7 Habits of Highly Effective Software Development Teams

Here's what successful software development teams have that their less-effective counterparts don’t.

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To keep pace with customer demands, we’ve always challenged ourselves to improve and enhance the way we do software development. We work in a market where even well-planned software development projects executed by well-organized teams can still be prone to failure. Nonetheless, due to growing competition and the present economic climate, businesses increasingly rely on improving efficiency and productivity through technology solutions. The role of the software development team has become critically important. In this lean and competitive business environment, the quality of the software development team doesn’t simply impact project failure rates; it impacts business failure rates.

So, what makes a highly effective software development team? What do successful software development teams have that their less-effective counterparts don’t? What practices do high-performing software development teams embrace? Here are seven habits of modern software development teams that make them highly effective and successful:

1They include a wider range of stakeholders.

Total team involvement should include a wider range of stakeholders than have perhaps been included in the past, such as operations staff, security engineers, and importantly, business stakeholders and end-users. This effectively removes any barriers between the customer and the team. To achieve rapid delivery of high-quality software that meets all user requirements it is necessary to integrate everyone associated with the software development and deployment process into a single, self-organized team.

2They make a cultural commitment to quality.

Those with testing expertise are advising the team early and throughout the project life cycle. Developers participate in quality activities such as unit testing. The development process has become more test-driven, often incorporating model-driven and behavior- driven approaches. The team must have a mutual understanding of the baseline level of quality and efficiency they collectively intend to maintain throughout the development process and a shared understanding that quality is everyone’s responsibility.

3They popularize teamwork and deep skill sets.

To successfully complete a project, the team must leverage each team member’s skills and capabilities and provide everyone visibility to all the work being done. All team members need to have a broader and deeper understanding of what they’re required to achieve. Development is not just for developers any longer, and testing is not just for testers any longer. Analysis, development, testing, and operations roles require analytical knowledge, such as data engineering and data science, as well as deeper technical skills in architecture, development and automation. The lines between all these roles have become blurred.

4They automate their processes.

Just like the transformation of manufacturing, automation is the focus of every part of the software life cycle. Extensive automation at every step yields consistency and repeatability. This enables the team to focus on more technically challenging areas while receiving timely feedback on things that need attention. This is especially true for testing. While there will always be a need for some manual testing, automated testing dominates the teams and environments that are deploying frequent updates and changes.

5They use data analytics to understand how customers use their product.

Development is about creating solutions to solve business problems. Testing has always been about providing information to stakeholders about the developed solutions’ readiness for the user. Simultaneously looking at data concerning both future and current use of a software solution should drive just enough development and testing to get new features to market with the right balance of functionality and quality. Analytics are used to influence software design, development, integration, testing, deployment, and business decisions.

6They create feedback loops at all stages of the development life cycle.

After the initial setup, most of today’s project life cycle tools produce data and information easily and quickly. Using business intelligence tools, teams are establishing near-real-time information dashboards that report on what’s being planned in the pipeline, the status of user stories, and monitoring end-user experiences.

7They frequently test in production.

As systems scale and the number of connected nodes increases (think of the Internet of Things), it is impossible to create test environments that emulate the real world. There is no choice but to test in production. Systems and applications are being architected and packaged using microservices and containers. As a result, new features and functionality can be deployed into production but not enabled, by using feature switches. This allows the team to reduce their risks and control the exposure to new or modified code, as well as to manage which users see which features or to compare two or more approaches using A/B testing.

Ultimately, highly effective software development teams can deliver software quickly, reliably, and safely which drives business performance in terms of profitability, productivity, and customer satisfaction. The ability to deliver software rapidly and reliably and provide high levels of availability is a powerful tool. It enables organizations to easily and quickly prototype new products and features and test the impact on users without impacting existing users. It also allows organizations to keep up with compliance and regulatory changes and deliver critical software patches and updates necessary for security quickly and reliably. Furthermore, it allows organizations to efficiently respond to technological change and shifts in the market and create superior products and services.

Keeping up with the rate of technological change is essential for organizations in these competitive environments who must keep demanding customers happy while delivering consistent revenues to keep stakeholders satisfied. Those who excel at delivering profitability, productivity, and customer satisfaction survive. Anything less than excellence leads to failure.


Joshua is an Experis Quality Engineering practice leader based out of Columbus, OH. He is an accomplished software testing and development professional with over 10 years of quality assurance and testing experience, primarily within automation testing and Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD). He has held senior management and staff consulting positions at several industry-leading companies including Nationwide Insurance, Capital One, Dell, Stanley Black & Decker, Cisco, iHeart Media, Starbucks, Mercedes-Benz and a variety of other companies nationwide. His background includes designing, implementing and teaching automation solutions for a wide range of clients in systems and software in addition to process and methodology consulting for improvement of quality and efficiency in the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC).