Communication Essentials: What’s Needed Between Your Business Stakeholders and Your Software Development Team

Posted on: April 13th, 2015 - Written by: Tom Metz

Some businesses have teams that do their software development in house, while others choose to outsource the work. Both routes have pros and cons, but one thing is constant regardless of which approach you choose: communication must be good between you as a business stakeholder and your software development team. If communication is either nonexistent or poor, the end result will be far from the target, and we can say with certainty that neither party will be pleased—not the development team, and certainly not you.Communication Essentials: What’s Needed Between Your Business Stakeholders and Your Software Development Team

What can you do to improve communication between the people who decide what needs to be done software-wise and the people who make it happen? How can you avoid the communication pitfalls that lead to failed projects, blown budgets, and ever-delayed delivery times?

It is possible to foster good communication between your business and your web development team, whether software development is under your roof or outsourced elsewhere. Let’s talk about some things that will help.

In order for effective communication to take place when it comes to software development (really, when it comes to any type of collaborative effort), there are a few characteristics that must be practiced by all parties involved. What are they? Let’s take a look:

  • Listening. A no-brainer, right? In order to have good communication, we must listen to the person speaking. The development team must listen to the requirements being presented, but the stakeholder must also listen to what the development team says—what’s realistic, what’s possible, how long it will take, etc.
  • Understanding. Both sides need to understand the full scope of the project. Not an understanding down into the nitty gritty details about individual lines of code, but a true understanding of what the project needs are and what is being undertaken. Misunderstandings that are not clarified and corrected near the beginning of a project can be extremely difficult (and costly) to rectify later.
  • Realism. A big tension between visionaries (those who decide what needs to be developed) and enactors (those who actually make it happen) can arise when there is not a good grasp of reality—and software development projects do not escape this tension. What is possible technically? What is possible financially? Everyone around the table must be realistic about the project in order for things to run smoothly.
  • Intuition. Intuition is not a substitute for hard work and discipline, but intuition can sometimes help avoid mistakes. Is someone on either side (the development team or the business team) raising a red flag about the scope, timeframe, or budget of the project? It pays to listen—that person may have a gut feeling that proves to be
  • Responsiveness. Communication is damaged when one or more parties decide (either intentionally or unintentionally) to be unresponsive. We’re not talking about delayed emails or phone calls—we’re talking about a failure to engage, especially when key decisions need to be made. This kind of attitude can certainly derail a project very
  • Composure. Projects of any kind do not thrive when hotheads rule the process. It is not realistic (point #3!) to think that disagreements won’t happen when creating a new product or process. They are bound to happen—but those who remain calm and collected even in the face of conflict will experience more success than those who don’t.

The qualities listed above are ones that should be targeted by both web development teams and their stakeholder clients. Aiming for these characteristics will improve communication, and good communication will improve a project’s outcome.

If you’re looking for an outsourced web development company to create mission-critical software for your business, there are some additional things (other than the communication characteristics above) to check for when making your choice:

Look for a web development company that has a professional services team. A web development group that has people dedicated to professional services is likely ahead in the area of communication, says John Blomberg, president of INSite Business Solutions, “A professional services team ensures good communication between business stakeholders and those doing the software development.”

Look for a web development team that has a business analyst. What is a business analyst? A business analyst acts as a liaison between a web development team and its clients. He or she facilitates definition and documentation of business and technical requirements for each project and communicates a project’s status, issues, and concerns to individual project managers. A business analyst’s role is crucial to a project’s success, advocates Thomas Wailgum, who writes for CIO. In his article entitled “What Do Business Analysts Actually Do for Software Implementation Projects?”, Mr. Wailgum lists eight key responsibilities of a business analyst. He says an analyst must “scope the system, interpret business needs, translate technical issues, spell out project details and requirements, put the development team in touch with the right people, [act as a] political guide, [provide] test[ing] and validation, and represent project stakeholders throughout the process.”

Ideally, a web development team chosen for your software project should have both a business analyst and a professional services team in order to achieve the best possible outcome for you as a stakeholder. Good communication between the development team and the business side can deepen over time, but the essentials should be present from the get-go; anything less should raise a red flag.


Comments are closed.