The business benefits of hiring a development team, instead of single talents

You need help with digital product development. Maybe your own development team is snowed under with work. Maybe it lacks a specific knowledge set. Maybe you don’t have an in-house development team. The point is, you have a digital product to design, create or scale and you need to look outside your organization to get it done. Good news: the internet is full of freelance developers, any one of whom will gladly help. But what if that isn’t the best option? It’s definitely not your only option. See the business benefits of hiring a development team, instead of single talents!

When looking to recruit external help, decision makers and product owners may be tempted to hire individuals to temporarily fill single roles. Instead of putting together a team, they buy in the skill sets and experience they need, when they need it – front- and backend developers, UX designers, content creators, business analysts, etc. Usually, the driver is cost and on the surface this seems like a pretty economical way of working on your digital products. However, it won’t necessarily get you the best results - just as buying separate auto parts won’t give you a car to drive.

External developers – why a team can offer more

So, if you’re in the market for external help with digital product development, why would you look at hiring a team of people instead of just filling the gaps in your skills requirements? With 17+ years of experience putting together teams to create a wide range of often award-winning digital products for our clients, we have a few observations.

  • Diversity and collaboration – A team will almost always outperform a separated collection of individuals in terms of creativity and problem-solving (the broader collective experience gives rise to more ideas), communication (team members get to know each other, establish rituals, their own culture and mutual understanding), and collaboration (they have a ‘collective pool’ of skills and knowledge and know how to access it). In fact, some century-old research by social psychologist Floyd Allport found that people work better in a team, even when they are not collaborating or communicating! Just the presence of other people is a performance boost (it’s called the ‘social facilitation effect’ and may explain the current popularity of coworking spaces).
  • Teams can be tailor-made – If you have in-house developers, whatever the needs of your development project, you’re kind of stuck with what you have. When you bring in a freelancer, you can shop for the specific knowledge, skillset and experience that you need but they’re an ‘add-on’, having to work with a bunch of strangers. When you hire a team, you have the option of sourcing exactly what you need in the form of a group of people used to working with each other.

    Here at Boldare, we put our teams together according to the specific business goals of our customers. In terms of skills and knowledge, we can deploy frontend developers, backend developers, full stack developers, software architects, QA engineers, business analysts, agile coaches and scrum masters, digital strategists, creative designers, product designers, UX designers, the list goes on…

    Not only will the team members have previous experience of working together – i.e. they’ve already gone through the classic forming-storming-norming-performing stages of team development – they’ll have experience of the specific type of product being developed. In other words, if your business needs a prototype to test out approaches with users they’ll have worked on prototypes in the past. Likewise, if you need a minimum viable product (MVP) to show potential investors, we pick people who know MVPs. And so on.

  • Experience of Agile – There’s little doubt (definitely not in our minds at Boldare) that agile methodologies such as scrum are the choice for digital product development; especially when compared to a waterfall approach (see more here: Agile vs Waterfall). Put simply, scrum is a team approach. Individual freelancers may have agile experience but they cannot compete with a group of people used to working together in this methodology. Sourcing an agile team includes the role of scrum master, an essential facilitator of agile success. A scrum master is not a project or team manager, instead they understand the process, the issues and factors inherent in software development, and take a collaborative approach to keeping the whole team (and therefore the project) on track. They work closely with the product owner who, in this scenario, is a member of the client organization representing their interests and priorities as part of the scrum team.
  • Knowledge sharing – One of the big benefits of bringing in outside help is the potential knowledge transfer to your own people. You source the knowledge and skills you don’t have internally, use them to create your product, and when the project’s over, some of that knowledge and skill has been passed on, leaving your own people better equipped. While you can expect (and demand!) a degree of knowledge sharing from an individual freelancer, they are more likely to be there on a ‘hired gun’ basis – they get their piece of the job done and that’s it; any knowledge transfer is almost incidental. A team on the other hand, can offer a much fuller package of sharing and if knowledge sharing is built into the way the project runs, they can have significant impact; even helping facilitate your organization’s own digital transformation journey.
  • Risk management – Not all problems and challenges are (or can be) planned for. For example, people get sick. If your sole freelance developer needs to take a few days to get well (or longer if they catch COVID-19!) your project may stall. If a member of a brought-in team falls ill, first there’s a whole team to pick up any slack, and second, if the situation continues, the company you’re working with can fill the gap seamlessly.

Finally, one last point that carries a lot of relevance in 2021. A study from MIT Sloan in 2009 found that virtual, remote teams can actually perform better than a team working in the same office (assuming they are equipped with good communication and collaboration tools). In a world where remote working is a major part of the ‘new normal’, sourcing a virtual team of people may be the preferred option to ensure the quality of your digital product.

Finding the right dev team for you

If you’re convinced that sourcing a dev team is the right move for your product, that raises the question of how to find a good one (dare we say, not all development teams are created equal?!) Naturally, what you need from a dev team will largely depend on the specific details of the project but, to get you pointed in the right direction, the following base criteria are a good starting point:

  • Track record – The ideal development team can point to a history of projects and products, demonstrating delivery of products similar or relevant to your own.
  • Skills & knowledge – The core question is, does the team have what you need? But remember, digital product development is about much more than just coding. Depending on the complexity and scope of your product, as well as developers you may need UX design, information architecture, quality, business analysis, content creation, or digital strategy on your list of criteria. And don’t forget the scrum master, the guardian of the development process.
  • Process – As mentioned above, usually the best approach to creating digital products is agile (at Boldare, we are particular fans of scrum). What history does your potential development team have of working agilely? And if your organization has little experience of agile working, can this team act as a guide?
  • Communication – Virtual working, remote working, in-house/external collaboration… it all depends very much on the methods and quality of communication during the project. Boldare teams all work according to principles of radical transparency – for clients this means direct access to all project information and all members of the dev team working on their product; i.e. no project manager roles, no ‘gatekeepers’ to slow things down, just very open communication (supported by the right technology and tools, of course!)

A final point: look for a ‘dedicated team’, i.e. a development team that will be working on your product and only your product. Your final product will likely be better quality and better-aligned with your business goals if the people developing it aren’t juggling resources, priorities and deadlines between your project and various others.

For more detail on finding the right dev team, check out our article, “How to choose a software development company”.

The benefits of getting help from outside

Obviously, the decision on getting help from the outside is always a big challenge. Especially if your company hasn’t done this before, and therefore has no cultural willingness or experience in working with external teams. So, if you’re looking for more benefits of getting external help, let’s quickly review the advantages of such a decision:

  • Time – Time is always an issue. You have a target date for your product and bringing in external support will help you hit it. Especially if your in-house people have higher priorities.
  • Money – Outsourcing is often cheaper than maintaining (or adding to) an in-house dev team. With outside support, you agree on a price and then don’t have to worry about the usual ‘extra’ staffing costs, such as accommodation, equipment, taxes and deductions, benefits and expenses, ongoing development and training, and so on.
  • Skills – An in-house team with up-to-date and varied skill sets is a considerable investment. Even if you commit to that investment, the world of software development contains many specialisms and niches. Depending on the size of your organization, it’s usually cheaper and easier to source temporary help and look to hire the skills you need for the specific product.
  • Culture – The ideal culture for software development may not be ideal for your organization as a whole. Digital and development culture is usually open to innovation, risk-taking, decisive, collaborative, non-hierarchical, problem-solving and clearly focused on user needs. If this doesn’t sound like your organization then rather than attempt to develop and maintain two different internal cultures, it’s often better to hire in people used to working in a way conducive to building a quality digital product.

The benefits of hiring a development team

When sourcing external experts to work on your digital products, as with any procurement or recruitment process, cost is a big issue and that makes individual freelancers a tempting solution. However, there are factors other than cost and – especially for complex products or projects – seeking out a partner company that can offer a full, dedicated dev team will likely result in a quality product that is more closely aligned to your business goals.