It takes a village to build great software. Anyone who has ever developed an application knows this. You might be thinking that software development is all about writing code. But that’s far from the truth.
Before coding a piece of software, developers need to receive project requirements documentation, which is the result of the work of many people who transform a vague idea into a well-designed solution. And after writing the code, the software is always tested, deployed, monitored, analyzed, and then expanded to match the evolving requirements.
You can see now that coding is just one of the many steps in the process of building software that involves many different people. That’s why team collaboration is a critical issue.
Read this article to learn:
- why collaboration skills are so important for software developers,
- what happens when team members don’t collaborate well,
- and how to improve your collaboration skills to prepare for working in a development team.
Why is team collaboration important?
- Team collaboration speeds up product development and allows teams to get the product to market faster. That’s because all the team members can address difficulties and problems together.
- Another benefit of team collaboration is that it promotes creative thinking and brainstorming. It helps team members to look at a problem from multiple angles and points of view. That’s how they can enrich their understanding of it and learn something new.
- Since collaborative teams hold regular meetings, they also share a clear vision of their direction. This is how they get to streamline the process of developing software.
- In a collaborative team, every team member is aware of the full project scope and the exact tasks for which they are accountable. This helps to perform efficiently and takes away all effort that would usually go into bringing team members up to speed and keeping them on the same page.
What happens when team members don’t know how to collaborate?
Poor collaboration brings many risks to a software development project:
- If team members skip the meeting, the team doesn’t get to discuss important issues. As a result, making key decisions is put off, and, as a result, the team might miss the deadline. The development process will be longer – and not as fun for the team members involved!
- In teams where collaboration is a problem, it often happens that team members aren’t as interested in the project as they should be. This directly translates into code quality. As a result, the QA experts need to spend more time testing the product, and developers have to rewrite the code (which only increases their frustration).
- Another problem that comes from a lack of cooperation is a lack of knowledge sharing practices. When team members fail to communicate between themselves, they build a negative work environment. If a new member joins the team, sharing knowledge will be a challenge. Integrating that person with the team will take more time, and, as a result, the team might even fail to deliver the project on time.
- Moreover, team members who fail to communicate how they understand the software solution they’re building (its goals and objectives) risk building the wrong product.
OK, so what does successful collaboration look like?
- In a collaborative team, each member serves as an integral piece of the puzzle.
- Team members communicate openly with each other, and everyone is encouraged to ask questions, offer ideas, and brainstorm solutions together. This type of environment is built on trust, and it enables team members to share their ideas and experiences easily.
- Another important trait of a collaborative team is the opportunity to assess solutions from multiple perspectives. Having a diverse team on your project allows creating a truly unique idea.
- Teams rely on the positive attitudes of their team members. If you want to be part of a productive team, it’s essential to instill this type of attitude in the team right from the start. Depending on the company, this can mean providing feedback regularly or sending thank you messages to individual team members after a job is well done. Collaboration practices are at the center of that.
- Naturally, collaborative teams rely on smart leadership. A good team leader ensures that every team member knows how they’re contributing to the project, what exactly they’re in charge of, and how they’re expected to perform. Defining roles and distributing tasks is a critical responsibility of project managers. At the same time, they also need to ensure that the team gets together on a regular basis and keeps track of the project’s progress.
- Whether on-site or remote, a development team can’t instill collaboration without special tools ranging from project management (like Jira or Trello), communication (Skype, Google Hangouts, or Zoom), and document collaboration (Confluence and Google Docs).
So, how do you get there?
As a software developer, you will be expected to demonstrate your collaboration skills. If you don’t know how to be a collaborative team member, you’ll find it troublesome to integrate into the development team and understand the client’s or user’s needs.
Here are some strategies to help you hone your collaboration skills.
1. Be transparent
Transparency is critical for a successful team, but it’s even more important in software development where projects are complicated and rely on many people doing their job well. A collaborative team has the processes and tools that allow communicating openly and building software consistently.
Make sure that you’re using it in a way that makes your work transparent. It should take your team members no time to understand what you’re working on and how far you are in your progress.
2. Understand the process of building software end to end
Don’t be one of those software developers who think that building software is just about coding. Different phases of software development projects are often handled by different teams or even departments.
It all usually starts with business analysts and sales managers who gather the client’s requirements. Then these requirements are handed over to designers who are the ones to create the first mockups and prototypes developers will use in their work. And once the developers start coding, the results of their work land on the desks of QA engineers. If everything works well, the operations team will then take over and deliver the end product to the users.
Sometimes the communication between these teams is lacking, and software developers might misunderstand the process. Pay attention to the work of others and be open to sitting down with the designer or a QA engineer to work with them. If you learn what’s important to them, you’ll be able to deliver work that matches the requirements and anticipates their needs.
3. Understand the client’s needs
Just because the client doesn’t have a clue about what you’re doing when you write code, it doesn’t mean this should go the other way around too. The client will be the one to closely follow your work. They will be interested in what you’re up to.
Trust is difficult to develop in this kind of setting, especially since software development is so expensive. That’s why it’s important to do your best to earn the trust of your clients.
Be open and communicate with clients frequently about your progress. Make sure that they understand how you work and why you prefer delivering results in smaller, more frequent iterations. Be open to communicating with the client, and you’re bound to become a better developer.
4. Learn the essential project management methodologies
Since you will be working in a team, it’s critical that you adopt a process that boosts collaboration and builds a great work environment for everybody. The agile methodology in project management has now given birth to a number of different frameworks, such as Scrum or Kanban. They are key to organizing the overall work structure, so make sure that you know the ins and outs of the approach your team adopts.
5. Share your knowledge
Some software developers believe that keeping valuable knowledge to themselves will make them indispensable. But there’s a problem with that. If a person leaves the project, all this knowledge leaves with them. This puts the company in a tight spot.
If you end up being one of those people, your expertise might eventually make you unpromotable. You might miss out on other career opportunities inside your organization because your expertise is so attached to your current role.
How to avoid that? Take every opportunity to share knowledge with your colleagues. Be open to delegating some parts of your work to them.
6. Engage in collaborations to build even greater things
Avoid blaming people for mistakes (or blaming yourself). Incidents happen; this is just life works. But this is where the interesting part starts as well. It doesn’t make sense to judge a team by how they perform when everything goes smoothly. What matters is how it operates when things become difficult.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at your job – sometimes things will go wrong, and in such moments, you need to handle the situation with dignity and respect.
Don’t focus your energies on finding the scapegoat once you put the fire out. It’s not going to help you avoid mistakes in the future. Carry out a postmortem analysis to figure out what led to the problem, not who is responsible for it.
Becoming a great software developer is not only about developing your technical skills and knowledge. It’s also about being open-minded, collaborative, great at communication, and simply a nice person to work with.
If you want to succeed in this career, you’ll need to learn how to work within a team successfully. We hope that this article points you in the right direction and helps deepen your knowledge in areas that are essential for achieving these skills.
If you’re looking for more insights about how to become a great software developer, check our blog regularly for more materials.