Two Ways to Improve Your Software Development Team’s Communication Plan

We’ve all been there. You’re hyper-focused to the point where you lose all sense of time. In fact, you glance at the clock and you’re shocked to realize that six hours have elapsed. It only felt like an hour or two tops. You’ve been totally oblivious to the people and things around you too. While you were coding, your co-workers totally rearranged their cubicles and it would seem your phone rang a few times too…how did you fail to notice that? Well, it’s actually pretty simple: you were in the zone. Your co-workers could’ve re-routed a Mardi Gras parade through the office and you probably wouldn’t have noticed unless someone tripped on your power cord.

The tech industry tends to attract highly-intelligent, super-focused individuals who are independent workers and deep thinkers. Although this is beneficial in many respects, communication challenges can arise. Prior to the rise of agile development methodologies, a collaborative and communicative team approach was fairly uncommon in the techsphere. This means that many companies lack well-established communication protocols and tools, while many non-Millennial techies require training to develop the strong communication skills that are so essential in today’s tech industry.

The Cost of Poor Communication Amongst Developers and Others in the Tech Industry

Poor communication can be very costly. One study examined 400 large enterprises with 100,000 employees or more. Average annual losses totaled $62.4 million dollars per company, for a total combined loss of approximately $37 billion. Researchers also found that smaller businesses, companies with an average of 100 employees, sustained an annual loss of $420,000.

Another study estimated cumulative per-worker productivity losses at $26,041 all resulting from communication barriers and poor communication practices.

Poor communication can lead to other problems, too, including:

  • Delays and setbacks;
  • Poor productivity levels;
  • Frustration and poor morale; and
  • Errors, omissions and mistakes.

On the flip side, companies with highly communicative company leaders saw returns totaling 47 percent higher over a five-year period when compared to firms where communication is not emphasized. But how do you implement measures that will actually improve your software development team’s communication plan? A two-pronged approach tends to be the most effective at providing tech talent with the tools and the skills that they need to succeed.

Prong 1: Tools and Opportunities to Promote Better Communication Amongst Team Members

Strong interpersonal communication won’t just happen spontaneously. You need to provide the tools that your software developers need to connect and collaborate in an intuitive, productive way.

Agile project management software: Developer-specific project management software like Jira can go a long way toward facilitating stronger communication amongst the members of your development team. You’ll have a portal that promotes communication surrounding workflow, whether it’s coding and development with the portals BitBucket add-on, or continuous integration-related communications with Jira’s Bamboo integration. Stronger communication tends to be a natural byproduct if developers are made aware of what others are doing at particular point in time.

Company-wide messaging tools: Messaging tools can be very useful in allowing for stronger communication, whether your development team is on opposite ends of the office or opposite sides of the planet. However, these tools are only effective if everyone uses the same one. So choose a messaging system to serve as your company’s default. Look for an interface that can be used on all devices and offers a full range of features, such as chat groups, voice calling and video chatting. Offering a few different tools within a single interface can be useful, as this provides your team with an opportunity to pick the communication method that feels most intuitive in a particular situation.

Daily morning meetings: The tradition known as the daily morning meeting has long-been practiced in the sales industry, in newsrooms and in a variety of other business niches. But only recently have tech companies started hosting morning meetings. It’s a tradition that has emerged alongside agile, team-based development methodologies. Morning meetings can serve as a wonderful team-building opportunity, allowing for updates and promoting a higher level of communicativeness.

Prong 2: Promoting Stronger Communication Skills in Your Tech Team

The right communication tools and opportunities are absolutely useless if nobody uses them! This is where interpersonal communication comes into play.

An introvert is apt to look within himself in situations where a more extroverted peer might look outward to others. For instance, when an introvert stumbles upon a question, he seeks the answer on his own, whereas an extrovert asks a coworker.

The tech field tends to attract highly intelligent, logical, analytical introverts. As such, this industry is one where you’re more apt to encounter individuals who lack a highly refined communication skill set. Of course, there is a broad spectrum. While a small number of individuals may truly struggle to communicate, most tend to be more solitary because a highly communicative approach just doesn’t feel natural or comfortable.

Since the technology field tends to have a higher proportion of introverts and lone wolves, companies can really benefit from implementing strategies designed to grow and develop an individual’s communication skills.

Convey the importance of strong communication: Techies tend to examine problems in a very logical, practical and methodical way. Use this to your advantage and make it clear precisely why communication is so important. Take a problem solution approach as you explain the role of communications. Explain the challenge that you’re seeking to overcome and then discuss how better communication should help you to overcome the challenge. This also provides the team with an opportunity to start developing their own unique solutions to the problems that result from poor communication.

Workshops to grow communication skills: A natural introvert or “lone wolf” may simply lack the skills required to communicate in a fast, efficient way. So invest in workshops designed to teach these skills in a fun, engaging way. The best workshops will also create a sense of unity, which is also key to the success of your software development team. In fact, that leads us into our final point…

Team-building exercises: As humans, we tend to be more communicative when we feel like we’re part of a team. This requires a sense of unity and belonging. Therefore, it’s critical that your developers feel as though they’re working with others to achieve something greater. This is where it can be useful to invest in team-building workshops and even retreats that are designed to help form stronger bonds.

Establishing Communication Protocols for Developers

Once you’ve provided the tools and opportunities, company leaders should work with supervisors and team leaders to get a sense for what best practices should be implemented as part of a larger software development communication policy.

Your communication protocols should address a number of different areas, including:

  • What tools and platforms will be used to communicate;
  • When to use a particular communication tool;
  • Precise situations that should prompt specific forms of communication; and
  • Who should be involved or cc’d in specific communications.

Each development team is comprised of unique individuals with some equally unique dynamics. So it’s wise to afford your team some control over precisely how they connect and collaborate. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and what works for one team may be woefully ineffective for another team. For this reason, it can be very beneficial to actively involve your software development staff as you develop new protocols.

Also remember that your development team will evolve over time, as will the technology that you use on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s essential that you revisit your protocols periodically to maintain maximum efficiency and productivity.

Many companies can also benefit from working with developers who serve as positive role models for their less communicative peers. At iTech, our well-established development teams have been dispatched to a vast range of different work environments. Strong communication is one of the keys to our success.

Through a unique tech and IT staffing practice known as insourcing, our talented teams are embedded in dozens of different companies. This experience has transformed our tech specialists and developers into strong communicators who routinely accomplish far more than the tech project that they were assigned to complete. It’s not uncommon for our clients to gain lots of useful insight into what it means to be an adept communicator and team player in today’s tech field. industry. If you need help with a development project and wish to learn more about insourcing, contact iTech today.

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