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How Many Developers Should a Software Development Manager Manage?

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Nicole Doughton Recruiting Tips

When you’re building a team for your business, it’s important to consider each role carefully. This will ensure you have a solid structure in place to keep things running smoothly. This includes having the right number of employees at each level with clearly defined roles and a workable hierarchy.

The role of a Software Development Manager is critical. They are responsible for leading your team of developers, as well as reporting back to the senior management team. They often make hiring decisions within their team, as well as training employees to reach their potential. It’s a multi-faceted role that requires a great deal of skill to perform well.

Software Development Managers need to have excellent communication skills, be adept at problem-solving, know how to lead a team effectively and work across multiple departments. They also need to have the technical and analytical skills relevant to your specific operations.

With such a key role to play in your business, it’s therefore important to build a team of the right size for a Software Development Manager to manage. Too many people and the Software Development Manager can be stretched thinly and unable to complete all their tasks. But what is the magic number?


Factors to consider

There’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to the number of developers per Software Development Manager’s team. There are various factors to consider that will help you get the right balance.

First, it depends on the size of the business and the number of departments the Software Development Manager is required to work with. In some companies, this could be HR, senior management, the end customers and the sales team, as well as their own team of developers. In a large company, there may be multiple Software Development Managers who all need to work together seamlessly. Having a clear idea of what is expected from your Software Development Manager and a defined job description helps to pin down the key elements of the role.

Not all Software Development Manager roles are the same. For some, it’s purely a management role, which requires organising the team and ensuring projects are developed and delivered on time. In other businesses, the Software Development Manager is also expected to take on some coding as part of their role. Those who are expected to code will inevitably be able to manage fewer members of staff while retaining high productivity.


Effective management levels 

If there’s a large development team, the Software Development Manager will end up spending more time on administrative tasks. However, a smaller team will feel the impact more if an employee is off sick, or if a sudden piece of work comes in and increases workload. It’s best to create a team that suits your business where employees are not working at 100% capacity all the time. There needs to be a little leeway to ensure that if a project gets delayed, there is some wiggle room to cope with extra demands.

There are pros and cons to both small and large teams. In a small team, a Software Development Manager can spend more time with their team and supervise more closely. They can also prioritise training and personal development, which creates a strong, well-rounded team. However, it can be more expensive in the long run; as the team grows, more Software Development Managers would be needed to maintain the same workload. Also, it gives the individual developers potentially less freedom and there is the risk of micromanagement.

In a large team, the Software Development Manager can step back from the day-to-day development work. This allows the developers to grow in their own roles, with more tasks delegated directly to them. It also means there can be a smaller reporting structure, as the Software Development Manager has the time to gather data and liaise with other departments. However, team members may feel under-supported and have less of a connection with their managers.


The magic number

There’s a lot to think about. The right answer comes down to the way your business is run, and what you want your Software Development Manager to achieve.

There are plenty of theories regarding the optimum number of employees per manager. The span of control is often used when it comes to defining business administration. This looks at the number of employees a manager can effectively have directly reporting to them. Even this fails to give an exact number, as it is dependent on so many factors – like those we’ve already outlined. The consensus is that 3-8 direct reports is a good level to aim for, but you can always adapt to the needs of your business.


If you’re looking to recruit a Software Development Manager for your business, get in touch with Spectrum IT to see how we can help you find the perfect candidate for the role.