By June 14, 2019

Why Programmers Need to Collaborate and How To Help Them

Collaboration is one of the essential drivers of success for modern businesses. Companies need to collaborate with their customers and partners to keep their operations going. Employees need to collaborate to succeed in their activities and show tangible results.

In this reality, software developers also need to adopt a collaborative mindset. You can still find solitary freelancers, but when it comes to working in enterprises, the need for collaboration leaves little space for an ascetic lifestyle.

Even convinced introverts need to demonstrate their collaboration skills; otherwise, it can affect these two major aspects of their professional life:

  1. Integrating into the development team. Finding a common language with team members is critical not just for the project success but also for professional growth, engagement, and satisfaction with the job.
  2. Understanding clients’ and users’ needs. Modern developers aren’t just tech specialists who know how to program. They are psychologists who need to listen to clients, as well as end users, to create software that meets specific needs and expectations.

Luckily, there are dedicated technologies that can help developers and the companies they work for adapt to the collaboration-centric business style.

However, choosing optimal collaboration tools for software development is not an easy task. One of the biggest questions is whether to let programmers use the apps they like or to make them stick to an all-in-one solution.

When Many Suit the One and the One Suits Many

Independent software developers can select a collaboration toolset, according to their tastes. From instant messengers and productivity apps to generally available forums and Q&A platforms, there is a wide choice of solutions that let programmers communicate with their clients, find the knowledge they need, and connect with experts.

At the same time, if you consider the many aspects of collaboration (chatting, calling, emailing, project management, content management, reporting, etc.), it soon becomes evident that a freelancer needs a dozen apps to be well-equipped in different collaboration scenarios. In this context, excellent self-discipline is the only way for a developer to avoid a mess.

In the enterprise setting, software developers can also use multiple collaboration apps. Their number is half as many, though. According to Igloo’s “State of the Digital Workplace 2018,” 49% of IT specialists use up to five collaboration apps at work. Enterprises are more inclined to limit the variety of apps for budgeting, management, and security reasons.

At the same time, enterprises can invest in more expensive yet powerful programmer collaboration tools. Think custom portals that embrace the full spectrum of collaboration needs while making collaboration centralized, unified, transparent, and secure.

Enterprises have a large choice of platforms to organize a multifunctional hub, with Microsoft SharePoint and Atlassian Confluence being among the most widely adopted.

Confluence might be more familiar to programmers, as the platform usually comes together with the popular Atlassian Jira. Confluence frequently serves as a content repository or a knowledge base, but companies can also tune it to a broader range of collaboration scenarios.

As for Microsoft SharePoint, the platform is currently among top collaboration solutions worldwide with over 400K organizations using it daily. Owing to its flexibility, the platform can address the collaboration needs of various user groups, including programmers.

Typically, enterprises will have to go for SharePoint consulting services to build a developer-centric collaboration hub. The positive side is that SharePoint will require fewer customization efforts than Confluence to become an all-inclusive solution.

Office 365 can be an alternative to the SharePoint-only tool, and it can offer companies a wide choice of collaboration and productivity apps within a single cloud-based platform.

All in all, regardless of the option you pick, the final choice should include the functional blocks that cover different aspects of developers’ collaboration. Let’s take a look at the key capabilities.

Must-Haves of a Centralized Collaboration Solution

When your organization decides to launch a dedicated solution for collaboration in software development, make sure it enables the following capabilities:

A Digital Workplace

A collaboration portal can become the starting point of programmers’ everyday work. It can be the gate to essential resources, including development environments, code hosting, content storage, and knowledge bases, as well as the primary way of connecting with peers, team members, managers, users, and clients.

This approach to organizing the workspace puts all the resources in one place and makes them available for programmers at any time and from any device.

Single Storage of Development Documentation

Project specifications, requirements, guidelines, contracts, NDAs, portfolios, and certificates—all of them can be classified, stored, and made accessible for development teams on a collaboration portal.

A consolidated document repository prevents developers from confusion and mistakes occurring from document loss, duplication, or deprecation.

Communication

Chats, forums, discussion boards, and communication sites are invaluable for teams of developers, particularly those that are distributed or include remote employees. All of these channels can be part of a collaboration portal so that developers can join any of them when they need to.

It is also vital to ensure that external users can join the conversation, which is critical for teams that collaborate with clients or users outside of their organization.

Programmers who are used to personal messaging apps might feel uncomfortable at first, as their conversations will be visible to all team members.

However, transparent collaboration in software development helps teams avoid misunderstandings and ambiguities. Furthermore, it ensures collaboration continuity—if a developer drops out of the collaboration process, another team member tuned into the conversation can replace them.

Cross-Team Collaboration

Apart from keeping in touch with their immediate team members, developers need to be able to connect with other specialists involved in development projects.

Testers, web designers, and business analysts are all professionals who work side by side with developers, so they should share a communication medium. A collaboration portal can cover the entire scope of their project-related interactions.

Best Practices

Knowledge is one of the most valuable assets of software developers. Let’s be honest, if a marketer leaves the company, they can be quite easily replaced by a specialist with the relevant expertise.

But if a senior-level developer decides to quit, it usually takes months and months to find a professional with a similar skillset. The task becomes even harder if the developer has been the brains behind particular software for years.

The only way for companies to lower the risk of expertise drain is to organize proper knowledge storage and transfer within development teams through a collaboration portal. Developers can share their knowledge with their peers on the portal, which contributes to easier knowledge discovery and exchange as well as diminishing knowledge gaps.

A Professional Library

Technologies evolve quickly, and developers are in a constant race for new insights. A dedicated digital library can help specialists extend their tech outlook and upgrade their knowledge.

One part of the library can be devoted to the minimum required knowledge in a specific development area. It will be beneficial to help newcomers catch up with the rest of the team.

Another part of the library can contain updates in a particular development field for teams to keep in step with tech changes. However, developers themselves have to update the library regularly. Otherwise, outdated materials can become a source of irrelevant knowledge and cause avoidable mistakes.

Managing Formal and Informal Communities

To keep developers at ease, it is important to cover their needs in both formal and informal communication. That’s why software development collaboration tools should include not only professional resources but also offer a place to create informal communities.

Think of hobby boards or developers’ clubs where programmers can share their interests, passions, and activities and find colleagues with similar tastes and mindset.

What’s in It for Developers?

Looking at all the benefits that collaboration brings to the development process, programmers might think that they should only collaborate to do their employers good. In this case, they can feel tentative when pushed to adopt any centralized collaboration tools for software development.

In reality, developers can get many opportunities for their personal growth out of collaboration by becoming more valuable to their employers and gaining more weight as experts in the tech market.

Overall, the advantages that might seem purely enterprise-oriented can easily translate into advantages for developers’ own good:

  • Having more orderly workflows means lower risks of mistakes and confusion.
  • Connection with peers and experts means access to expert opinions and an opportunity to get unique knowledge firsthand.
  • Regular access to the latest professional content means constant upskilling.
  • Having transparent development processes means full visibility into individual achievements and fair recognition.
  • Connection to colleagues from other disciplines means ways to get cross-domain knowledge and become an industry or cross-domain expert.

Sounds appealing, right? So isn’t it time to start collaborating through your portal already?

“Disclaimer: All views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author based on his/her personal experience, and have not been endorsed, sponsored, or otherwise compensated by the companies or products mentioned therein.”

About the author

Sandra Lupanova

Sandra Lupanova is a Technology Observer at Iflexion, a custom software development company headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Being an expert in team and enterprise collaboration technologies, Sandra guides companies towards effective employee engagement and productivity practices. She has a unique perspective on talent management strategies and offers hands-on tips on improving enterprise-to-employee relationships. Sandra is also keen on data visualization, art, and design.