Today, software is an integral and indispensable part of modern life. It has become a mainstay for effective business strategies; it is decisive in how we communicate with each other; it enables us to get work done at home, entertain ourselves, and stay connected. Software is everywhere.
The truth of the matter is that no one person or team can perfectly predict all challenges, or foresee what lies ahead. The IT world is vast. It encompasses a wide range of possibilities, technologies, programming languages and tools. It is also highly-evolving with new developments emerging at an exponential rate.
Add to this the challenges of cross-cultural and globally distributed development teams, and you have a recipe for potential problems. Communication gaps, conflicting views on how the work should be done, and missed deadlines can all lead to undesirable outcomes.
Effective collaboration is key, regardless of the project scope or size. The key to success is adaptability. A team must be ready and able to adapt in the face of uncertainty, setbacks, and triumphs. They have to be prepared for anything.
This article explores the following topics:
The challenges of being a development team in today’s IT world, The role of knowledge sharing in software development, and Ways to create a collaborative environment for effective team work.
The challenges that lie ahead include:
The following figure illustrates where the challenges typically come from.
This is not an extensive list by any means, but it encompasses some of the common challenges that development teams face.
Over the course of a project, there are bound to be a variety of obstacles and roadblocks. It’s important to remember that not all problems can be foreseen, and there will always be unforeseen obstacles. However, it is possible to set up an environment that will help the team to deal with these challenges in a more efficient fashion.
When there is uncertainty or ambiguity, it can cause problems. The key is to develop and nurture a culture of knowledge-sharing and collaboration.
Creativity and imagination are important factors for success; yet, too much focus on them can hinder progress. Mistakes and shortcomings do happen, and it is important to create a culture of constructive feedback where such issues can be discussed in a productive manner.
Knowledge sharing and collaboration are crucial for effective software development. If each team member is able to contribute their specific knowledge to the project, using their talents to create an effective solution, it is more likely that the final product will be of good quality.
The following are some best practices for fostering a healthy collaborative environment.
1. Work in small, focused, self-contained teams.
2. Ensure that team members are able to communicate effectively with each other, using all of the appropriate channels of communication, whether it’s face-to-face, phone, email or chat.
3. Everyone must feel free to contribute their ideas and expertise, no matter the topic or domain.
4. A healthy balance of responsibility must be struck between team members, so that no one person is overloaded with too much work.
5. Make sure that team members are given the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to perform their work successfully.
6. Keep lines of communication open by constantly checking in with each other, having regular meetings and conducting informal hallway conversations.
7. Encourage an environment of constructive feedback and give constructive feedback on the work of others.
8. If there is a lack of clarity or disagreement about something, resolve it in a professional and timely fashion.
The following is a diagram of the factors that will influence the effectiveness of team work:
1) Communication among team members
2) Openness and willingness to share knowledge
3) Ability for effective teamwork
Based on these elements, a key factor is trust. If team members trust each other, they will feel comfortable sharing information and knowledge. This plays a major role in the success of any project.