What are the roles of a Software Development Manager?
2020-12-18 /

What does a Software Development Manager do?

Software development managers play a crucial role in the success of a development project. Today we will learn the full list of responsibilities and scopes of this position.

In the age of technology, the sky’s the limit. Impressive innovations are popping up left and right in the business world. One risk of a tech business, especially for startups, is the mismanagement of the team resources. 

A single misstep could ruin the product or company. You need someone to help manage the project from its conception to release. And, that is exactly what software development managers do.

We’ll explain why software development managers are a critical component to your success to understand this fully.

Why Software Development is a Team Sport and Needs a Strong Leader

Essentially, if you want to build a software product, you need experts to do it. A software development team is responsible for the design, development, delivery, and maintenance of your project. Some companies hire a tech team to introduce a product to the market. While others hire them to improve their internal processes.

When building your software development team, you have to assess what kind of project you envision carefully. For example, if you want to create a simple website and an app for your services, you’ll need a developer and a graphic designer at the very least. For a larger project that includes creating your brand, you’ll need to employ a complete development team.

Development teams commonly include many different positions:

  • Frontend developer
  • Backend developer
  • Quality Assurance Engineer
  • DevOps Engineer
  • Project Manager

The software development manager has to oversee all of these various team members. Having a good leader for the team is usually the difference between success and failure.

A software development manager interfaces between the technical team and the product management team and the business. It is their job to translate product requirements into work items that the team can perform. 

Additionally, they ensure that the team accomplishes their tasks. Software development requires a lot of coordination and collaboration. It is a team sport that calls for excellent leadership.

Let’s get to know the role of the software development manager.

What does a Software Development Manager do? 7 Key Roles

Software development managers are mainly responsible for coordinating the team members and the client, allocating the resources, and streamlining the processes. The software manager must ensure that all deliverables are met in a given timeline.  

Depending on the project’s scope, the manager can also take on a more hands-on role in development. Yet, their primary role is to supervise the software development processes.  

These are the main responsibilities of a software development manager.

1. Manage the Software Development Team

First, the software development manager is responsible for identifying the skills needed for the project. They assign the tasks based on the individual’s skills and experience. These should enable the team to agree with a roadmap.

In turn, the team members should deliver within the agreed timeline. The development manager evaluates their performance regularly. They also assess if team members require additional training and anticipate problems as they arise.

Software engineering managers commonly spend a lot of time managing people. This includes daily and weekly team meetings and regular 1-on-1 meetings.

2. Hiring and Recruiting

Along with managing the team, dev managers have to help recruit and hire the right team members. Hiring software developers is really challenging. It is hard to assess if developers are any good at what they do or not. 

A good development manager has worked with developers for many years. Thus, they have a better sense of what makes a good developer or a bad one. Hiring the wrong developers can be extremely costly. So, a great dev manager can help ensure you hire the right people on the team.

3. Manage the Tools

Software managers make sure that the team has access to the required tools in development. Software projects need a wide array of tools such as project management, source control, CI/CD pipeline, cloud hosting, IDEs, and other development tools. The manager has to keep track of all the devices and applications team members use in the project. 

4. Control Project Timelines

One of the most crucial duties of a software manager is monitoring the project’s progress. Project development is a complex process, fraught with lots of roadblocks. 

Hence, the manager should be strategic with deadlines that give developers enough time to accommodate unexpected issues. Moreover, the manager will negotiate with the client about the reasonable possible time to complete the product.

Most teams have a project manager that oversees the day-to-day progress of a project. But, the software development manager designs and enforces the software development lifecycle within the organization.

5. Ensure Software quality

A software development manager ensures that proper quality assurance (QA) processes are in place. In some cases, a company may need to involve a QA manager. However, the software development manager is responsible for the QA guidelines in the team. They detail what to QA and how to QA functionalities even if a separate team is doing the QA activities.  

6. Validate Key Architecture decisions

One of the hardest things for a development team is making key architecture decisions. The dev manager ensures there is a scalable system architecture design. This way, developers have a guideline on which technologies to leverage. Software development managers steer the team to create smart architecture choices for the business.

7. Help Drive Product Strategy

Identifying the core features and requirements is necessary to come up with the right method and system of development. More often than not, the software development managers also need to be experts on the product.

Some companies have a product team that ultimately drives all the product roadmaps, requirements, etc. However, the software development managers still need to be experts about the product and how it works. They have a strong voice on the product roadmap.

In addition, software development managers have to coordinate with all parties involved in the project. They also need to work closely with the end-users of the product. 

Whether for an internal project or a client’s product, software development managers have to communicate regularly with the product owners. Likewise, they must clearly articulate and translate the requirements to the team.

Why You Need a Software Development Manager

The software development manager role provides value in product development. Each member plays a huge part in the project but the manager steers the wheel to move forward. Here are the reasons why you need a software development manager.

1. Easier project scoping

With exemplary work experience, development managers are highly knowledgeable in identifying the project’s scope. They maintain project updates and documentation, especially in Agile projects.

2. They manage relationships in the team

As the team liaison, great development managers help maintain a healthy relationship between the team and stakeholders. Their excellent communication skills play an important part in increasing the level of transparency within the company. This way, the team addresses issues that arise accordingly.

3. The Ship Needs a Captain

Software developers can write code if you tell them what code to write. Dev managers step in to help the team prioritize and write the correct codes. They know how to navigate software development using their years of experience.

4. Someone Needs to Shield the Team

In the corporate world, dev managers spend a lot of their time dealing with bureaucracy in the business. Managers can protect the team from shifting priorities, scope creeps, and different struggles of living in the corporate world.

5. A better gauge of quality

Probably the majority of their role is to control each process to ensure high-quality output. Moreover, software development managers are hands-on in testing the functionalities of the product. Therefore, you’re sure that you can launch the product to the market successfully.

6. Development managers champion processes

Anything and everything that impacts the product and processes is under the development manager’s wing. Development managers establish streamlined processes to promote efficiency in the team.

As a result, they can see possible risks and avoid them. You can see that there will be minimal delays and blockers when your project has a development manager.

7. They help you with technology

Being up to date with technology is another strength that development managers possess. With their adeptness in the field, they can recommend and design products with the latest, most useful technology. This will be very beneficial to your product. Why? They identify which tools are best for your product and your business strategy.

Software Development Manager Skills & Requirements

To be an expert software development manager needs a wide array of experience and skills. Nobody is amazing at managing people, writing code, project management, and talking to customers.

If someone is an expert at all of those things, they are a unicorn. We should capture them so we can study and clone them. Most talented dev managers are great at one or two things and not all. 

Generally speaking, all software development managers should have the following:

  • 10+ years of experience as an engineer or engineering management
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strong leadership qualities
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Ability to resolve conflicts

Depending on the company’s needs, a software development manager’s role can vary greatly. You have to think about what your company needs most out of a development manager. These requirements may change over time and from team to team.

What skills do you need most out of a software development manager?

  • Deep industry and product knowledge or expertise
  • Improve the development process
  • Recruit and build a team
  • Improve product quality
  • Solve complex technical challenges
  • Build a new software product
  • Maintain or modernize and existing product
  • Hands-on writing code
  • Driving key architecture decisions
  • Excellent project management skills
  • Talking to key customers or product owners

Someone who is awesome at product development and architecture is not always great at dealing with corporate politics and budgets. 

It’s why companies need a CTO, VP of Software Development, Director of Software Development, Software Development Managers, and team leads. All of these different levels of leadership within a company specialize in different roles.

Understanding Software Development Management Levels and Job Titles

In this article, we are talking about software development managers holistically. Depending on the company, there are various job titles and levels within a development team org chart. 

In a small company, you’ll likely find a Chief Technology Officer or a Director of Software Development. They work with a few software engineers on one or two teams. They also won’t have a structured product team.

At large enterprises, you will find several team leads or directors. There are likely multiple business units or organizations working on different products. Also, there may be some front-end and back-end teams. The organizational chart in these companies will have more layers of management. They are also likely to have product management teams.

Let’s compare some of the differences between common job titles and roles. Note that some companies refer to it as software engineering, application development, or similar terminology instead of software development. 

Team Lead

Most development teams should have two to five software engineers. One of those people should be the team lead. The team lead helps tactically get all the work done on a daily basis. They can help drive architectural decisions and simplify project requirements for the team. 

However, team leads may be less involved in process management. They don’t drive processes. They’re focused on completing the work and guiding other developers to overcome obstacles.

Manager of Software Development

Managers of Software Development work more on managing people and helping define processes. They may also be hands-on with writing code. This means that they manage the project from the “inside” as an integral part of the team.

Director of Software Development

At this level, the Director of Software Development doesn’t have to be hands-on in coding. The focus is more on processes, timelines, budgets, hiring, and dealing with day-to-day corporate bureaucracy. They’ll be managing projects from the outside. Directors are managing multiple projects and managers. They have to be good at delegating work and managing by metrics.

VP of Software Development

A VP traditionally manages multiple directors. They may oversee multiple products or business units. They will work with product owners, company stakeholders, and development managers to ensure the engineering teams meet business goals. 

As a Software Development VP, they are responsible for everything. They spend most of their time working with people who don’t have an engineering background. Furthermore, they mostly work with people throughout the organization to bridge the needs of software development.

Chief Technology Officer

There are multiple types of Chief Technology Officers (CTOs). Depending on the size and type of a company, they may perform different tasks. Generally, they focus on how the business should use technology to achieve its goals. They help drive the overall strategy of the team.

Most CTOs are product-oriented. They drive the roadmap and are responsible for the overall delivery of the work. In many companies, they are geniuses behind the curtains that understand the product and industry more than anyone else.

In some, the CTO may be more hands-on with writing code. Sometimes they are in charge of prototyping new products and solving the biggest problems for the companies. In addition, they allow the directors and VPs to manage the day-to-day process while they solve the complex problems that only they can solve. This is common in early-stage startups.

Chief Information Officer

The highest level software development executive may be a Chief Information Officer (CIO). Some companies have both, and the CTO  typically reports to the CIO. The key difference is the CIO is also responsible for all infrastructure and digital assets within the organization as well as the software. They deploy the app, servers, and infrastructure to thousands of locations.

Companies that use a plethora of third-party apps or desktops, servers, or infrastructure are likely to have a CIO. Companies that create the software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions usually have a CTO.

Should Development Managers Write Code?

One common question is, “should your software development managers write code or only manage the team?” If they should write code, what percentage of their time is allotted for that?

Some companies struggle because they pluck their brightest developers and promote them as managers. The problem is, they may not be as good at managing other people or processes. Even worse, they would rather hide in the dark and write code than do any of the management work. 

Managers need to be managers first. It is their job to motivate everyone to be productive. If the top developer is assigned to lead the team, then there should be another manager in place. This manager will oversee the day-to-day activities of projects.

Managers who write code can only probably do so 25% of the time. A mix of 50/50 rarely ever works. They can’t context switch and give both the right amount of attention. 

How much time a software development manager spends in writing code can be tricky. That often ends with less time spent actually managing the team.

How to Hire a Software Development Manager

Given the benefits of having a software development manager, most businesses see the value of having one in the team. These resources are superheroes that save the day.

However, with today’s tech market, it’s almost impossible to find a development manager.

One reason is that the best ones are already employed. You won’t always see them looking for jobs since they’re treasured and compensated well by their current employers.

Another reason is that they are the creme de la creme of software managers. This role is not a junior position. It takes years of experience to qualify for this post. Some of them have at least 10 years of experience in software development. 

Finally, local software development managers are hard to find. Keep in mind that you’re not the only one looking for them. Businesses compete not just in products but also with talents. So, you need to offer a competitive salary to attract an expert development manager.

Fortunately, the dawn of telecommuting and remote work is finally here. Businesses now have the option to hire remote software development managers.

Hire a Software Development Manager at Full Scale

Recruiting a managerial position is already a rigorous process, let alone a technical one. If you want to hire a software development manager, you can look into the conventional recruitment methods. 

You’ll have to enlist with an agency or put up ads online. However, there’s a much simpler way to do it. Hire an offshore software development manager from Full Scale!

At Full Scale, we will help you build an entire software development team. In fact, we can hire a team lead or manager for your team. We can provide all the resources you’ll need for your software development project. 

Our seasoned project managers, marketing specialists, and technology experts are ready when you are!. Don’t worry about recruiting and managing your software development team. Let us handle all the nitty-gritty processes while you focus on your core operations.

Get started today!

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