Your software development team creates software marvels for your team or customers. A product manager will define a workflow and a timeline for tasks then it’s up to your developers to work their magic and build the product. In a perfect world, everyone would get along and all would go according to plan – of course, this is rarely the case!
As an IT manager, you realize that all hell can break loose out of nowhere. Between mitigating support issues and managing other processes or teams, dealing with your developers is a whole other animal. Rather than create discord with these folks, learning to empathize with their stressors to keep them as happy and productive as possible is the best course of action.
The software developer archetype
Almost everyone has worked with a cantankerous individual at some point in their career. Jimmy Fallon’s character from SNL, Nick Burns the “Computer Guy” probably comes to mind. If you’re not familiar with the character or need a refresher, take a few minutes to watch the video below.
Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy with Billy Bob Thornton
Watch Saturday Night Live highlight ‘Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy with Billy Bob Thornton’ on NBC.com
Hopefully, your team doesn’t have anyone quite so dramatic or condescending – if you do, this is either a good coaching opportunity or time to dip into the talent pool to find a replacement! While some developers can develop attitudes as they do apps, it’s not necessarily because of a personality issue. It usually boils down to poor communication from multiple angles.
Talent in almost any kind of highly-technical role may feel challenging to communicate with at times, especially if you’re not well-versed in their specific skillset. But it doesn’t have to turn into a major issue. With proper communication, it becomes much easier to build trust and maintain with developers.
6 tips to work better with your software development team
In addition to app development best practices, leadership techniques need to be refined to effectively work with development teams. A software developer – along with others who write code – will have better experiences if management implements the following tips into their leadership method.
Don’t try to BS them, especially if you don’t code. This is a frustrating element in virtually every role of every industry. If you try to position yourself as knowledgeable by simply spitting out buzzwords, this will reduce faith in management competency. Don’t feel obligated to “hang” or chime in during technical bits of conversation meetings. Instead, listen as you may learn something new! After all, Mark Twain once said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
Understand prioritization and create alignment. You’ll likely work alongside a project or product manager who has expectations for deliverables and timeframes but they should also understand the necessity to handle bugs and other unexpected obstacles first. Hopefully, this person is savvy enough to understand which tasks take precedence over the others. Communicate with your developers to understand the nature of issues as this will allow you to relay pertinent information to other teams. If a delay is expected because a problem implementing a new feature turns out to be more complex than originally thought, extract the details from the development team. Just make sure to avoid harsh criticism during the discussion!
Help refine workflow as needed. Try to establish brief touchpoints on a regular basis – it could be quick meetings on a daily or weekly basis, depending on the project. Too, you might find it more productive to open a channel on your collaboration or messaging software then address individual issues as needed. Find a way to figure out the status of each given task as efficiently as possible then work with other managers to resolve issues quickly. This will help keep developer annoyances at bay and ideally eliminate situations when a team member responds saying, “I emailed you about this last week…” Implement a collaboration solution like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Hangouts, or something else that allows teams to communicate in real-time.
Don’t drive your team into the ground by working late nights and weekends. With any role, the lack of a work-life balance can affect people in a variety of ways. Trying to slam out a project to meet a strict deadline by having developers work long office hours (or hole up after hours away from their family) will degrade morale. There will be times that people either need to take a moment to themselves at work to recalibrate themselves or time off. Sure, this can cause setbacks but it’s far better than losing a great team member who feels overwhelmed! State your timeframes and make sure that staff knows that long hours are likely when wrapping up a project, but they should not be the norm.
Develop cross-department teamwork through communication. It can feel extremely frustrating for a developer who needs to use a proxy for communication with another department. It can also be irritating for other staff (such as marketing) who can’t easily access developers for small requests like for companies that use a headless CMS to deliver content when authoring tools either aren’t available or can’t be used to edit content. Set boundaries and allow teams to interact with freedom – this will help alleviate gaps in productivity. Teams with direct access to each other can build rapport with each other as well as feel less isolated.
Understand the “iron triangle” of development. There is a zero-sum balance between the scope, time, and resources needed for a project that many refer to as the iron triangle. Increases to any one point will require modifying all points – for example, reducing the time to go live will require sacrificing scope and resources. Ultimately, you need to keep in mind can’t add or subtract too much from any single variable without altering the others. Think of it like a chemical equation: everything has to balance!
Reach out to Blue Label Labs for your development project
Software developers can be difficult without good leadership skills and a great communication strategy. Sure, you’ll likely encounter unique individuals in the development world but they don’t have to be difficult. Communicate with your internal and external teams. Above all, treat everyone with respect, it’s how everyone wants to be treated and what delivers the best results.
Touch base with us at Blue Label Labs – even if you haven’t worked with developers before, we can help you ease into the process and ultimately deliver a great product.
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