Development managers handle a combined portfolio of product development and team management tasks to ensure that the software development process plays out smoothly and efficiently.
That means communicating with stakeholders to outline the software product vision, building and managing your software development team, as well as overseeing day-to-day development activities across the organization.
Whether you’re transitioning from a typical software development role to a managerial position, or are looking to hit the ground running with these advanced responsibilities at a new company, here’s a list of skills, frameworks, tricks, and tools to help you along the way. Welcome to the ultimate guide to software development management!
What Is Software Development Management?
Software development management is the process of managing software development projects, teams, and resources to ensure successful software delivery. It involves planning, coordinating, and monitoring various aspects of software development, such as project scope, timelines, budget, quality, and team performance.
The role of a software development manager is to lead a team of developers and oversee the entire software development life cycle.
You’re responsible for setting project goals and objectives, defining project scope and items, and managing project schedules and budgets. You act as a liaison between the development team and other stakeholders, such as clients, management, and other departments.
You must also ensure that the development team has the necessary resources and tools to complete the project successfully.
In addition to managing the technical aspects of development, this role also oversees the human side of software development — creating a positive work environment, fostering teamwork and collaboration, as well as providing mentorship to team members.
Tasks and Responsibilities of a Software Development Manager
The day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of a software development manager may vary depending on the size and scope of the organization as well as the specific needs of the software development team. However, some common tasks and responsibilities of a software development manager include:
Planning and overseeing software development projects, including defining project scope, requirements, timelines, and budgets.
Managing and coordinating the activities of software development team members, including developers, testers, and designers.
Providing technical guidance and support to team members when necessary.
Ensuring that software projects are delivered on time, within budget, and to right quality standards.
Identifying and addressing project risks and issues.
Establishing and maintaining project documentation, including project plans, status reports, and technical documents.
Communicating project status and updates to stakeholders, including senior management, clients, and other departments.
Conducting performance evaluations and providing feedback and coaching to team members.
Recruiting and hiring new developers and other team members as needed.
Staying up-to-date with the latest software development trends and technologies.
Ensuring compliance with company policies and procedures, as well as industry standards and regulations.
Building and maintaining strong relationships with clients and stakeholders.
Skills Needed to Succeed in the Role of a Development Manager
The role of a software development manager requires a unique combination of technical, managerial, and interpersonal skills. These include:
You must have a strong understanding of software development principles, methodologies, and technologies. This includes a deep understanding of programming languages, software testing, and software architecture.
A software development manager must be able to manage complex software development projects, including defining project scope, creating project plans, managing budgets, and monitoring project progress.
Leadership and Communication Skills
You have to be an effective leader and communicator — able to inspire and motivate team members, provide clear direction and guidance, as well as facilitate collaboration and teamwork.
You should be able to identify and solve complex problems related to software development projects, including technical issues, project management challenges, and interpersonal conflicts.
A software development manager must be able to think strategically, with a clear understanding of the company’s goals and objectives and the ability to align software development projects with these goals.
Adaptability and Flexibility
A software development manager has to adapt to changing circumstances, including new technologies, shifting priorities, and evolving business needs. You need a willingness to learn, grow, and take on new challenges.
Transitioning to a Management Role as a Software Developer
While many of the technical skills and knowledge required for software development are also important for development managers, shifting to a managerial role requires additional skills and responsibilities like project management, team leadership, and strategic planning.
If you’re a software developer who’s recently been promoted to a management position, here are some tips to help you get started:
Transitioning to a managerial role can be challenging, but seeking mentorship from experienced development managers can help you to navigate the process more smoothly. Look for opportunities to connect with experienced managers within your organization or seek out a mentor outside of your organization. LinkedIn provides a great opportunity to do just that.
Now that you have regular access to your company’s senior leadership, you have to get used to taking ownership of not only your own actions but also the success of your entire team. Set clear goals and expectations, monitor progress, and take action when necessary to ensure that projects are completed within the expected time and quality standards.
As you gear up for transitioning to the new role, knowing when to delegate will be one of your most important assets. Trust your employees, communicate clearly, and delegate tasks that will help your team grow and develop. Instead of using your valuable time to micromanage others, learn to set better hiring standards and work with people you trust.
As a software development manager, you need to streamline processes and optimize workflows to improve efficiency and productivity. This means you need to learn to automate tasks and processes wherever possible. There are plenty of automation platforms to help with specific development management tasks, including Jira, Trello, Asana, CircleCI, Wrike, Selenium, and of course, 7pace.
Adapting the Right Software Development Management Model
A software development management model is a framework or methodology that outlines the steps and processes involved in developing software. It provides a structured approach to ensure that the project is completed on time, within budget, and to the desired quality standards.
Software development management models typically include a set of guidelines or best practices for tasks such as requirements gathering, design, implementation, testing, and deployment. They may also provide guidance on project management tasks such as scheduling, budgeting, and team coordination.
As the development manager, you may be expected to strategize and implement your own management model to ensure that everyone in your team is at their most productive. Here are a few options to help you decide:
The waterfall model is a sequential development model that follows a linear, step-by-step approach. Each phase of the development process (requirements gathering, design, implementation, testing, and deployment) is completed before moving on to the next phase.
The agile development methodology is an iterative and incremental approach to development that emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and customer satisfaction. It involves breaking the project down into small, manageable chunks that are completed in a series of iterations.
DevOps is a combination of software development and operations, with a focus on collaboration and automation. It involves breaking down the barriers between development and operations, then using automation tools to streamline the software development and deployment process.
Organizations often opt to combine different software development models and methodologies to create a hybrid workflow that suits their needs. Choices vary depending on the organization’s unique goals and performance indicators.
Best Practices to Succeed as a Software Development Manager
As a development manager leading your own software team at a startup or enterprise, you will have to get used to wearing many hats at the same time. Not only will you serve as the liaison between product owners and software engineering professionals, but you will also be expected to fulfill a combination of team and task management duties from a top-level perspective.
Here’s a collection of tips, advice, and best practices to help you strike out as a development manager and take charge of these new duties:
Stakeholders for a development project may include clients, investors, end-users, team members, vendors, and regulatory bodies. Effective communication with all these different parties helps build trust, manage expectations, and mitigate risks.
If you’re transitioning to development management from a programming-focused role, here are a few skills needed to help you hold your own as a communicator:
Prioritization: Start by identifying all the stakeholders and noting down their interests and expectations. Prioritize stakeholders based on their influence and interest in the specific project. Then, use stakeholder mapping and analysis to understand their needs and concerns.
Framework: Create a communication plan that outlines the frequency, method, and content of communication with stakeholders. Use a framework like RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) to define roles and responsibilities for communication.
Methodology: Agile methodologies like Scrum and Kanban emphasize regular communication and collaboration with stakeholders. Use daily stand-up meetings, sprint reviews, and retrospectives to keep stakeholders informed and gather feedback.
Visualization: Visual aids like charts, graphs, and diagrams can help stakeholders understand complex information quickly. Use tools like Gantt charts, flowcharts, and mind maps to illustrate project timelines, processes, and dependencies.
Management: Project management tools like Jira, Trello, and Asana can help software development managers track project progress, assign tasks, and communicate with stakeholders. Use these tools to share project status updates, collaborate on tasks, and gather feedback.
Feedback: Use feedback mechanisms like surveys, focus groups, and user testing to gather feedback from stakeholders. Use this feedback to improve project outcomes and build stakeholder trust.
Transparency: Be transparent about project challenges, risks, and progress. Share both good and bad news with stakeholders early and often. Use frameworks like SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to assess project risks and opportunities.
As a development manager, you’re responsible for your entire team — not just in terms of productivity or output, but also morale and motivation. Working with a team of engineers with different personalities and backgrounds can be quite the challenge, so here are some tips to create a supportive work environment for everyone:
Hire Self-Starters: When hiring people for your team, prioritize candidates who are independent and self-motivated. When starting out in a management role, you may not have the skills and resources to train early-career professionals.
Simplify Onboarding: Establish a structured onboarding process for new team members. This should include an introduction to the company’s culture, processes, and workflows — as well as training on the specific technologies and tools the team uses.
Be Inclusive: Working with a team of developers from diverse cultural and social backgrounds means that you have to put in the effort to be inclusive and supportive of everyone’s needs. Pay attention to the needs of marginalized and disabled team members and make sure they have the resources to succeed.
Encourage Collaboration: As more and more companies switch to a remote or hybrid model, employees can feel isolated and unappreciated. Take every opportunity to celebrate your team’s successes and accomplishments, while using ample team-building events and social activities to foster collaboration. This may include pair programming, code reviews, knowledge-sharing sessions, and more.
Automate Management: When you’re working in a management position, knowing when to automate is one of the most important skills you have to learn. There’s a slew of agile project management tools and platforms dedicated to developers and engineers. Use them to simplify your processes and reduce extra workload.
There are several strategies that software development managers can use to automate administration workflows and reduce manual effort. Here are a few different areas you can focus on and some specific tools and frameworks to help you get started:
Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD): CI/CD is a strategy for automating the process of building, testing, and deploying code changes. This can help reduce the time and effort required to deploy new features and fixes. Popular CI/CD tools include Jenkins, Travis CI, and CircleCI.
Test Automation: Automated testing can help ensure that code changes are thoroughly tested and validated before they are deployed. This can include unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests. Popular platforms include Selenium, Appium, and JUnit.
Code Quality Analysis: Code quality analysis tools can help identify potential issues in code, such as security vulnerabilities or performance bottlenecks. A few great code quality analysis tools include SonarQube, Codacy, and CodeClimate.
DevOps Automation: DevOps automation tools can help automate the process of deploying and managing infrastructure, including servers, databases, and other resources. Popular DevOps automation tools include Ansible, Chef, and Puppet.
ChatOps: ChatOps is a strategy for automating workflows using chat tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. This can include automating tasks such as deployments, incident management, and code reviews. ChatOps tools include Hubot, Lita, and Botpress.
Release Management: Release management tools can help automate the process of managing releases, including version control, release notes, and deployment schedules. Some popular release management tools include GitLab, GitHub, and Bitbucket.
Monitoring and Alerting: Monitoring and alerting tools can help automate the process of monitoring applications and infrastructure for issues or outages. Popular platforms include Nagios, Zabbix, and Prometheus.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are several north-star metrics that help development managers align engineering goals with the organization’s larger business goals.
There’s plenty of metrics that you could be tracking to get a better understanding of your team’s development throughput. However, you should focus on a few key metrics instead of getting bogged down by analysis paralysis. KPIs will vary depending on your organization’s goals, but here are some examples to help you get started:
Time-to-Market: Your time-to-market measures the time it takes to develop and release new functionalities and products. This can help you assess the efficiency of your development process and identify ways to streamline workflows.
Code Quality: Measures the quality of code produced by the development team. This can include metrics such as code complexity, code coverage, and the number of bugs or security vulnerabilities.
Sprint Velocity: Velocity measures the rate at which the development team is able to work through items on their product roadmap. Sprint velocity, specifically, measures the amount of work you can get done in one sprint cycle.
Burndown Rate:Burndown rate is a metric used in agile software development to track the progress of a project. It refers to the rate at which work is being completed and is typically measured in terms of time or work remaining.
Mastering Time Management as a Development Lead
Time management is essential for achieving business goals, meeting deadlines, and keeping the team productive and motivated. It can help you prioritize tasks, optimize workflows, and empower developers to work more efficiently without the need for micromanagement.
By empowering your software team to manage their own time, you can foster a culture of trust and collaboration that can lead to better results and higher morale. However, doing that requires having access to high-quality performance analysis data.
A developer-friendly time-tracking platform like 7pace can help you do just that. It can integrate with your existing stack of development management tools and provide accurate analytics that you can customize to track your organization’s unique set of north-star metrics.
However, when choosing a time-tracking system to track your development workflows, it’s also important to consider what you will do with all that fresh data. Contrary to popular belief, the best use case for development analytics is not performance optimization but predictive analysis. Data can help you develop projection models for setting better goals and deadlines, which can in turn help you fulfill stakeholder expectations without any unnecessary time crunch.
7pace Is the Ultimate Productivity Platform for High-Performing Development Managers
7pace is more than your typical time-tracking tool. Sure, it can help you log development hours to understand the time spent on each project. However, it can also help you get really granular about performance by measuring time per iteration, sprint, team member, and product feature.
But the best part by far about 7pace is just how seamless it is. It integrates natively into your preferred development environment, be it Azure DevOps and GitHub. Then, it lets you combine that environment’s own metrics, such as issue-tracking in GitHub or velocity in Azure DevOps, to create a comprehensive picture of your team’s development throughput.
Want to learn more about why 7pace is the preferred time tracker for development managers at Xero, Motorola, Microsoft, and Deloitte? Sign up for a free trial to see it in action!