A critical component of any team, is communication.
And when it comes to developing customised software applications, middleware integrations, apps or anything in the software development world, it is critical to be able to communicate with your team effectively, to ensure the desired outcome is reached, in the shortest timeframe possible.
Known for being less vocal, developers will often rely on stakeholders to ensure an effective communication process in a project or ongoing relationship. This is where the challenge comes in. Often, stakeholders won’t necessarily know or take for granted “obvious” information that developers may not be aware of, adding complexity and mutual frustrations to a project – which ultimately reads as cost.
To avoid this exact issue, we have a proven process for engaging in a development project. We call it the Working Backwards Process.
But the communication with the creatives in software goes beyond the engagement on new projects. It applies when you are trying to bring to life new features, or simply communicate on the day-to-day needs of an application.
To help you understand the 'developer' way of communication, we sat down with one of our senior developers, Kyle Boucher, and asked him the questions you are asking yourself. This article is the result of our chat with Kyle, and provides a framework for those wanting to get the most of their developers.
Less interruption and more results: Emails are the best way to communicate with a dev team
When developers are working, they get into a flow of work. In development work, there are steps that must be worked through, with each step building upon the other. So, when a developer is interrupted, it may take them 15-30 minutes to find and get back to where they left off.
You can easily see how much time can be lost trying to rework tasks that have already been done, if they are disrupted regularly. Because of this, email is their favorite form of communication.
Bringing context into the conversation is key!
Most likely, your development team has several projects they are working on... and potentially multiple different projects for your company.
For this reason, it is always best to start your communication with context. The key of context in a dev conversation is to keep it simple.
I mean really simple! Starting with you simply replying to an email discussion you are referring to.
Some of the other simple tactics include:
Starting your emails with which project you are referring to (or if it is a new project), what part of the project you are referring to, and then continue with your point of discussion.
You have ideas, a developer can help. But how do you communicate them?
The best way to describe an idea to the developer is by explaining the use case – what you want to be able to do with the application/feature, in context of your own project (can you spot the word context here again?😊).
It is also most efficient to give screenshots of the feature you like/want to replicate (if you have an example form another application), and then describe specific components/use feature you like, and how you would like it to be used in your application.
Going back to the Working Backwards frameworks is also a tactic that never fails.
Raising an issue or asking for clarification
If you find an issue, the best thing you can do is to raise it as soon as possible, preferably in the staging (preview) phase of your project.
The most effective way of raising your problem is sending through an email with screenshots and an explanation of the issue, or what you would like clarification on.
It is also important to know the difference between an issue (or bug), and the change of a feature, and refer to the change appropriately.
Knowing when to pick up the phone, or meet in person
We get that email is the preferred medium of communication for a developer, but it may not always be effective.
In instances when you are unsure of how to solve a problem, or you have a use case but don’t know how it will fit into your project feature wise, it is best to chat through your thoughts with your developer.
The same applies when you are wanting to implement a large new feature, or start a new project. The key for success here is to book this conversation or in person meeting in advance, allowing the team to schedule in time for that chat.
Although this post was written with a developer’s perspective, we get that effective communication is a two-way street. Ensuring success in a development project or relationship goes back to ultimately one key take away: context.
You don’t have to be technical to run a successful software development project. Technical skills can help, but your communication style is what will ultimately contribute to mutual understanding. As with any process, you and your development team should be prepared to iterate and find a common ground.
If you liked this article and would like more content on best practices for software development (and how we apply them at Lancom), send us a note on firstname.lastname@example.org; we’d be delighted to publish content that provides value to you!
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