive team with less risk of failure.

What Are the Main Types of Software Development Team Structure?

Software development teams can take on a variety of structures depending on the needs and goals of the company. Three popular team structures are Generalist, Specialist, and Hybrid.


Generalist Team Structure

Generalist teams involve developers who have a broad range of skills and can perform several different tasks with equal skill. This enables them to switch between tasks quickly as needed while still being able to make meaningful contributions. However, this team structure may be inefficient if tasks require specialized knowledge or skills as the generalists may not have expertise in those areas.

Specialist Team Structure

Specialist teams are composed of developers who specialize in a specific area such as front-end development, back-end development, testing, etc. This provides deep knowledge and expertise in their respective area but may result in slower turnaround time since developers only work on tasks within their specialty.

Hybrid Team Structure

Hybrid teams combine the best of both the generalist and specialist approaches. Developers have a core set of skills they specialize in while also having knowledge across other areas of development. This allows them to switch between tasks quickly while still providing a high level of expertise. Hybrid teams can be more efficient than both generalist and specialist teams, but require developers to have a wider range of skills.

Ultimately, the structure of a software development team will depend on the company’s size, complexity of the tasks, and timeline. The best structure for a team is one that takes all variables into consideration and meets the specific product development goals of the company.

Core Approaches to Software Development

Software development is an ever evolving field, with new approaches emerging all the time that promise to keep development efforts on time and on budget.

But four approaches have stood the test of time (at least so far) when it comes to optimizing the software development process: Agile, Lean, DevOps, and Waterfall. Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages, so understanding which approach is best for you depends on your specific product development goals and objectives.

Let’s learn a little more about each of these approaches:

Agile is an iterative methodology that focuses on strong collaboration between stakeholders, incremental delivery of product features, and regular communication. Agile emphasizes delivering value to customers early, while being open to feedback and changes over time.


Lean software development takes a holistic approach to product development, with the goal of maximizing value and minimizing waste. Lean focuses on streamlining the development process, reducing steps where possible, and capitalizing on timesaving technologies.


The DevOps approach to software development combines aspects of both the Agile and Lean approaches, with a focus on automation and continuous delivery. DevOps emphasizes collaboration between developers and operations teams throughout the life cycle of the development to support increased innovation and faster time-to-market.


The Waterfall approach is based on a linear, sequential process for software development and delivery. This method allows for distinct phases of planning, design, implementation and testing, making it well suited for large companies with high levels of complexity.  The main advantage of Waterfall is that it allows for thorough testing across all phases, however it can be difficult to accommodate change requests in later stages of the process and is generally considered the least flexible (and thus often most risky) approach.


Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses, so when selecting a methodology for software development, it is important to consider the goals and specific needs of your product development roadmap.

While one approach may be better suited than others in certain cases, there is no one-size-fits-all solution–only the size that fits best on you!

Why Agile Approach Is The Most Popular Option For Startups

Startups and high growth companies are under a lot of pressure to succeed, but they often don’t have the time or resources to do things the traditional way.

This is especially true for software development.  The traditional way of building code (see above comments around the Waterfall methodology) is often slow and ineffective for startups. They need a faster, more flexible option.

Solution: Agile is the answer. Agile allows startups to move quickly and efficiently, while still maintaining quality. It helps them stay on track and makes sure they’re constantly making progress. Moreover, Agile allows companies to be more flexible and adapt quickly when needed, thus ensuring they are always maintaining a competitive edge.

But to tease this out a bit more, here are the top reasons startups and high growth companies choose Agile when they are building a software development team structure:

1. Agile is highly responsive.

The defining principle of Agile is that the development team can change direction in reaction to feedback from the customer or stakeholders. That makes Agile a more responsive option, able to adapt quickly to changes in the market or user needs. In an era where startups can experience explosive growth (or need to manage sudden contraction), that responsiveness is key.

2. Agile allows for continual improvement.

A second tenet of Agile is the idea of continuous improvement, or kaizen. With short cycles of delivery and review, teams can constantly tweak and experiment with their output in order to make it better. This also helps ensure that the product stays relevant as customer needs change.

3. Agile is based on a clear set of ideas.

The manifesto for Agile software development was created in 2001 by a group of developers who were frustrated with the way startups were being managed at the time.

The original 12 principles of Agile have been distilled down to four key values: individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. These values are what drive Agile teams to be more effective and efficient than traditional software development methodologies.

4. Agile has multiple frameworks to choose from.

Agile frameworks provide structure and guidance to help teams work in an agile way. Popular frameworks include Scrum, Kanban, and Lean. Each framework has its own set of practices and principles that can be adapted to fit the needs of each individual business goal. That makes it easy for teams to find the right framework for their specific needs.

5. Agile is proven.

Finally, the most compelling reason to go with an Agile approach is its track record of success. Companies that have adopted Agile methodologies have seen increased efficiency and reduced risk, as well as improved customer satisfaction. With such a strong track record of success, it’s no wonder that Agile is the most popular approach for startups.

Agile is a proven and powerful tool for teams of any size or industry. By embracing agility principles and frameworks, startups can maximize their efficiency and effectiveness while keeping up with changes in the market or user needs. With its responsiveness, continuous improvement, and proven track record, it’s no wonder that Agile is the most popular option for startups and high growth companies.

If All These Steps in Building a Championship Development Team Scare You, Just Let Us Do It for You.

What Are the Main Roles and Structure in a Software Development Team?

The roles and structure associated with software development teams vary depending on the methodology being used and your hiring plan for the startup.

In Agile software development, the main roles and structure are focused on delivering customer value quickly and efficiently.

In terms of roles, the development team typically consists of a Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team, and Stakeholders.

Key Roles on an Agile Team

The Product Owner is responsible for identifying customer needs, setting the product vision and objectives, and determining which features should be prioritized. They are also responsible for ensuring that all customer requirements are met with each software release.

The Scrum Master is responsible for helping the team adopt Agile practices, facilitating meetings and discussions, removing impediments to progress, and coaching the team on how to self-organize and make effective decisions.

The Development Team is responsible for using the methods set forth by the Product Owner to execute a plan to deliver customer value with each software release. They are also responsible for analyzing user stories, designing the architecture of the software, coding and unit testing it, writing documentation and training materials, setting up application servers and integrating the software with third-party applications, and performing system testing.

Finally, Stakeholders are responsible for providing feedback on the product at each step of the development process. Stakeholders are also responsible for providing resources to ensure that the team has everything they need to be successful.

All members of a software development team have an important role to play in ensuring that customer value is delivered on time and with high quality.  By understanding the roles and responsibilities of each team member, a software development can be completed quickly and efficiently with minimal risk.

Main Structure of an Agile Team


The primary difference between traditional development team roles and Agile team roles is the methodology, which creates differences in team structure.

Traditional teams tend to use the “waterfall” methodology, which follows a linear sequence of steps from planning to execution. This approach focuses on detailed specifications and documentation and involves long development cycles, multiple stakeholders, and complex processes.

In contrast, Agile team roles tend to use a more iterative and flexible approach. Agile team roles are also characterized by flat hierarchies, where all members of the team work together to accomplish goals. Each member brings their own unique skill set, but they do so in an environment of collaboration and feedback. 

The structure of a traditional development team typically consists of a Team Lead, Product Owner, Product Manager, Business Analyst, Software Developers, Software Architect, UI/UX Designer, QA Engineer and QA Testers. 

  • The Team Lead will usually be the leader or supervisor overseeing the development process and is usually responsible for making sure that all tasks are completed in a timely manner.
  • The Product Owner is responsible for the overall strategy and direction of the development, ensuring that it meets customer needs and expectations.
  • The Product Manager will oversee the design, development, and maintenance of the product from concept to completion.
  • The Business Analyst will work closely with stakeholders to understand their requirements and create a product roadmap that outlines goals and objectives.
  • The Software Developers are responsible for the actual coding of the product, while the Software Architect will ensure that the overall architecture is sound and consistent.
  • The UI/UX Designer is responsible for creating a visually appealing and user-friendly interface.
  • Finally, QA Engineers and Testers will make sure that all aspects of the product meet expectations by testing for bugs, usability, security and performance.

How to Choose the Right Software Development Team for Your Startup or Company?

When it comes to setting up a software development team, choosing the right structure can be a difficult decision for a startup or high growth company. You need to decide whether you prefer a distributed software development team (i.e. mostly remote or offshore) or a more traditional approach (i.e. mostly in-house or onshore). And that’s where TurnKey can help you!

For startups that are just getting started and are looking to build out their development team, a distributed team model is likely the best option. This type of structure allows for the versatility and flexibility that come with having remote developers, while also enabling them to remain on budget and control costs.

With this type of setup, startups can easily tap into larger talent pools by hiring developers from anywhere in the world. Furthermore, they don’t need to invest in expensive office space and can quickly scale up or down as their priorities and needs change.

On the other hand, a more traditional approach may be better suited for companies that require a high degree of collaboration or have experienced developers on staff who are familiar with each other’s workflow and processes. This type of team structure also has the advantage of fostering a greater sense of accountability and camaraderie among members, as they are working in close proximity to one another.

Ultimately, the decision for which team structure is best for your startup will depend on what type of development tasks need to be completed and how experienced the staff is. It’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches to find the right fit for your company and product goals. Doing so will ensure that your startup or high growth company is well equipped to tackle any development challenges that may arise.

TurnKey Helps You Define and Execute the Ideal Software Development Team Structure

Building an optimized software development team can be challenging, yet TurnKey is capable of taking much of the hard work off your plate. Our ‘Yourshoring’ approach –in which YOUR needs are at the center of everything we do – custom recruit development teams that are built from the ground up to exactly meet your requirements and culture.

At TurnKey we don’t just write cool blog posts (like this one!) about building awesome development teams, we live and breathe it every day. We are the market leader in creating truly custom dev teams that are fully integrated into your company and fully dedicated to your roadmap.

Yourshoring has become the gold standard when it comes to finding and managing top-tier development talent. No more lack of control, no more bad surprises, no more frustrating roadblocks like you get when you work with other vendors. And our best-in-class talent retention program means you will always enjoy the highest retention rate in the industry.

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What is the usual structure of a software development team?

Developing software requires the skills of multiple people working together in an organized structure. Generally, a software development team is composed of a team or tech lead, a project manager, software engineers and developers, a business analyst, quality assurance engineers, and UI/UX designers.

How many members are in a software development team?

The size of a software development team can vary widely from project to project. Generally speaking, most teams range from 6-10 members, often consisting of a mix of developers, analysts, testers, UX designers and other specialists. That said, small projects or those with limited resources may have fewer members than large scale initiatives. This is why it's important to ensure that each team member brings necessary skills and experience to the table; effective collaboration between smaller teams is key for maximum productivity and quality outcomes.

How many types of team structure are used in software development?

Software development teams can take a variety of structures and differ significantly based on the size of the organization. Generally speaking, the two most common team structures used in software development consist of either a Functional Team or Projectized Team. 


In a functional team, developers are separated into smaller sub-teams according to their specialized skill set. This allows for team members who specialize in certain areas to work together efficiently and independently. 


A projectized team, meanwhile, has all necessary resources devoted to one software development effort or task – this type of structure creates an environment that is well suited for short-term/high-priority goals. However you choose to organize your team, remember it's important to consider how different roles within your organization will interact with each other so that all necessary aspects of the project are efficiently accounted for.

May 7, 2023

TurnKey Staffing provides information for general guidance only and does not offer legal, tax, or accounting advice. We encourage you to consult with professional advisors before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business or legal rights.

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