Agile methodologies such as DevSecOps have instilled collaborative habits in many development teams. But developers still struggle to work effectively with other stakeholders in the development process. And hybrid work environments have made collaboration that much more challenging.
In fact, across departments, employees cite collaboration issues among the chief difficulties of hybrid work, recent research shows. Workers experience deficits in team collaboration, working relationships and connection with the organization’s culture.
A key problem for developers is connecting information silos as they interact with quality assurance (QA), site reliability engineering (SRE), product management, and lines of business. Developers need to span their own data chasms, too, as they use a wide range of siloed technology tools. In fact, 68% of developers encounter a knowledge silo at least once a week. It’s no wonder they say their two biggest challenges are fragmented information (46% of respondents) and lack of tool integrations (45%).
There are enough stumbling blocks that your development teams probably aren’t achieving a true culture of collaboration. A culture of collaboration means that collaboration is the default mode of work–with cross-functional teams aligned, team members engaged and productive, and projects consistently achieving desired outcomes.
As much as collaboration is built on human relationships, technology can help, especially in hybrid work environments. In particular, a collaboration platform purpose-built for technical and operations teams is fundamental to building a developer culture of collaboration.
Automation + Integration = Collaboration
Computers are very good at performing repetitious tasks quickly, accurately and consistently. Humans are not. They are, however, well-suited to creative activities and qualitative decisions.
An effective collaboration platform will automate workflows so that software handles rote tasks. Team members are then freed for deep conversations that lead to better decisions and outcomes.
Playbooks are a great way to leverage automation to improve collaboration, and your collaboration platform should include them. Playbooks are essentially digitized checklists that, with a single click, route workflows through predefined steps to complete a task.
For example, it’s not uncommon during development for a code issue to be identified that needs to be escalated for resolution. Typically, this involves redundant texts, emails and phone calls to identify the right decision-makers, plus multiple manual steps for reviews, approvals and status updates across stakeholders and conversations.
That can all be automated in a collaboration-platform playbook. A single click can launch an automated process to escalate the issue to appropriate team members. Workflows take place in the background, quickly and accurately, while developers continue with their collaborations.
But developer collaboration isn’t only hampered by manual tasks. It’s also held back by a lack of integration across software tools. Developers, QA specialists, business analysts and other stakeholders use many purpose-specific technology tools. These range from Google Docs to Microsoft Excel, from Figma to Jira to GitLab. So many standalone products used by so many teams result in capability and data silos.
A useful collaboration platform will unify these tools under a single pane of glass. That way, all team members can continue to work with software that’s purpose-built for their needs, yet all can benefit from integrated access to tools in one context. Combining disparate capabilities in a common context lies at the heart of good collaboration.
Secure and Collaborative
Of course, any development project involves intellectual property (IP) and other sensitive data that your organization must protect. It’s imperative that your collaboration platform provide strong security and access control.
General-purpose collaboration products typically are cloud-based, meaning software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings hosted by the vendor. That doesn’t always meet the needs of industries such as finance and the public sector that must comply with strict regulatory requirements for data protection.
A collaboration platform for technical and operations teams should offer an on-premises option. That way, you can retain ownership and control of sensitive data.
This level of security does more than simply safeguard your IP. It also encourages collaboration because team members know they can communicate and work together freely without running afoul of internal policies or external regulations. Built-in access controls should ensure that each team has access to the data it requires, but only to the data it needs to contribute to the project.
Digital Tools for Analog Connections
Ultimately, effective team collaboration is built on personal relationships. An effective collaboration platform will encourage human interaction through virtual check-ins, get-togethers and other digitally enabled means of “analog” connection. That could be as simple as providing a rich palette of customizable emojis that allow for personal expression and help to reveal the person behind digital communication.
At a more sophisticated level, project retrospectives should be built into your collaboration platform to evaluate process and performance for continual improvement. Retrospectives should be blameless so all team members can benefit from learnings without feeling censured. A playbook can provide predefined guidance on meeting purpose, scope, timeframe, budget and so on. Approached this way, retrospectives provide an opportunity for team-building and strengthening of personal connections.
Hybrid work environments for developers will continue for the foreseeable future. So will the strategic importance of developer collaboration. A purpose-built technical and operational collaboration platform can help ensure that development teams perform in a culture of collaboration and drive successful application development outcomes.