Understanding Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) in Remote Software Development Teams

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Full Time Equivalent (FTE) refers to a metric used to determine the number of full-time employees or their equivalent needed for a specific project or task. FTE helps in calculating the workload and capacity allocation required for the development team. By understanding the concept of FTE, organizations can effectively plan and optimize their remote software development teams.

This article explores the significance of FTE in remote software development teams, discussing how implementing this unit of measurement helps in capacity allocation, team collaboration, productivity monitoring,  cost optimization, and continuous improvement.

How to measure FTE (Full-time equivalent units)

The Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) is a unit of measurement that represents the amount of time worked relative to a standard full-time schedule. It is used to calculate "hours worked" instead of counting the number of employees for budgeting, forecasting, staffing, and wage calculations.

In the FTE calculation, part-time employees are counted as a fraction of full-time employees, typically based on the number of hours they work. For instance, a part-time employee who works 20 hours would be considered as a 0.5 FTE, as the baseline for a full-time employee is set at 40 hours.

Suppose a company has 10 employees, 5 of whom work full-time (40 hours per week) and 5 of whom work part-time (20 hours per week). To calculate the FTE for this company, we can use the following formula:

FTE = (Total Hours Worked by Part-Time Employees + Total Hours Worked by Full-Time Employees) / (Number of Available Full-Time Hours in Year)

The number of available full-time hours in a year is most frequently 2,080. Therefore, the FTE for this company would be:

FTE = ((5 x 20) + (5 x 40)) / (40 x 52) = 7.5

Therefore, the FTE calculation for this company is 7.5.

Ideas for Leveraging FTE in Remote Development Teams

Capacity Allocation

To make the most effective use of full-time equivalent (FTE) in remote software development teams, it is important to accurately evaluate project requirements to determine the ideal number of developers needed. By taking into account factors such as complexity, timeline, and workload, organizations can allocate talent efficiently and ensure that the development team has the right number of members. This not only improves productivity and ensures timely project delivery, but also optimizes costs and capacity utilization.

In addition, effective workload management involves evaluating the capacity of each team member and distributing tasks and responsibilities in a balanced manner. By avoiding overloading or underutilization of talent, organizations can maximize team efficiency and contribute to successful project outcomes.

Accurately determining the optimal number of developers required for each task enables organizations to promote productivity and ensure timely project delivery. By evaluating the workload capacity of each team member, tasks and responsibilities can be distributed in a balanced manner, optimizing team performance and contributing to successful project outcomes. Effective workload management also plays a crucial role in avoiding overloading or underutilization of talent.

Here are some methods for assessing and understanding the workload that each developer can handle:

1. Assess the complexity of each task and assign it to a developer based on their skill level. This ensures that tasks are allocated to developers according to their abilities, which can help reduce their workload.

2. Time Tracking: Track the amount of time each developer spends on tasks. This can help identify overworked developers and those who can take on additional tasks.

3. Workload Analysis: Analyze the workload of each developer over a period of time. This can help identify workload patterns and areas where workload can be balanced more effectively.

4. Team Feedback: Gather feedback from team members regarding their workload. This can help identify areas where workload distribution is ineffective and allow managers to make necessary adjustments.

Using FTE to foster Team Collaboration

Fostering effective collaboration within a team is crucial for successful software development projects.  Here are some ways to use FTE to foster team collaboration:

1. Diverse and Complementary Teams: By considering the FTE of each developer, you can ensure that the workload is distributed appropriately among team members.  For example, if you have two developers with a total FTE of 1.0, it means that they can collectively work on a project as if it were being handled by one full-time employee. This can help determine the number of developers needed for a project and ensure that the workload is distributed evenly.

2. Create diverse teams with members who have complementary skills and expertise. This diversity promotes knowledge sharing and cross-functional collaboration, as team members can learn from each other's experiences and perspectives.

3. Knowledge Sharing: Encourage team members to share their knowledge and expertise. Utilize the FTE metric to identify areas where certain team members excel and can provide guidance or mentorship to others. This collaborative environment fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

4. Cross-functional Collaboration: Use FTE to identify developers with different skill sets and assign them to projects or tasks that require their specific expertise. By leveraging the strengths of each team member, you can create cross-functional collaboration opportunities, allowing developers to work together on challenging problems and drive innovative solutions.

5. Regular Communication and Feedback: Implement regular communication channels, such as team meetings or stand-ups, to facilitate collaboration and information sharing. Encourage open and constructive feedback among team members, leveraging the FTE metric to ensure everyone's contributions are valued and respected.

6. Collaborative Tools and Technologies: Utilize collaboration tools and technologies that enable seamless communication and collaboration among team members. These tools can include project management platforms, instant messaging apps, and virtual meeting software. By leveraging technology, teams can overcome geographical barriers and collaborate effectively, regardless of their physical location.

Productivity Monitoring

By using Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) as a metric, organizations can assess the productivity of their development team and identify areas for improvement. Let's explore these ideas to enhance team performance :

1. Setting Productivity Goals: Utilize FTE as a metric to set productivity goals for the development team. By establishing targets based on FTE utilization, you can define clear expectations and benchmarks for performance. These goals can be measured and tracked over time to assess the team's progress and identify areas for improvement.

2. Tracking FTE Utilization: Monitor the FTE utilization of each team member to gauge their productivity. FTE provides a quantitative measure of the workload each developer is handling. By regularly tracking and analyzing FTE utilization, you can identify patterns or discrepancies that may indicate areas of underutilization or overburdening. This information can help you optimize capacity allocation and workload distribution.

3. Comparing FTE Against Project Goals: Compare the actual FTE utilization against the project goals to evaluate the team's productivity. If the FTE utilization falls short of the targets, it may indicate inefficiencies or bottlenecks in the development process. Conversely, if the FTE utilization exceeds the goals, it may suggest that the team is overworked or that certain tasks could be streamlined. By analyzing these gaps, you can take corrective actions and implement strategies to improve productivity.

4. Identifying Areas for Improvement: Use FTE data to identify specific areas for improvement within the development process. For example, if certain team members consistently have low FTE utilization, it may indicate a need for additional training or support. If there are significant variations in FTE utilization across different projects or tasks, it may highlight the need for process optimization or workload balancing. By pinpointing these areas, you can implement targeted initiatives to enhance productivity.

5. Regular Performance Reviews: Incorporate FTE utilization as part of regular performance reviews and feedback sessions. By discussing FTE metrics with team members, you can provide them with insights into their productivity and identify growth opportunities. This feedback loop encourages open communication, fosters accountability, and empowers team members to take ownership of their productivity.

Remember, monitoring productivity using FTE is just one aspect of assessing team performance. It should be complemented by qualitative measures, such as code quality, meeting deadlines, and overall project success. By combining quantitative and qualitative assessments, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of the team's productivity and make informed decisions to optimize their performance.

Cost Optimization

When hiring nearshore and offshore software developers, Full Time Equivalent (FTE) can be leveraged to optimize costs. Here are some ways to use FTE to optimize cost when hiring  software developers:

1. Comparing Hourly Rates: FTE allows you to compare the cost of hiring developers in different countries based on their hourly rates. By evaluating the FTE costs of developers in various locations, you can make informed decisions on where to hire based on cost-effectiveness.

2. Considering Skill Levels: FTE also takes into account the skill levels of developers. When comparing costs, it's essential to consider the expertise and experience of developers in different countries. While hourly rates may vary, the quality of work and skill sets offered by developers can greatly impact the overall value and cost-effectiveness of hiring decisions.

3. Assessing Quality of Work: In addition to cost, it's crucial to evaluate the quality of work provided by nearshore software developers. FTE can help you assess the reputation and track record of developers in different countries. By considering factors such as past projects, client testimonials, and reviews, you can ensure that you are hiring developers who deliver high-quality work.

4. Long-term Cost Analysis: When optimizing cost, it's essential to consider the long-term implications of hiring decisions. While hourly rates may be lower in some countries, other factors such as communication barriers, time zone differences, and cultural compatibility can impact overall project efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Therefore, it's crucial to conduct a comprehensive cost analysis that considers both immediate and long-term factors.

By leveraging FTE to optimize cost when hiring software developers, organizations can make informed decisions that balance cost-effectiveness with quality and efficiency. It allows for a thorough evaluation of various factors, such as hourly rates, skill levels, and quality of work, ensuring that the chosen developers meet both budgetary and project requirements.

Continuous Improvement

To promote continuous improvement in remote software development teams, organizations can utilize Full Time Equivalent (FTE) data and implement strategies to improve team efficiency and productivity over time. Here are some ideas for applying FTE to drive continuous improvement:

1. Regularly review and analyze FTE data: Regularly reviewing and analyzing FTE data is crucial for identifying trends, bottlenecks, and areas for improvement. By examining FTE utilization, workload distribution, and team performance metrics, organizations can gain insights into the effectiveness of their development processes. This data-driven approach allows for informed decision-making and targeted improvements.

2. Identify areas for improvement: By analyzing FTE data, organizations can identify specific areas that require improvement. This can include identifying developers with consistently low FTE utilization or projects that consistently exceed their allocated resources. By pinpointing these areas, organizations can implement targeted initiatives to enhance team efficiency and productivity.

3. Implement process enhancements: Based on the identified areas for improvement, organizations can implement process enhancements to optimize team performance. This can involve streamlining development workflows, adopting Agile methodologies, or introducing new tools and technologies to improve collaboration and productivity. By continuously refining and optimizing processes, organizations can drive efficiency and ensure successful project outcomes.

4. Encourage feedback and knowledge sharing: Creating a culture of continuous improvement involves encouraging feedback and knowledge sharing among team members. By leveraging FTE data, organizations can facilitate discussions around workload distribution, resource allocation, and productivity. This collaborative environment allows team members to share insights, propose ideas, and collectively work towards enhancing team efficiency.

5. Track the impact of improvement initiatives: As improvements are implemented, it is important to track their impact on FTE utilization and overall team performance. By comparing FTE data before and after implementing process enhancements, organizations can measure the effectiveness of their improvement initiatives. This feedback loop enables organizations to refine their strategies and continuously iterate towards higher levels of efficiency and productivity.

6. Promote a culture of learning and growth: Continuous improvement goes hand in hand with fostering a culture of learning and growth. By encouraging professional development opportunities, providing training resources, and recognizing individual and team achievements, organizations can motivate their teams to embrace continuous learning. This commitment to growth cultivates a dynamic and adaptable workforce that constantly seeks to improve.


The concept of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) plays a crucial role for software development teams. By leveraging FTE, organizations can accurately assess the number of developers needed for a project, compare the cost of hiring developers in different countries, and calculate workload and capacity allocation. Optimizing FTE in nearshore software development leads to improved team efficiency, enhanced collaboration, and increased productivity. It also allows for cost optimization and informed decision-making.

By considering both quantitative and qualitative aspects, organizations can drive successful outcomes in their software development projects. The effective utilization of FTE enables organizations to maximize their resources, optimize project timelines, and deliver high-quality software solutions.

If you are looking to hire full-time developers to increase your team's capacity, consider BetterWay Devs. We are a trusted partner for recruiting and hiring software developers in South America. Learn more about our services here, or schedule a call to get assistance in building a great team.

Paula Tellez

BetterWay Devs Inbound Marketing Manager


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