7 key roles in a software development team

15 min read
June 24, 2024

“Teamwork makes the dream work” – we’ve all heard this one.

But, just because it’s an overused cliché doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

If you want to build a successful software product, you need the right team – but, what should the team look like? And how do you hire the right people?

Well, we’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll discuss the 7 key roles you need to have in software development team and give you some top tips for assembling a great team.

Let’s dive in!

What is a software development team?

First, let’s cover the basics – what exactly is a software development team?

A software development team is a group of professionals working together to build software products.

Their job is to deliver high-quality software that meets user needs and business requirements.

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Also, keep in mind that a software development team isn’t supposed to be 2-3 isolated engineers just writing code all day long.

It should be a cross-functional team of experts working towards the same goal – building a top-notch software product.

Functional vs cross-functional team

So, other than engineers, your software development team should have:

  • Product managers
  • Solution architects
  • Product designers
  • Project managers
  • A team lead
  • QA engineers

The exact composition of your team will depend on your project’s unique requirements and its scope and complexity.

So, if you’re building a simple product, you might only need 2 software engineers, 1 QA engineer, and a project manager.

But, for a complex product, you’ll need every one of these roles and your team might consist of 10+ people.

Now, let’s discuss each of the key roles in a software development team in more detail.

Key roles in a software development team

Here, we’ll give you an in-depth look at each role, their key responsibilities, and the necessary skills they need to have.

Software engineer

In a software development team, software engineers are the ones that make the magic happen.

They’re responsible for turning your product’s architecture and design into a working product.

But, software engineers do a lot more than just write new code.

Here’s how engineers spend their time:

How developers spend their time

Just a third of their time is spent writing new code, and the rest they spend on other tasks.

They also have to maintain existing code, coordinate with the rest of the team, and even do testing if you don’t have QA engineers.

In short, they’re the backbone of every software development team

Key responsibilities of a software engineer

  • Writing code and developing software – their main responsibility, software engineers are in charge of writing the code and developing your software product
  • Code maintenance and refactoring – software engineers are responsible for maintaining and refactoring existing code to improve its performance
  • Writing technical documentation – they are responsible for writing technical documentation for your product’s code, APIs, and system architecture

Necessary skills a software engineer needs to have

  • Problem-solving and analytical skills – they need these skills in order to troubleshoot and solve complex issues when developing software
  • Knowledge of algorithms and data structures – they need to have in-depth knowledge of algorithms and data structures and their applications in modern software products
  • Proficiency in programming languages – a software engineer needs to be proficient in at least one programming language, depending on their area of interest and specialization

Pro-tip for picking the right software engineer

Make sure they’re able to effectively communicate if they run into problems, so their team lead or other team members can help guide them if they get stuck.
Ivan Trogrlic
Android Team Lead at DECODE

Solution architect

The solution architect is one of the most underrated roles on a software development team.

And they’re key if you want to build a successful product.

But, why are they so important?

Solution architecture acts as a bridge between your product’s technical and enterprise architectures.

In other words, it’s all about finding and designing the best technical solutions to solve specific business problems.

Software architecture

In a nutshell, the solution architect designs how your product will work – this includes choosing the tech stack the team will use to build it and managing technical risks.

This ensures your product has rock-solid foundations when your team actually starts building it.

And that’s why you need a solution architect on your team.

Key responsibilities of a solution architect

  • Architecture design – the solution architect creates a comprehensive software architecture that meets both business and technical requirements
  • Choosing the tech stack – they’re in charge of choosing the right technologies and tools to implement your architecture design
  • Technical risk management – solution architects identify and mitigate technical risks and make sure your product is technically feasible

Necessary skills a solution architect needs to have

  • Technical expertise – a solution architect needs to have in-depth knowledge of software development, including programming languages, frameworks, and tools
  • System design – they need to be able to design scalable and efficient software systems, architectures, and solutions
  • Understanding of business processes – a solution architect needs to understand business processes and how the software they design can support them

Pro-tip for picking the right solution architect

You need to find someone who can not only create high-level architecture but also transform it into a design the development team can actually implement.
Nino Strmo
Head of Solution Architecture at DECODE

Product manager

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

This includes:

  • Creating a strategic roadmap for the team to follow
  • Defining KPIs for success
  • Prioritizing features

In other words, their job is balancing between user, tech, and business needs to build a successful product.

Product management

They’re in charge of overseeing the development process from start to finish to make sure it’s aligned with your business goals.

But, this doesn’t mean they manage everything – the day-to-day tasks are handled by the project manager.

The product manager is a higher-level, strategic role whose job it is to make sure you build a product that can succeed in the market.

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

Key responsibilities of a product manager

  • Product vision and strategy – the product manager’s main responsibility, they define the product vision and create a strategic roadmap for the whole development team to follow
  • Prioritizing and defining features – they prioritize and define features based on user feedback, market needs, and business goals
  • Defining KPIs for product success – they define and track key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure product success

Necessary skills a product manager needs to have

  • Strategic thinking – they need to be able to see the bigger picture and juggle conflicting demands from different stakeholders to create a successful, long-term product vision and strategy
  • Excellent communication skills – a product manager needs to have excellent communication skills to collaborate effectively with team members and stakeholders
  • Analytical skills – they need to have strong analytical skills to successfully analyze data and make informed decisions

Pro-tip for picking the right product manager

The product manager needs to understand exactly what your users want and how to turn that into your product’s long-term vision.
Boris Plavljanic
Product Manager at DECODE

Product designer

Product designers play a key role on a software development team – they design your product’s look (user interface) and feel (user experience).

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the difference between UX and UI:

UX vs UI

The product designer is in charge of designing both i.e. making a visually attractive product that’s intuitive and easy to use.

But, the role goes beyond just UX/UI design, too.

Product designers take a broader approach and make sure their design meets business needs, too.

And that’s why they’re so important.

Key responsibilities of a product designer

  • Creating the visual design – the product designer is in charge of creating visually appealing user interfaces and design systems
  • Optimizing the user experience – they’re responsible for optimizing your product’s UX and making sure it’s usable, intuitive, and engaging
  • Doing user research and testing – the product designer organizes and conducts user research and testing in order to gather feedback and improve your product’s design and UX

Necessary skills a product designer needs to have

  • UX/UI design – a product designer needs to be proficient in designing and building products that both look good and are easy to use
  • Attention to detail – they need to have a keen eye for detail to create high-quality designs
  • Visual design – they need to have strong graphic design skills and a deep understanding of visual aesthetics

Pro-tip for picking the right product designer

Make sure that they don’t just have the right design skills, but also the right mindset. A great designer should be able to switch between different user perspectives, know when to compromise, and be invested in your product’s success.
Matej Maric
Product Designer at DECODE

Project manager

On a software development team, the project manager is in charge of managing the day-to-day tasks during development.

They make sure development is completed on time, within scope, and within budget.

Poor project management can cost you a lot of money and derail development.

So, having a competent project manager is an absolute must.

Here are a few key stats that show just why project management is so important:

Project management statistics

So, without good project management, you risk scope creep derailing your product’s development and losing a lot of money.

But, the right project manager will make coordinating between the development team and other stakeholders a breeze.

And that’s exactly what you need for a successful project.

Key responsibilities of a project manager

  • Monitoring progress and setting deadlines – the project manager monitors team members’ progress and sets deadlines to keep the project on track and on time
  • Team coordination – they coordinate and help different team members collaborate and resolve any conflicts that might happen
  • Planning – the project manager’s main task, they’re in charge of outlining tasks and timelines and the resources needed to complete them

Necessary skills a project manager needs to have

  • Time management – time management skills help project managers effectively prioritize tasks and keep the project on schedule
  • Strong communication skills – strong communication skills are a must for project managers, especially if they’re working on complex projects with lots of moving parts
  • Problem-solving skills – project managers need to have top-tier problem-solving skills to identify and resolve problems before they negatively impact the project

Pro-tip for picking the right project manager

They have to be able to effectively multitask and communicate with everyone involved in the project – 80% of a project manager’s job is talking to other people.
Boris Plavljanic
Product Manager at DECODE

Team lead

The team lead is responsible for guiding and mentoring your software development team so they successfully meet project goals.

Usually, though not always, the team lead will be the most senior engineer on the team.

But, seniority isn’t the be-all and end-all when picking a team lead.

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They need to have in-depth technical knowledge, sure, but their leadership and people management skills are just as important.

Their main responsibility is keeping the team on track and helping them solve any problems they encounter during development.

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

Key responsibilities of a team lead

  • Technical support and guidance – the team lead gives technical support and guidance to the whole team and helps them solve any problems they run into during development
  • Conducting code reviews – the team lead is responsible for leading code reviews to ensure code quality and that coding best practices and standards are followed
  • Mentoring – they offer support and coaching to junior team members to help them grow professionally

Necessary skills a team lead needs to have

  • Technical proficiency – a team lead needs to have in-depth knowledge of different languages, frameworks, tools, and coding best practices
  • Leadership skills – they need to have strong leadership skills and be able to motivate and inspire others on the team
  • Communication and collaboration – a team lead needs to be able to effectively communicate and collaborate with both team members and stakeholders

Pro-tip for picking the right team lead

They need to be willing to help team members when they run into issues and guide them in the right direction, so that the whole team can be more efficient and successful.
Ivan Trogrlic
Android Team Lead at DECODE

QA engineer

Nobody wants to get derailed by bugs – and QA engineers are key to preventing that from happening to your product.

Their job is to make sure your product is bug-free and meets quality standards before you launch it.

Here’s what a typical day for a QA engineer looks like:

QA engineer roles and responsibilities

So, QA engineers are in charge of planning and running tests to find and fix any bugs or issues with your product.

In other words, they make sure your product is actually usable and works as intended.

And that’s why they’re indispensable.

Key responsibilities of a QA engineer

  • Finding and fixing bugs – QA engineers find and fix bugs in your software to ensure it remains consistently high-quality
  • Creating test plans – they create test plans on every level and create an in-depth testing strategy
  • Running manual and automated tests – QA engineers run both manual and automated tests to make sure all bugs and issues are fixed

Necessary skills a QA engineer needs to have

  • Attention to detail – QA engineers need to be meticulous and observant to spot issues and inconsistencies in the software’s code
  • Proficiency in different testing methods – they need to be proficient in a number of different testing methods and know when to use (or not use) each one
  • Critical thinking and problem solving – critical thinking and problem solving help QA engineers anticipate where problems might happen, so your testing efforts can be more focused

Pro-tip for picking the right QA engineer

They need to have the QA mindset – that’s a combination of curiosity, professional pessimism, attention to detail, and looking at problems with a critical eye.
Marko Brajer
QA Engineer at DECODE

Key tips for assembling a software development team

Here, we’ll give you some important tips for assembling a successful development team.

Clearly define roles and responsibilities

Clearly defining roles and responsibilities on your software development team should be the first thing you do when you’re building it.

If your team knows exactly what they’re doing and why from the start, they’ll work much more efficiently.

Here’s a few more reasons why clear roles and responsibilities are so important:

Clear roles and responsibilities

With clearly defined roles, you won’t have unnecessary overlaps and confusion about who’s supposed to do what during development.

This way, you’ll avoid duplication of efforts and your team will be much more productive and efficient.

Crucially, this will save you a lot of time and money.

And that can mean the difference between a successful and a failed product.

Hire a cognitively diverse team

Hiring a cognitively diverse team is one of the best decisions you can make when assembling a software development team.

And that’s not an exaggeration.

Cognitive diversity means you include people with different perspectives and problem-solving methods on your team.

And according to a study by the Harvard Business Review, cognitively diverse teams adapt better to change and solve problems faster.

Here’s a few other top benefits of cognitive diversity:

5 benefits of cognitive diversity

Cognitive diversity is especially important if you’re building a product in a competitive market.

Being able to solve problems faster and better adapt to changing circumstances than your competitors can mean the difference between success and failure.

And that’s why hiring a cognitively diverse team should be your top priority.

Invest in continuous learning

When you hire a software development team, you’re making an investment in your company’s future.

Unless you’re outsourcing, the team you hire will be there to stay for the long term.

And to get the most out of them, you need to encourage and invest in continuous learning for your team.

Here’s a few ways you can do that:

Ways to encourage continuous learning in the workplace

You need to make sure continuous learning is a key part of your team’s day-to-day tasks.

And it will pay dividends in the long run.

If your team continuously learns, they’ll easily keep up with new technologies and trends and get better at their jobs.

This will ensure your product stays cutting-edge and competitive in the market.

And that’s exactly what you should be looking for.

Hire a dedicated team

Hiring a full in-house software development team can get expensive quickly, especially if you’re based in North America or Western Europe.

Just onboarding each team member will cost you an average of $4100 per hire – so, a small team of 5 members can cost you over $20,000.

And that’s why hiring a dedicated team is a good option.

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

Dedicated team

It’s a safer option than outsourcing your product’s development to a bunch of freelancers and it’s less expensive than hiring a full in-house team.

But, you need to hire the right software product development company to really reap the benefits of hiring a dedicated team.

They need to have the necessary experience and expertise to build your product from start to finish.

If they do, you’ll know you’ve found the right development partner.

Software development team roles: FAQs

There’s no easy answer to this question because it depends on a number of different factors like:

  • Type and complexity of your product
  • Size and experience of the development team
  • The tech stack

But, on average, we can break down the costs by complexity like this:

  • A simple product – $20,000-$60,000
  • A medium-complexity product – $60,000-$90,000
  • A complex product – $100,000+

We asked our CDO, Ante Baus, this question and this is what he had to say:

The most common mistake you can make when assembling a software development team is building a team with imbalanced seniority.

For example, if you’re building a complex product, having too many junior engineers on your team will likely lead to delays and a lower-quality product.

But, the same is true in reverse – if you’re building a simple product, too many senior engineers on the team will be a waste of resources you can better use elsewhere.

So, make sure your team’s seniority levels are in line with your product’s complexity.

The choice between building an in-house team or outsourcing to a vendor will depend mainly on your specific needs and your budget.

Outsourcing is a good choice if:

  • You want to lower development costs
  • You need a more easily scalable team
  • You need access to a larger talent pool

Need a software development team?

Do you have everything you need to build a great product but just need the right team to make it a reality?

Well, you’re in the right place.

Whether you need a full dedicated team or a couple of experts to plug skill gaps in your in-house team, we’ll be happy to help.

If you want to learn more, feel free to reach out and we’ll set up a quick meeting to discuss your needs in more detail.

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Written by

Mario Zderic

Co-founder and CTO

Mario makes every project run smoothly. A firm believer that people are DECODE’s most vital resource, he naturally grew into the role of People Operations Manager. Now, his encyclopaedic knowledge of every DECODEr’s role, and his expertise in all things tech, powers him to manage his huge range of responsibilities as COO. Part developer, and seemingly part therapist, Mario is always calm under pressure, which helps to maintain the office’s stress-free vibe. In fact, sitting and thinking is his main hobby. What’s more Zen than that?

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