Some rely on remote talents, while others outsource entire teams. With their teams across the globe, Zapier, Slack, or GitLab are only a few examples of successful companies that leverage the power of distributed development. For them, it’s a smart way to hire smart people, regardless of their location.
Do the big names intimidate you? They shouldn’t, as you don’t have to be a renowned Silicon Valley startup to take advantage of a dedicated product team. Enough if you know when it’s the best time for it.
Read on to find answers to the following questions:
- What cooperation models are the most common in software development?
- When is the right time to hire a dedicated product team?
- What can you expect from a software house when you start working with a dedicated team?
Different models of working on a software product
When looking for software engineers to build or enhance your product, there are several cooperation models to choose from. All have their pros and cons, so it’s crucial to understand when it makes sense to choose which one. We listed the most common below.
- One team under your roof (aka hiring in-house). That’s the ultimate state most startups and beginners want to end up with. Although the model has many benefits, the list of things to take care of with an in-house team is long. Employee retention problems, long and expensive recruitment cycles, tools licensing and subscription costs, workflow, and procedure management… these are only some of them. You get all of that taken care of with an outsourced team.
- One team under many roofs. This one comes in many flavors, both as team augmentation or dedicated team, with your management or the management at your partner’s, and is usually based on time and material billing.
What is a dedicated team model?
Simply put, it’s a model of cooperation with a software house in which you bring an idea to the table, and your software partner helps you shape it, advises on the right tech stack, and coordinates the development. The model usually serves long-term projects with unclear requirements, frequent modifications of the scope, or areas your team might not have expertise in.
Dedicated means exclusive. If you decide on a dedicated team model, you can expect that the software developers you work with will focus on one project at a time – your project. It might seem obvious but when you just outsource specialists based on the hourly rate, they might be involved in several projects at a time. That’s a common productivity killer! Context switching takes time to get into focus. A dedicated team is exposed to less context switching as they’re committed to one project and one client at a time.
Unlike in other models, the cooperation with a dedicated team starts long before the first line of code. In fact, the process of discussing the project focuses on the problem your product is going to solve, on possible technical choices, as well as the scope details. A discussion about a product does not boil down only to the particular skills of a specific developer. It’s also about the spectrum of competencies that, when combined, will sharpen your vision of the product and allow you to design and develop a money-making application even on the most competitive market.
It takes more than talented developers to build a top web or mobile application. In a dedicated team model, you get access to a blend of qualified professionals from different fields who work like a remote department. A very structured one.
Depending on the stage your product is at, you can expect a mix of the following roles:
- UX/UI designers who translate vision into visuals and make sure that the application is easy and pleasant to use;
- Quality assurance specialists who test the application in and out to make sure it’s built according to project requirements;
- Project managers whose role is not limited to sending invoices, but built around keeping the team’s productivity, removing obstacles, as well as fostering frequent and efficient communication;
- DevOps engineers who serve the development team in need with infrastructure design and development, so that the time-to-market is reduced and the development process becomes more flexible;
- Backend developers to handle the logic of the application, databases, integrations, APIs, processes, and other components invisible to the end-user;
- Frontend developers to bring life and logic to the visual side of the application.
Benefits of hiring a product team
Betting on a full-fledged development team can save you operating costs, surprise you with fresh ideas, and even help you find partners for a long and fruitful relationship. In short, it brings a few undeniable benefits to the table.
Focus on the result
Most dedicated teams work on a time and material basis, which is the most flexible pricing model in software development. The flexibility means that the team is not restricted by a rigid and overloaded scope, but instead can focus on quick wins and delivering results week by week (or Sprint by Sprint). T&M also allows you to implement changes, make pivots, and validate your product idea much faster than other models as it does not require any alterations in the contract or new legal settlements.
Gain clear-cut project expertise
A well-composed dedicated team is like a top coffee blend. It blooms at the fullest when the competencies of all team members complement each other. The fact clicks especially when you’re about to produce your first software product, or don’t have enough technical expertise at your end to make tech decisions and deliver the application. A cross-functional team with a portfolio of delivered applications will know the most common traps and challenges, recognize the scenarios to avoid, and find the ways to handle these situations most effectively.
Forget the talent gap
Another bright side of starting cooperation with an outsourced team is that you don’t have to deal with the pains of reaching out to, interviewing, selecting, and negotiating with every single member of your product team. Keeping in mind that up to 40% of employers find it difficult to find the right specialists, you can significantly speed up the process of setting up your team with a dedicated model. The talent gap is no longer your concern.
Don’t worry about the formalities
Providing the best talents is not the only cost outsourcing spares you. Take other administrative tasks such as sick leaves, replacements during summer vacations, repairs in case of equipment failures, and other tedious changes you don’t have to manage. All legal and HR operations stay at your partner’s side. Except that the team is yours.
Jump over a few stages
Back in 1965, psychologist Bruce Tuckman visualized the process of team development. He distinguished four stages every new formed team goes through: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing.
Tuckman’s Linear Model of team development. Source: ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub
Why are these stages worth your notice? Because they depict the dynamics between team members and their individual interests that impact the overall team performance. Let’s take a short drive into the curve.
- Forming means excitement. People are new to one another and try to stay as polite as possible. Everyone’s looking forward to fulfilling their role in the projects.
- Storming means turbulence. It often starts when there’s a conflict of interest when the roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined, or when a team member is fighting to establish their position in the team. Storming causes stress and uncertainty, and a lot of teams fall apart if they can’t handle properly the challenges mentioned above.
- Norming is like a rainbow after the rain. People start to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of one another and begin to socialize and cooperate.
- Performing feels like winning. At this stage, the team is able to work together towards a common goal, e.g., the release of your minimum viable product.
The length of each stage is individual, yet the fact is that before a development team starts being predictive in their estimations and deliverables, some time is yet to pass.
Taking a dedicated team, you don’t jump deep into the unknown. People who work in the same company tend to share hammered-out standards and processes. For instance, some of the exemplary standards we sew up in our work are design review or code review. In result, our teams can walk through the team building stages quicker, less painful, and with the higher work quality.
Challenges to overcome
In the time of COVID-19, many companies used to face challenges of managing remote teams that were never made to be remote. A new situation caused a lot of stress, uncertainty, and misunderstandings. When we take a look at a software development process, we’ll see that the same challenges stand in the way of dedicated teams. However, unlike stationary businesses caught by surprise by the virus, dedicated product teams had the tools and techniques to avoid or overcome possible storms.
That’s probably the most common objection we deal with when discussing the dedicated team cooperation model. The temptation to have clear information about the project budget and timeline is natural, and there are ways to limit both when working on time and material basis. Yet, the uncertainty of how much of the scope your team is going to deliver makes a lot of new clients feel uneasy. Thankfully, the initial objections tend to melt under the growing trust gained by a new performant team.
Need for solid introduction and onboarding
One can’t underestimate the positive impact of a proper introduction to any new job. It’s no different in the case of dedicated product teams. Getting the new team familiar with your policies, procedures, and environments will require some effort (and some budget) on your end.
The investment in a dedicated team pays off well in the case of long-term projects. Short-term gigs won’t use the synergy of a full-fledged development team because reaching the Performing phase might take longer than the entire project.
Different communication models
Compared to an in-house team, a remote model requires much more focus on communication and collaboration. Setting collaboration time, quiet time, or standards for using tools such as Google Hangouts, Slack, or Trello are only some of the techniques software teams use to make the most of their time productive.
Working remotely with new colleagues can be a challenge. A lot depends on the ability to build trust through frequent and transparent communication. Experienced dedicated teams can help you build communication channels and touchpoints; however, its execution depends a lot on communication habits on your end.
When the dedicated team model is the right choice?
Knowing about the pros and cons of the model, we can deduce that working with a remote team is not suitable for all types of projects. If so, when would we recommend such an approach over other collaboration models?
You need various competencies but don’t have time to hire in-house
This point translates directly to money. Hiring top talents is one of the biggest concerns of product teams around the world. If you’re coming from a country where the employment costs are much higher than in the neighboring countries, you might spend a fortune finding the right people. Instead, when taking a dedicated team, you can have your specialists set up and ready even within a few weeks!
There’s no technical manager on your end
Knowing the ins and outs of technological decisions is a fundamental capability within a project team. If you’re a visionary who knows their market and their industry but prefers to operate in a business environment rather than a technical one, take a dedicated team and trust their brains and guts.
The project is complex or long-term
It’s said that two heads are better than one. In that case, how about engaging several bright minds (each with a different perspective on the product) to solve complex development problems?
Big scopes with a spider web of dependencies and unknowns are what dedicated teams are made for. On the contrary, when your concern is a strictly limited budget and a harsh deadline, you might not be in a position to involve a whole team of experts. Then, with enough technical expertise (and some specialists on your end), you might be better off with team augmentation.
You need to build an MVP or are expanding to new markets
In this case, there’s no time to waste and a lot of expectations to fulfill, especially when it comes to user experience. As Henrik Werdelin, the founder of Prehype, said in his interview for The Next Web,
You can’t just build a product today, you need to build a venture. And that involves processes, structures, feedback loops, analytics, and a community.
A dedicated team, skilled and proficient in building whole products, not just being a few pairs of additional hands on board, will help you get the results you need.
You’re looking for flexibility
All those various roles in a project team play their part only when needed. It means that you can engage a designer at the beginning when their role is significant, and cut down on their engagement as the UX/UI workload slackens off. The same goes for DevOps. The number of developers you enroll can vary at different stages of the project as well, which gives you the flexibility to scale up or down, and adjust your team’s structure and composition to the current project needs.
How does it work? Dedicated team set-up process at Merixstudio
While a successful project delivery leans on the talents, abilities, and performance of the people behind it, the set-up process of an outsourced team relies on the experience of your software partner. By placing the right people in front of the right challenges, we ensure that our client’s business goals are met, and their ambitions are fulfilled.
How do we accomplish it? With a step-by-step process that focuses on the product.
Step 1: Clarify your expectations
Whether you’re in for building a new product or upgrading an old one, you have certain expectations towards team members and the outsourcing partner themselves. Let us know where you’re heading, what your company stands for, and how the product we’re going to develop supports the process of attaining your high-level goals.
A recommended way to spell out your hopes and fears is a discovery workshop or a scoping session, during which we attempt to identify all your pains (as well as the pains of your target group) and design a product that eases them.
Step 2: Setting up the team
Once aware of the business and technological challenges we’re about to face, it’s time to bring the best experts to the table. Our employees come from various walks of life and multiple verticals, which makes each team unique with their industry knowledge and business focus. The key to your project’s success is to find the right mix of skills that would add value to your idea and eventually bring it to life with success.
Step 3: Scaling up and down
We recommend starting with a basic team structure (yet still covering all the roles), and upscale from there to achieve the desired velocity. One of the biggest benefits of such an approach is minimizing the onboarding time and introducing new specialists only when it’s time to address specific concerns, e.g., regarding UX design, DevOps, or business analysis.
Dedicated team vs. team augmentation
Those two cooperation models may look similar at first glance, but underneath the surface, they satisfy different needs and are made to aim different goals.
The augmentation model focuses on particular roles (usually engineering) that complement the skills on the client’s side. Additional talents can bolster a quick scale-up of your team, whereas a dedicated team is meant to shape and sharpen your idea into the best product you can possibly make.
No surprise that while comparing both models, you can expect a different setup time. Finding individual developers or designers as a team extension usually takes no longer than a week or two. When it comes to whole teams, you’d need to be more patient as the time to allot the best-suited designers, developers, QAs, DevOps, and project managers can take anywhere between two and six weeks. But it’s worth the wait.
How to get the most of a dedicated team?
To make the collaboration smooth and sweet, you need to build mutual trust and understanding with the team. Of course, it won’t happen overnight, but you can still foster a relationship with a trust-building attitude.
- Choose an IT partner carefully. Keep in mind that although custom development is, well, custom, the experience gathered from previous projects in the same niche will work in your team’s favor. Besides the portfolio, check the company’s reputation, and take time to call at least a few of their customers who used to work with them in a dedicated team model.
- Be open about your expectations. Your discussions with our sales representatives and business analysts set the forecast and assumptions for the dedicated team. Being open and transparent accelerates the process of cherry-picking the right partner and forming the right team.
- Prepare the team for the task. We’ve pointed it out already, but it’s worth emphasizing once more: onboarding is tricky. It requires careful planning, empathy, and some time before it “clicks”. So don’t rush and welcome the dedicated team like your own in-house experts.
- Trust the process, especially if you’ve never worked with a remote team before. Planning, daily, reviews, and other ceremonies all have their role in keeping the communication loops closed. Even if it seems too much, just trust your team. They know how to keep the communication muscle alive. After all, it’s not their first project, is it?
How Autium leveraged the dedicated team model to accelerate their MVP development?
Autium, a tech startup from the UK came to us looking for comprehensive support in building a reliable, performant MVP for their SaaS platform for vehicle fleet managers and drivers. The solution facilitates the process of reporting the details about the accidents and automates incident management.
Our client didn’t only need a high-quality code but most of all - an understanding of their product. We knew that to explore it through and through and deliver a scalable and powerful solution we have to engage a cross-functional team and conduct a full product design process.
The project’s budget and deadline were tight yet we were absolutely sure that an extensive two-day in-house Product Design Workshops are fundamental in this case. With a remarkable contribution and insights from our client, we were able to dive deep into the requirements and specific needs of the project. This provided us with a great basis to compose a well-fitted, self-managed team consisting of an Agile Project Manager, two Product Designers, two Backend Engineers, Frontend and Mobile Engineers, and a Quality Assurance Specialist. The final shape of the team was related to the technologies we selected to ensure fast and effective implementation. That's why we bet on tried and tested combination of Python and Django for the backend and a cross-platform framework React Native to cover both Android and iOS platforms within mobile app development.
The key goal from the very beginning was to create a simple yet functional MVP so that the client would be able to deliver it to the prospective customers to gather feedback. This mature and thoughtful approach of our client created favorable conditions for us to run the project harnessing best Agile practices. Our experienced PM was dynamically adjusting the workflow as well as the types and frequency of Scrum meetings to the changing stage of the project, team size, and particular needs. To keep the client abreast of the progress of works we used different communication tools and technologies like Slack, Google, and e-mails.
After releasing the primal version of the app we shifted our focus towards the improvement of existing features as well as extending the app with additional functionalities. Currently, we're working on version 3.0 of Autium's product to adapt it even better to the users' need and expectations.
Dedicated product team: key takeaways
A dedicated team model is one of the closest collaboration schemes you can have with a software development partner. It covers the entire spectrum of competencies (both business and tech-related) you need to move forward with your product idea quickly. Because of its flexibility and comprehensiveness, the model suits VC-backed startups that just start as well as ventures with products reaching out to new markets.
With the proven onboarding and development processes as well as practices recommended by awarded IT partners, you can leverage your product with fresh ideas coming from a team that’s simply dedicated.
If you can’t decide whether the dedicated team model can benefit your product, reach out to our product design team. They’ll help you out.