client guides · 31 May 2022

Mobile App Development Team: Structure, Roles and Hiring Models

Victor Lavrentyev

Victor Lavrentyev

Chief Information Officer

mobile app development team structure
Illustration by Amir Kerr

It’s never solely the app’s idea that determines if the app will be successful. Various factors affect an app’s outcome, including its features, design, performance, and many others. However, the app’s development team is one of the most influential factors in an app’s success.

The right development team structure is vital to turning a business idea into a powerful and useful mobile app. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula that assembles the perfect software development team to deliver a thriving mobile app. Many factors influence a team composition, including the app’s scope, complexity, budget, and deadlines. 

To most, app development is uncharted territory shrouded in confusing tech buzzwords and engineering jargon. Today, we’re going to shed more light on the mobile app development team structure and roles to help you navigate the deep waters of the mobile app development world. 

Your Winning Mobile App Development Team Structure 

Before investing in your app development project, it’s better to understand what type of app you plan to build, including its scope, complexity, budget, and deadlines. Then, you can define what specialists you need to turn your business idea into a fully-fledged app. 

For example, let’s assume that you’re going to create a simple mobile app operating on both Android and iOS. In this scenario, your dev team may consist of the following specialists:

  • A project or product manager
  • An iOS developer
  • An Android developer
  • A backend developer
  • A QA engineer
mobile app development team structure.png
Key roles in the mobile app development team structure

Key Responsibilities of Product and Project Managers 

A vast majority of people often confuse product and project managers. While both are manager roles, the product and project managers are responsible for different aspects of a mobile app development project. 

To elaborate, a product manager analyzes market data to assess the viability of your future mobile app and identifies if the market needs your product. Alternatively, a project manager oversees the app development process from start to finish. Specifically, a project manager continuously makes sure the project stays on track, ensuring the project goes as planned while meeting all the deadlines and budget requirements. 

Simply, the difference between these roles is what they manage – a product or a project. A product needs to satisfy all users’ demands and be valuable, while a project needs to be a precise roadmap of software development with fixed deadlines.

Product managers’ roles include:

  • Conducting market research
  • Finding out your USP and core features
  • Analyzing the target audience
  • Identifying what problems users have and how the app can address them
  • Creating a business plan and defining a product roadmap
  • Tracking industry trends

Project managers’ roles include:

  • Estimating your project and planning sprints
  • Prioritizing the tasks
  • Assigning tasks to the application development team
  • Maintaining project documentation
  • Bridging the gap between clients and their development teams
  • Making changes to the development plan
  • Managing the project’s deadlines and staying within the budget

To summarize, the primary role of a project manager is to supervise the mobile app development process and effectively manage their team. Further, they should possess the following hard and soft skills:

  • Adaptability, communication, leadership, conflict management, resourcefulness, creativity, time management, and critical thinking
  • Proactivity, visionary mind, decisiveness, and commitment
  • Knowledge of the following project management approaches, like Agile and Waterfall, and their frameworks, like Scrum or Kanban
  • Familiarity and experience with the following tools for project management like Jira, Asana, and others

Essentially, the list of soft skills for a product manager and a project manager is the same, but their hard skills will be quite different. For example, a project manager deals with project management and should take advantage of planning and scheduling tools, while a product manager deals with a product and has to utilize various analytics tools like Google Analytics, Data.ai, Firebase, etc. 

If a project is relatively simple, you don’t need to have both managers, as one specialist can wear both hats, taking on the roles’ combined responsibilities. Nevertheless, if a project is complex with a large scope, it’s better to hire a product manager and a project manager to divide the responsibilities. Having both specialists in your team can help you deliver a better product within the given timeframe and budget. 

Key Responsibilities of UI/UX Designers 

The primary responsibility of a UI/UX designer is to create the visual part of the mobile application. Specifically, this specialist turns their creativity and imagination into a satisfying user experience and intuitive design.

UI/UX designers’ roles include:

  • Conducting user research and creating user personas
  • Establishing the user flow
  • Creating visual prototypes and app wireframes
  • Drafting app interfaces
  • Analyzing users’ feedback and incorporating it into the app design

Taking into account the what a UI/UX designer does, they should have the following essential tech skills:

  • Experience with design tools like Sketch, Figma, Adobe Photoshop, etc.
  • Familiarity with wireframing, UX research, UI prototyping, and interaction design
  • Tuned into the coding practices to be in the same league with developers

Related: Step-by-Step Guide to Mobile App Design Process

Key Responsibilities of iOS and Android Developers

Ideally, you need to have separate app developers for each mobile operating platform since iOS and Android demand different approaches and programming languages.

Generally, iOS and Android developers are the ones who turn your business idea into a fully-functioning mobile app. The primary responsibility of a mobile developer is to build a mobile app, but their role encompasses much more beyond this task.

iOS and Android developers’ roles include:

  • Turning mockups, wireframes, and sketches into high-quality code
  • Ensuring the quality, performance, and responsiveness of the app
  • Fixing bugs and implementing app updates

Since there are different tools and technologies for every mobile operating platform, let’s look at the foundational skills that are vital for iOS and Android developers. 

Basic skills for an iOS developerBasic skills for an Android developer
Mastery of Objective-C and SwiftMastery of Kotlin and Java 
Knowledge of Xcode IDE and Apple Human Interface GuidelinesKnowledge of Android Studio and Material Designs
Knowledge of the latest trends in building apps for the latest generations of iPadOS and iOSAbility to develop an app that works with a wide range of Android versions, devices, and screen sizes

What if you need to reach both platforms simultaneously, but you have a limited budget? Then, instead of iOS and Android developers, you may want to add a developer to your team who knows how to develop a cross-platform app. This approach can help you reduce development time and cost, but it also carries some performance issues and UX challenges and limits the number of possible features. 

Developers building cross-platform apps should be familiar with:

  • React Native framework
  • Cross-platform app development platforms like Xamarin, Flutter, or Ionic

Related: Benefits of Native Mobile App Development

Key Responsibilities of Backend Developers 

Backend developers are the experts responsible for server work, operational logic, and cloud storage. 

Backend developers’ roles include:

  • Storing, securing, and sharing data with the correct user
  • Using APIs across devices
  • Building frameworks and the app architecture
  • Working with databases, IDEs, and collaboration services
  • Managing payment systems for enabling in-app purchases

As a rule, backend developers are experienced in the following:

  • Programming languages like PHP, Python, Java, .NET, Ruby, or others
  • Database management systems like MySQL and Oracle SQL
  • Code versioning tools like Git

Key Responsibilities of QA Engineers

The primary task of a QA engineer is to ensure that the app has no bugs and adheres to all requirements and the company’s quality standards. QA engineers are involved in every stage of the mobile app development process to detect app crashes and bugs on time. 

QA engineers’ roles include:

  • Interpreting and complying with company quality standards
  • Testing apps manually and running scripts for automated testing
  • Keeping track of test progress and test cases
  • Documenting bugs
  • Creating stringent testing guidelines to determine app quality and release readiness

A QA engineer needs to be on the same page with app developers and designers to run successful test sessions. A highly skilled QA specialist should have:

  • Experience with QA testing tools like Appium, Robotium, and TestComplete
  • Familiarity with bug tracking platforms like Jira or Trello

Stages of App Development and Key Team Members

Turning a business idea into a full-scale mobile application requires expertise, skills, effort, and financial resources. Mobile app development can be divided into the following five stages:

  • Product discovery
  • Idea validation
  • UI/UX strategy
  • Design and development
  • Testing and improvement

The app development stage determines a team’s composition. Here’s what your app development team will look like depending on what stage of the mobile app development process you are at.

mobile app development stages and team roles.png
Mobile app development stages and mobile app development team roles

Project discovery

At this stage, you need to envision your app, its features, and its business logic. While validating your business idea, you need to state the app’s goals, value, and features and research your competitors. The main purpose of the project discovery phase is to create a low-fidelity app prototype to ensure that you and your development team are in the same league. 

Your discovery team should consist of a project manager and a UI/UX designer. Depending on the project complexity or scope, you may also need to hire a product manager to delve further into your users’ ideas, market trends, and motivations for using your product. Without a UI/UX designer, you won’t be able to visualize your business idea or turn the brainstorming sessions into visual mockups. 

Idea validation 

This stage is where you validate your app idea by analyzing initial users’ experiences using a concept validation prototype. Based on the outcomes of the idea validation process, you may either pivot or start to create a medium-fidelity app prototype that will include your app’s flow and UX design. 

While validating your app idea, you will need a project/product manager, a designer, iOS and Android developers, a backend developer, and a QA engineer. 

UI/UX strategy 

At this stage, your team starts developing a detailed user interface and creating a high-fidelity prototype. As a rule, this prototype is interactive so that testers can test the app’s navigation and usability. Further, the prototype allows your team to fix usability bugs and improve the user experience quickly.

Developing a UI/UX strategy involves your entire development team from the idea validation stage, from the project/product manager to the QA engineer. 

Design and development

The design and development stage means that your team will start building a minimal viable product (MVP) to field test your business idea. An MVP is a version of the app that is feature-oriented and includes just the basic functionality that solves the primary pain points of the target audience.

The design and development stage is the backbone of the mobile app development process, requiring iOS and Android developers, a backend developer, a project/product manager, and a UI/UX designer. 

Related: Full Guide on How to Build an MVP

Testing and improving 

This stage includes the analysis of user experience to fix all crashes and bugs and make any changes necessary to make your app the best it can be. In short, it is the final check on the application before sending it to the app stores.

At the final stage of your project, QA engineers play a leading role. Your testing and improving team should consist of a QA engineer, a project/product manager, iOS and Android developers, and a backend developer.

If you need to get your app to the market as soon as possible and have the financial resources, you can engage more developers and IT specialists to help develop your app faster for an additional cost.

Determining the Right App Development Team Structure

Now that we have covered which IT specialists you may need to turn your app idea into a fully-fledged mobile app, you’ll want to determine your team’s structure. However, before deciding on your team’s final composition, it’s better to understand the scope and complexity of your app by considering the following factors:

  • Mobile platforms you’re going to reach
  • App complexity and planned number of features
  • Your development team’s expertise
  • App development project deadlines
  • Available budget

When looking at app complexity, mobile apps will fall into three categories – simple, medium, and complex. 

  • Simple apps come with standard features, a laconic design, and a few buttons.
  • Medium apps have more complex functionality, more screens and features, and a complex design.
  • Complex apps offer high-tech features, interactive design, built-in payments systems, and smart chatbots.

Let’s assume that you need a full mobile app development team that consists of an iOS or/and Android developer, a backend developer, a project/product manager, a UI/UX designer, and a QA engineer. Here’s how much time it will take them to deliver a fully-fledged mobile app for each complexity:

  • 2-4 months for a simple app
  • 6-10 months for a medium app
  • 8+ months for a complex app

You can always add more specialists to your team to develop your app faster. However, if you don’t have the resources for extra developers, you can start with an app for just one platform and simplify its functionality; this approach can help you launch faster without going over your budget. 

Choosing a Mobile App Development Team for Your Project

Now that you know the size and structure of your app development team, it’s time to find and hire developers for your project. Essentially, there are five employment models:

  • In-house developers are specialists who share the same office space with your company and dedicate 100% of their time to your project. Employing in-house developers means that you take care of all the management and control every development stage.
  • Freelancers are great when you need separate specialists for short-term projects or one-time jobs. You can hire freelancers directly by looking through their portfolios on freelance marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr.
  • A dedicated team is an entire team of IT specialists from a third-party provider that you can hire for your project. As a rule, a team consists of developers, designers, and QA engineers. The following specialists work exclusively on your project and interact with your in-house team.
  • Staff augmentation is a way to power up your existing app development team by adding needed specialists. Outstaffed engineers become a part of your team and fill in the expertise gap.
  • Outsourcing means you can take the whole app development process off your hands. Your outsourcing provider leads all the development processes from start to finish.

Kickstart Your Mobile App Development with Orangesoft 

Hiring the right team to build your mobile app solution is critical to launching a successful mobile app. Now that you understand which specialists your team needs and when you’ll need them, it's time to assemble your team. At Orangesoft, we have everyone from project managers to QA engineers ready to deliver high-quality mobile apps for multiple business domains. 

Contact us to discuss the team structure you need to turn your idea into a full-scale mobile app.

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