How to build the best mobile app development team (roles, how to hire, structure)

17 min read
April 22, 2024

257 billion – that’s the number of global mobile app downloads in 2023.

And getting in on that action can be great for your business.

But, you need to build a great team first to have a chance of succeeding in such a competitive market.

In this article, we’ll give you an in-depth guide on how to build the best mobile app development team.

We’ll cover the key roles in a mobile app development team, the team structure, how to hire a team and more.

Let’s dive in!

Mobile app development team structure

Let’s start with the most important question – what should your mobile app development team look like?

Now, the answer to this question depends on a number of different factors, from your app’s complexity to your budget.

But, at a minimum your team should have:

  • A product manager
  • A mobile app engineer
  • A QA engineer
  • A product designer
  • A back-end engineer

And there’s a good reason why you should structure your team like this.

That’s because it’s a textbook example of a cross-functional team.

Cross-functional collaboration is essential at every stage of the development process, from product discovery to engineering.

Cross-functional team

In short, it’s the key to a successful, well-rounded mobile app.

And you don’t need to take our word for it.

According to the Harvard Business Review, cross-functional teams that have strong executive support have a 76% project success rate.

That’s in contrast to a 19% success rate for teams with only moderate cross-functional support.

And that’s a pretty compelling reason to build a team with those roles.

Mobile app development team roles

Now, we’ll cover each role in a mobile app development team in more detail.

Product manager

The product manager is responsible for defining the vision and strategy for your mobile app.

Product management

They also oversee and direct the whole development process from start to finish, making sure it’s aligned with your business goals.

Some of their key responsibilities are:

  • Defining KPIs for your app’s success – the product manager defines KPIs and other metrics to measure your app’s success
  • Developing a project roadmap – they’re in charge of developing a project roadmap that will guide the rest of the team during development
  • Prioritizing and defining features – they’re responsible for prioritizing and defining your app’s features, making sure they’re feasible and align with your goals
  • Aligning business goals with market needs – the product manager makes sure your app can satisfy both the needs of the market and your business goals

In a nutshell, the product manager is responsible for managing the development process and making sure your app meets your users’ needs.

And that’s why they’re a crucial part of the team.

Mobile app engineer

The mobile app engineer on your team is responsible for making your app a reality.

They’re the stars of the show once you get to the engineering stage in the mobile app development process.


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Some of their key responsibilities are:

  • Developing your app – their main responsibility, the mobile app engineer turns your app’s design and architecture into a working app
  • Performance optimization – they’re responsible for optimizing your app’s performance so it’s fast and efficient
  • Writing technical documentation – they write the technical documentation for your app’s code, which is essential for troubleshooting and later updates
  • Code refactoring – they refactor your app’s code to improve its performance and maintainability

To sum up, the mobile app engineer is the one who actually builds your app and turns it into a working software product.

And that’s why they’re irreplaceable in every mobile app development team.

QA engineer

Quality assurance (QA) engineers are one of the most underrated roles in mobile app development.

QA engineer responsibilities and salary

Their job is making sure your app is bug-free and meets high-quality standards before it reaches your users.

Some of their key responsibilities are:

  • Triaging and analyzing bugs – QA engineers find and fix bugs in your app to ensure it remains consistently high quality
  • Test planning – they’re responsible for planning tests on every level and they come up with a testing strategy
  • Running automated tests – they set up and run automated tests so that if a bug happens, they can immediately fix it
  • Manual testing – they run manual tests to catch any issues automated tests might have missed

In short, a QA engineer’s job is to make sure your app is usable and works as intended before you launch it.

And that’s why they’re a key part of every good mobile app development team.

Product designer

The product designer is responsible for designing your app’s look (user interface) and feel (user experience).

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of what that means:

UX vs UI

Some of their key responsibilities are:

  • Designing your app’s UI – the product designer’s main job, they create your app’s user interface and the overall look of your app
  • Creating wireframes and prototypes – they make wireframes and prototypes to quickly test out design concept before settling on a final design
  • Optimizing user experience – they improve and fine-tune the design to optimize and improve your app’s UX
  • Doing user testing – they’re in charge of leading and managing user testing sessions to iron out any issues with your app’s UX

Your mobile app’s design is the first thing your users will see, so you have to nail it from the start.

And that’s why having a product designer on your mobile app development team is so important.

Back-end engineer

Back-end engineers are responsible for building systems and functionalities that are the backbone of every mobile app.

Here’s some of the key components they build and manage:

Mobile app back-end development components

And some of their key responsibilities are:

  • Database management – the back-end engineer creates and maintains databases that store your app’s data
  • API development – they develop and maintain APIs which allow your app to communicate with your servers and databases
  • Ensuring scalability – they make sure your app’s back-end can scale and handle increased traffic and data flows as your app grows
  • Third-party service integration – they integrate third-party APIs and services into your app and make sure they work correctly

The back-end engineer’s work, though not visible to users, is just as important (if not more) as everyone else’s.

And that’s why you need them on your mobile app development team.

How to hire a mobile app development team

Here, we’ll show you the different ways you can hire a mobile app development team.


The most cost-effective option when you’re hiring a mobile app development team is hiring freelancers.

Hiring freelancers can result in annual savings of up to 30%, so it’s no surprise it’s an attractive option for a lot of employers.

And on top of that, you get access to a global pool of talent and the hiring process is quicker than in-house recruitment.

But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

For starters, hiring freelancers is much riskier than hiring in-house or outsourcing development to a dedicated team.

And freelancer platforms like Upwork and Toptal take a cut of every payment you make and that can add up quickly.

Upwork UI

Plus, coordinating people who’ve never worked together before while also managing the quality of their work can be more trouble than it’s worth.

Still, if you’re on a tight budget or you need to build your app quickly, hiring freelancers can be a good option.

Key tips

  • Use reputable platforms – make sure you use trustworthy platforms like Upwork and Toptal to hire the right people for your team
  • Set clear expectations – you should be upfront about what you expect in terms of deliverables, timelines, communication, and deadlines
  • Check their portfolio and references – you should always check a freelancer’s portfolio and references to make sure they’re the right fit for your app development team

In-house team

Another option when hiring a mobile app development team is hiring a full in-house team.

With an in-house team, you get full, direct control over the development process and you can more easily adjust and pivot if circumstances change.

Also, collaboration between team members is much easier than if you hire freelancers since they’re all in the same place every day.

On top of that, you can much more easily align an in-house team with your company values and culture.

And that can help you build an app that truly represents your brand.

But, there’s a catch – hiring an in-house team is expensive.

Even just hiring and onboarding come with a lot of added costs:

Onboarding costs

According to a report by SHRM, the average cost of onboarding a new hire is $4100.

If you do the math for the 5-person team we discussed earlier, just onboarding them will cost you $20,500.

And that number doesn’t include other expenses like:

  • Salaries and raises
  • Benefits
  • Training costs

So, even though you get total control and ownership, hiring an in-house team comes with huge upfront costs.

And you might be able to better use that money elsewhere – which brings us to the final hiring model, outsourcing.

Key tips

  • Clearly define roles and requirements – before you can hire an in-house team, you need to clearly define each role and the necessary skills needed for the job
  • Invest in quality recruitment – investing in quality recruitment will help you find top talent that also align with your company values
  • Focus on cultural fit – hiring people who fit well into your company culture should be one of your top priorities when hiring an in-house team


Outsourcing and hiring a team from a mobile app development company is one of the most common ways to build a mobile app development team.

And there’s a good reason for that – on average, outsourcing can help companies reduce costs by 15%.

Also, hiring a team and outsourcing your app’s development can help you get your app to market faster, which can mean the difference between success and failure.

Of course, there are risks involved, too – especially if the company you hire isn’t the right fit.

However, if you hire a dedicated team from the right vendor, you’ll get all the benefits of an in-house team at a significantly lower cost.

Dedicated team

Hiring a dedicated team is right in the sweet spot between quality and affordability – it’s cheaper than an in-house team and more reliable than hiring freelancers.

And the best part?

A dedicated team works just like an in-house team, except it’s formed by an agency or a third-party service provider.

They can handle your app’s development from start to finish, from validating your idea to post-launch maintenance and support

On top of that, you also gain a long-term development partnership with the company you’ve hired.

And that’s why outsourcing and hiring a dedicated team is a good idea.

Key tips

  • Clearly define your requirements – before you hire a company, make sure you clearly define your app’s requirements so you have an easier time finding the right fit
  • Pick the right company – make sure you pick the right mobile app development company that has a proven track record developing similar apps
  • Plan for a long-term partnership – you should pick a company that can be your long-term development partner, so you don’t have to worry about your app’s future

Factors to consider when hiring a mobile app development team

Next, we’ll discuss some key factors you should keep in mind when hiring a mobile app development team.

Project complexity

Your app’s complexity is one of the main factors you should consider when hiring a mobile app development team.

That’s because it influences several important aspects of the team you hire like:

  • Team size
  • The skills the team needs
  • The experience level of the team
  • Project management and coordination

Let’s say you’re building an enterprise-grade app with advanced features.

Even if you’re just building an MVP for an app like that, you’ll need a bigger, more experienced team.

A small team just won’t cut it.

So, if you’re building a complex app, make sure you assemble a team that can actually build your app.

And if you’re building a simple app, don’t go overboard and hire too many people.


Another important factor when hiring a mobile app development team is your available budget.

And the bigger your budget, the better your team.

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With a larger budget, you’ll be able to:

  • Hire specialized roles
  • Hire an experienced team
  • Choose a top-quality company (if you’re outsourcing)
  • Invest in training and professional development
  • Invest in new technologies

Of course, that doesn’t mean your app is doomed to fail if your budget is limited – far from it, you still have options.

For example, instead of hiring both a mobile app and a back-end engineer, you might be able to only hire one full-stack engineer.

Still, a bigger budget is always better and will help you build a better team.

Mobile app platform and type

Another important factor when hiring a mobile app development team is your app’s platform and type.

You wouldn’t hire an iOS engineer if you’re building an Android app, of course.

And if you’re building an app for each platform, at a minimum you’ll need:

  • 1 iOS engineer
  • 1 Android engineer
  • 1 back-end engineer

But, in this case, you have another option – cross-platform development, using a framework like Flutter.

Native vs cross-platform app development costs

Then, the minimum you need on your team is 1 cross-platform and 1 back-end engineer, along with the other roles we’ve mentioned earlier.

But, it’s not just the platform that matters – the type of app you’re building will influence what type of team you hire.

For example, if you’re building a simple e-commerce app, you’ll need a much smaller team compared to a complex fintech app.

If you want to build the best mobile app development team, you’ll need to take all the factors we’ve discussed into account.

That’s the only way to build a team that’s the right fit for your app’s development.

Mobile app development process

Here’s the mobile app development process we’ve refined through 11+ years of experience building mobile apps:

DECODE mobile app development process

We’ll briefly cover each stage and what each team member does during it.

Product discovery

Product discovery is the process of researching your market and validating your idea before developing it.

It’s an essential step in mobile app development, because it shows you if your app idea is viable or not.

During discovery, you do:

Your product manager leads the discovery process, while your product designer starts work on initial design concepts and ideas.

The rest of the team can participate in these activities, of course, but the product manager and product designer run the show.

Then, once you’ve validated your idea, your next step is designing your app.

Product design

The design stage in the mobile app development process is key to your app’s success.

A great design can mean the difference between success and failure, especially if you’re targeting a competitive market and need to stand out from the crowd.

At this stage you:

Here, the product manager and product designer work together to refine the design concepts agreed upon during discovery and create your app’s final design.

Then, once they’re done, they hand off the design to the development team who start building your app.

Software engineering

This step is where the magic happens and your app comes to life.

It also takes the longest and requires the most amount of work.

Here, your engineering team:

  • Builds your app’s back-end
  • Develops your app’s UI
  • Integrates third-party services and APIs
  • Rigorously tests your app

Your engineering team (mobile app engineer, back-end engineer, and QA engineer) take center stage here and do what they do best – build a great app.

And the product manager is responsible for keeping the team on track and making sure they don’t miss deadlines.

Once they’re done, you can launch your app.

Continual product improvement

Your app’s journey doesn’t end after you launch it.

On the contrary, the launch is just the start – you need to continually improve your app if you want it to remain relevant and successful.

At this stage, you:

  • Plan and prioritize new features
  • Implement new features
  • Set up a feedback loop
  • Fix bugs and issues as they happen

The product manager is in charge of managing your feedback loop and deciding which features to add to your app.

And the engineering team is responsible for implementing them and fixing any bugs and issues.

Expert opinion on building a mobile app development team

Building a great mobile app development team isn’t easy.

And no one knows that better than DECODE CEO and co-founder, Marko Strizic.

With a background in software engineering and now leading DECODE’s business strategy, he’s got the know-how on what it takes to build a successful team.

Here’s what he had to say about that on our podcast, The Roadmap:

Now, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about building a mobile app development team.

Mobile app development team: FAQs

Who is on an app development team?

A mobile app development team has the following:

  • Product manager
  • Mobile app engineer
  • QA engineer
  • Product designer
  • Back-end engineer

How many people are in an app development team?

An app development team has at least 5 people.

What does a mobile app development team look like?

Here’s an example of a mobile app development team:

  • 1 product manager
  • At least 1 mobile app engineer
  • 1 product designer
  • At least 1 QA engineer
  • 1 back-end engineer

Which factors should you consider when hiring an app development team?

You should consider:

  • Project complexity
  • Your budget
  • Your target platform and app type

Need a mobile app development team?

Do you have a great idea for a mobile app but don’t have the right team yet?

We’ve got you covered.

We can build you a dedicated team and take care of your app’s development from start to finish, from validating your idea to post-launch support and maintenance.

If you want to learn more, check out our mobile app development process and feel free to get in touch with us.

Written by

Ivan Trogrlic

Android Team Lead

An Applied Sciences graduate and a true connoisseur of tech, Ivan is a software developer with a genuine love for exploring new technologies. QAs love his code, and his fellow developers always value his input. For Ivan, there is no issue too small to talk over, and no problem that can’t be solved together. When he is not coding, Ivan is usually hiking or playing football. His ideal workspace? Probably a cottage in the mountains, with a serious gaming setup and fast internet connection.

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