Hiring vs Building a Software Development Team

by Jean-Michel Lebeau ― Jan 14, 2019

Many (all?) companies out there have a need for great software. When there are many projects you have in mind, it may be tempting to form an internal team to try and save on costs. Having built an award-winning team myself, I’ve learned a thing or two about what goes into it.

Take it from me: Unless you’re already a software / development company - don’t do it. You’ll be wasting valuable time and money. While it’s not impossible, it is quite difficult to both build and maintain a solid team these days. In fact, many of my friends and colleagues have discovered that it is more trouble than it’s worth. The main reason?

1. It’s Extremely Difficult to Find Great Talent in a Highly Competitive Job Market

You can’t have a great team without great talent. Unfortunately for you, it’s a great time to be a software developer, but a tough time to hire and keep one. Demand for them is through the roof. It’s a job seeker's market. The competition for talent isn’t just local - it’s on an international scale. The big multinational tech companies  - Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, have tons of resources to attract the best talent. The smaller ones offer amazing benefits and flexibility to stay competitive. If you are a small business, you will have to compete with the big names for this small pool of qualified applicants.

A good software developer has a good amount of freedom to choose between great projects or companies to work for. If you want to convince them to come work for you, you’ve got a lot of convincing to do, and it might cost you more than you bargained for.

2. Niche Industries Struggle to Retain and Keep Talent Engaged

Though developers demand some of the highest salaries in the job market today, money alone won’t keep them happy. Companies have tried a number of different strategies aimed at improving retention and employee engagement. Some allow employees to pursue personal projects on company time. Others create a fun, playful, casual atmosphere. Company culture and benefits can be as important to retention (if not more) than salary. 

Companies specializing in tech can address more industries and use cases. Why is this an advantage? Well, when you are a great developer with a variety of jobs to choose from, you get the freedom to choose projects that challenge you or interest you. Companies who do work in multiple industries get a slight advantage here since they can often find projects that will suit the intellectual growth needs of a good candidate.

They also get an edge regarding culture. Great talent attracts more great talent. With room to improve skills and connect to other great coders, larger companies can offer better cultures than a smaller one can.

3. Training New Hires and Keeping Pace with Industry Changes Can Be a Full-Time Job

Between the incredible pace of technological innovation and the ever-growing use cases and contexts for technology, there is always something software developers could or should be learning. Whether it’s a new coding language, or the cultural nuances governing human interactions, education, and training in this age is a life-long journey. Unless you’re already in a position where you are actively keeping track of these trends, learning and keeping up with them requires a hefty and unnecessary investment of time and energy. Add that to the time and money you would spend trying to recruit and retain your staff in the first place, and you can start to understand how quickly such efforts can be counter-productive. 

4. Even Experienced Developers Can Struggle to Develop and Communicate a Project’s Vision Effectively

You may have found the best developers in the world, and you may believe they can build this game-changing software that you're hoping to create, but here's the deal. A lot of developers can write beautiful code, but they probably don't have the skill or talents to transform your business ideas into a well-functioning app. That part is still up to you and your ability to communicate your vision to them. 

Great code isn’t worth a thing unless the user has a great experience using the actual software. Even with a great software developer team, you will need other talent on your team to deliver a great product. UX designers, Product Owners, and many more will need to play important roles if you are to deliver a great product.

Project success demands great project management skills. And key to any well-managed project is a well-defined business vision that translates into clear actions. A well-defined vision helps the stakeholders buy into the project and makes sure your team follows the right trajectory every day. 

Doing this well takes lots of experience. I’m a developer and tech specialist, who has been working in tech for over 15 years. On complicated projects, even I start to wonder about my own abilities as a manager. If you’re just starting, imagine how difficult this could be for you.

Conclusion 

Building and maintaining great internal development teams is very challenging. If you are going to do it, it will take a good amount of your time, effort and focus to make it run.

I’ve seen many of my peers and clients struggle and waste money trying to do this. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Building a team from scratch is not the only way to get top-tier projects done. When your company needs great software but isn’t set up to handle an internal team, hiring a team to build your software is a much better option. This way you can get all the benefits of an internal team without the hassle.

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