6 challenges in managing development teams

11 min read
April 18, 2023

Creating a successful app can be a very difficult undertaking, due to the many challenges the teams that are involved in the process face, ranging from changing requirements and shifting markets, to major technical bugs.

One of the biggest of those challenges is managing a development team.

Getting a group to work together is always difficult, as people come to the project with their own needs, biases, and preferences.

This article will discuss six obstacles you’ll likely encounter as a project manager.

Finding the right talent

Hiring talented and experienced developers is the key to creating successful, high-quality app projects.

Unfortunately, great talent is also a big challenge to acquire. And with the current talent shortage, the problem is only getting bigger.

In the US alone, around 40 million technical jobs went unfulfilled in 2020. And the number is expected to only go up, likely reaching 85.2 million by the decade’s end.

Indeed, the Reveal Top Software Development Challenges for 2022 Report listed recruitment as the number one challenge companies have been facing.

biggest business challenges

Source: Globe News Wire

Not to mention that hiring developers is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process.

According to one study, it took teams 66 days on average to find the right talent. That’s 50% higher compared to other positions.

Even if you hired a developer, there’s no assurance they would stay. Resignation rates are at an all-time high right now—72% of IT professionals in the US plan to quit within the year.

As you can see, the situation looks dire. Fortunately, there are ways for software companies to overcome this challenge.

The best is outsourcing the developers—in other words, hiring professionals from another country or city.

It’s an effective strategy to fight the talent shortage, because you have the entire world as your hiring pool.

It’s no surprise that outsourcing has been increasingly growing in popularity over the course of 2023, as you can see here:

software development outsourcing rate by year

Source: Security Boulevard

Plus, outsourcing helps you save a lot of money.

Just consider that the average hourly rate of an American developer is up to 3.9 times higher than their Eastern European counterpart.

And the good thing is that the skills and experience you’ll get are at par with Western standards.

But instead of outsourcing the developer yourself (which can be time-consuming and risky), it’s better to partner with an agency.

They’ll do all the legwork of sourcing and interviewing candidates for you.

For example, when you partner with DECODE, we’ll draw from a ready pool of 70+ talent across various skills and specializations.

That gives you the best chance of finding the right developer for your project.

The key, of course, is to partner with the right agency. If you want a step-by-step guide on how to do this, our article has got you covered.

Managing remote teams

Managing an in-house team is difficult enough as it is. But the challenge gets compounded if that team is remote.

Communication remains one of the biggest barriers with remote working setups, according to this study:

biggest remote working struggles

Source: BetterUp

The lack of face-to-face interaction is likely to blame here. It makes building trust and rapport with team members much harder.

Furthermore, if you’re managing an outsourced team, there are further challenges to consider.

The chief one is the time zone difference, which could make collaboration much more difficult.

There’s also the language and culture gap, which could introduce misunderstandings and miscommunication if not tackled efficiently.

Unfortunately, remote work, outsourcing, and work-from-home setups will continue to be popular in the foreseeable future.

percentage of remote workers before and after the pandemic

Source: Intuition

So as a manager, it’s better to find strategies to make remote arrangements work in your favor.

One way is using the right development methodology. And in our opinion, that’s Agile.

Agile is an iterative approach that splits software development into several sprints, each containing the full process from coding to testing.

Agile methodology

Source: K&C

Sprints make the project much more manageable for teams.

Plus, Agile methodologies encourage constant communication and collaboration, which could make it easier to manage remotely.

Picking the right project management software can also help tremendously.

Tools like Asana and Trello provide a centralized location where everyone can see the project status.

As a manager, you can easily track each developer’s work and identify if some are falling behind.

If you manage in-house and remote teams, consider adopting the buddy system.

Here, you pair one developer from your in-house team with someone from the remote team.

They act as support and accountability partners—answering questions, checking each other’s progress, and giving them important updates.

buddy system benefits

Source: Entigrity

The buddy system is beneficial for managers because it lessens their burden.

For example, you don’t need to check up as much on everyone in the remote team, as you can simply ask their buddy on the in-house team.

Finally, successfully managing remote teams boils down to two words—effective communication. Let’s discuss that next because it’s also a big challenge for managers.

Ensuring effective communication

Look closely enough, and you’ll notice that most software development issues are rooted in ineffective communication.

For example, if a team lead doesn’t explain a task clearly enough to developers, it could lead to mistakes down the road.

And these mistakes can cause delays, added costs, or even project failure.

Or consider what happens when a team doesn’t have regular reporting. A developer could spend weeks working on a task, only to find out later that it’s gone off the planned course.

Again, this leads to wasted time and money.

Unfortunately, if you don’t master communication, then your team and project will always suffer. Just have a look at these statistics:

workplace communication statistics

Source: Pumble

So, how can you improve communication in your development team?

Start by using the right communication tools for the right purpose.

For example, you can use Zoom or Google Meet for weekly virtual meetings. These tools are best suited for gathering a large number of people together virtually.

Meanwhile, messaging platforms like Slack are great for informal communication, like quick updates or discussing the matters of the day with team members.

On top of that, it’s also good to have a knowledge base. This centralized location lets you put project files, documentation, critical updates, and other relevant information.

A good repository platform is Confluence.

Your communication stack should look something like this:

synchronous and asynchronous communication stack

Source: Twist

But tools are just one part of it. You also need to set ground rules on how to use them.

For instance, you can mandate that all files be uploaded to some form of centralized storage like Google Drive instead of being sent via Slack.

This will ensure that all files are visible and organized in one location.

The key is to look at the unique needs of your project team, then create communication protocols that fulfill them.

Avoiding micromanagement

Everyone knows that micromanagement is bad.

It leads to poor morale, longer project times, hindered productivity, and high turnover. Worse, it can damage people’s self-esteem and confidence.

In fact, one study showed that micromanagement is the number one trait that employees despise the most with their bosses.

worst boss traits

Source: Zippia

But despite these negative effects, many managers still struggle with avoiding micromanagement.

And it’s not entirely their fault. It’s just human nature. Some people have a fear of losing control over the team or project.

Others have insecurities that their subordinates will outshine them if given an important task.

Nevertheless, managers should strive to control and minimize micromanagement as much as possible.

The key is to find a balance between management and autonomy.

how to avoid micromanagement

Source: Harvard Business School

It all starts with trust. You need to trust that your developers have the necessary skills and work ethics to do their job—after all, you hired them for a reason!

You can exercise this trust by delegating work to team members.

Provide the context—including objectives, deadlines, and benchmarks—so your developers can deliver work according to your expectations.

Also, ask the developers how they prefer to be managed and adapt to that style. Doing this will reduce the likelihood of your employees feeling like they’re being micromanaged.

While some people might prefer more hand-holding and guidance, others just need your desired result, and they’ll do the rest, and it’s your job as the manager to adjust to that.

Finally, avoiding micromanagement means letting go of perfectionism. You should always make room for errors and mistakes in your management style.

It will help your team members grow, and they’ll appreciate you for it.

Navigating generational differences

Chances are that your team members belong to multiple generations.

For instance, your senior developers might belong to Generation Y (i.e., millennials), while newer hires will likely be Generation Z.

workforce generations

Source: Robert Half

The problem is that it can be tricky to manage these generations because they have different expectations, needs, and preferred modes of engagement.

Having a uniform management style for all of them might not generate the best results.

Take Generation Z, for example. People who belong to this group tend to be tech-savvy, so they would prefer virtual modes of communication like instant messaging or Zoom.

Baby boomers, on the other hand, are more traditional and would thus sooner pick face-to-face or telephone conversations.

workplace generational differences

Source: Harver

As a manager, it’s your job to acknowledge the differences of each generation. Then, create a culture where development teams with a generational gap can learn to work together.

This is easier said than done, of course. But here are some tips that could help.

First, avoid generational stereotyping. Although we’ve discussed the differences between generations here, those are just guidelines at best.

It’s still better to sit down one-on-one with each member and determine their individual preferences.

Next, it’s best to encourage hybrid work environments to fit multiple work styles.

For example, you can provide a physical office for older team members while allowing younger generations to work remotely.

Setting up mentoring arrangements where a senior developer can guide a younger team member is also a great idea.

This is a great chance for both generations to learn from each other.

Finally, it’s great to have company values that unite people into a coherent team, despite generational differences.

Keeping the team motivated

Keeping development teams motivated for the entire project—and beyond—can be a big challenge for managers.

That’s because members can be demotivated due to a variety of reasons.

It could be that they don’t see any purpose or meaning in their role or are in a negative work environment. Sometimes, though, they might be going through a personal problem.

On top of that, a Harvard Business Review study showed that people who worked remotely were generally less motivated than if they worked in an office.

So, if you’re managing a remote team, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

remote team motivation

Source: Harvard Business Review

Fortunately, there are several effective strategies you can use.

First, make it a point to meet up with team members one-on-one. Ask them about their work and if they’re having any problems.

This allows you to gauge their motivation level and do something if needed.

A good strategy is to recognize employee achievements and celebrate their wins. 69% of people surveyed said such a gesture could inspire them to work harder.

workplace motivation statistics

Source: Small Revolution

Lastly, have some time for some fun activities outside work. These can be team-building sessions, nights out at a pub, or even a trip.

The point is to allow the team to relax and appreciate their hard work.

Regardless of the reason for demotivation, creating a positive work environment and collaborative culture is one of the most effective ways to help turn affected team members around.

Ready to tackle these challenges?

Overcoming the challenges we’ve listed might be difficult, but not if you have the right agency to partner with.

And that’s what DECODE can do for you.

We’re a tightly-knit group of over 80+ professionals with a wide range of skills.

More importantly, we’ve finished over a dozen app projects while encountering the same obstacles and challenges on this list.

So, if you’d like us to do the same for your project, contact us today. We’ll be happy to help!

Written by

Marin Luetic


A seasoned software engineering executive, Marin’s role combines his in-depth understanding of software engineering processes (particularly mobile) with product and business strategies. Humbly boasting 20+ years of international experience at the forefront of telecoms, Marin knows how to create and deliver state of the art software products to businesses of all sizes. Plus, his skills as a lifelong basketball player mean he can lead a team to victory. When he’s not hopping from meeting to meeting, you’ll find Marin listening to indie rock, or scouring the latest IT news.

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