How to Encourage Better Collaboration Within Your Developer Teams

When collaboration fails, productivity collapses. How can you improve this crucial facet with your teams?
January 28, 2022
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Your business functions and grows thanks to teams. You might have hired a superstar developer, but even engineers working at unheard-of productivity levels can’t accomplish what a well-functioning team can.

But that’s the key. In order to perform well, a team must function together. In other words, they must be capable of collaboration. When a team can’t collaborate, they fail. So it’s absolutely crucial that you and your business encourage collaboration within the development teams that work tirelessly to keep your company humming.

And it doesn’t matter what type of developers you’re working with (be they Java, JavaScript, C++, Python, offshore, or nearshore), everyone needs to keep their collaboration skills in top form.

So, what can you do to help this along? 

Here are a few tips that can help your teams collaborate more productively and seamlessly.

Set Clear Collaboration Guidelines

This should be the very first thing you do when setting out to improve your team collaboration. Right now, things might be a bit chaotic, with developers doing things in multiple ways and without guidance. Such chaos doesn’t lend itself to efficient collaboration.

Instead, you want to set very clear guidelines for collaboration. You’ll want to address questions  such as:

  • What tools will you use?
  • How are developers to document their code and processes?
  • Should your teams use specific channels with communication platforms?
  • Will all communications be logged?
  • What roles will designated teams have and will each team have a lead responsible for communicating up the chain?
  • What types of information can be shared outside of the team?

It’s absolutely crucial that you create these guidelines and have them available for anyone to read at any time. It’s also important that you update these guidelines and, when you make any changes, you should immediately inform everyone of those changes. Also, make sure every member of every team signs off on the guidelines, so they are aware of what they are.

Employ the Right Tools

It has become quite challenging for teams to collaborate without the right tools. This is especially true when you have some teams working in-house and some who are remote. But even if they are all in-house, you need to employ the proper tools to aid the collaboration process.

Some of the best tools you can use are Slack, Google Workspaces, Office 365, Trello, Asana, Nextcloud (or ownCloud), Dropbox, Git, and GitHub. You’ll want to make sure you have a collaboration tool for communication, file sharing, code repositories, versioning, and even collaborative IDEs.

Create a Conducive Environment

If you’ve not created an environment that is conducive to collaboration, your efforts will stall no matter what you do to prompt your teams. You must foster an environment that helps build teamwork and shares responsibilities and success. You want an environment people not only want to work in but work together in.

This means you must start with a foundation of trust. Not only do your developers need to trust one another, but they also need to trust in your ability to keep things running smoothly. Only once you’ve created such an environment can collaboration move to the next level.

Offer Multiple Means of Communication

Beyond the tools you choose, you must make multiple means of communication available to your teams. This means you should encourage the use of email, phone, face to face, and video communication as well as adopting Slack and similar platforms.

Take this one step further and dedicate a meeting room to your teams that can be used for collaborative purposes. You should only use that room for this and should make the teams feel comfortable when using it. Don’t feel like you have to cater to every whim and furnish the room to meet very specific needs. However, if your team decides to make the room their own, encourage it.

Hold Regular Collaborative Meetings

This is a tricky proposition because regular meetings can really kill productivity. Don’t fool yourself into thinking anyone enjoys attending meetings. They don’t. Even still, you should consider holding monthly or bi-weekly collaborative meetings with your teams. Make sure these meetings are fun and only focused on ways to improve collaboration.

Don’t make these meetings about business and don’t have management in attendance. Let these gatherings be limited to those who are tasked with the collaborative process and no one else.

Encourage Honest and Open Communication

It’s important that your developers understand that you want honest and open communication to be a central part of the collaborative process. If you encourage this from the very beginning, you’ll find team members are more willing to communicate their ideas and concerns.

To encourage this, you must help your teams understand that there’s no such thing as a bad idea and that constructive criticism is the best way to help reach team goals and improve on the process.

At the same time, you need to prevent overly negative and hurtful communication. Should you sense this is happening, stop it immediately or it will do more damage than you think.

Encourage Creativity

Finally, you must encourage creativity. So often team members feel as though their creativity is stifled in lieu of simply getting the work done. Developers love to find creative solutions. Let them. Encourage them.

When your teams know they can really let their creativity out, you’ll find their collaboration grows exponentially. One creative idea will blossom into another until you find every team is thrilled about what they’re doing and ideas flow like water.

Conclusion

Encouraging better collaboration isn’t nearly as challenging as you think it is. With just a bit of work up front and some continued involvement, your development teams will see their collaboration and their productivity skyrocket.

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