When you think of developers, what comes to mind?

Maybe you think of a group of techies tucked back into a corner who talk — and go to lunch — as an isolated group. Maybe you think of folks who don’t really understand how to communicate or cooperate with others, and don’t understand the business.

It’s time to think again. The reality is, in today’s corporate environment, the success of the development team is tantamount to company success. This team drives nearly every aspect of customer success, as well as day-to-day company operations. Yet too many organizations have not evolved their development teams to be more active, and involved, in the company as a whole.

This is a mistake. If you want your organization to experience greater customer and internal success, you must evolve your development team.

Why shift?

Consider some of the greatest challenges of today’s development teams.

According to State of Software Development in 2019, a report by development firm Coding Sans Ltd., the number one cause of delivery problems for the team is unrealistic expectations, followed closely by a lack of clearly defined deliverables.

Imagine the difference if a representative from the development team were involved from the outset in meeting with the customer, setting expectations, and being actively involved in mapping out deliverables and timelines.

Take that one step further and imagine if that representative has been involved in the business and, more specifically, the business impact of projects currently under development. This would go a long way toward helping alleviate the greatest overall challenge cited by survey respondents in software development: capacity. If a team member were involved in project planning, there would be far greater transparency with regard to workload.

The greatest challenge in software development that developers face is sharing knowledge, according to the report. This is an age-old problem that is a direct result of skills silos that companies have been creating for decades. While many have begun breaking these down, there is clearly still a lag.

In fact, two types of silos must be leveled: (1) separating the development team from the rest of the organization, and (2) separating skills within the team itself. Within the team, security and quality assurance (QA), for example, are done most effectively when coordinated simultaneously with other processes throughout the development process — rather than after the fact.

How to shift

Recognizing the value in revolutionizing your development team is one thing; making it happen is another.

How do you get started? Follow these three tips:

  1. Start with collaboration inside the team. Include as part of the team business analysts; system architects; security specialists; extract, transform, load (ETL) developers; and QA analysts, for example, as well as other skill sets that are traditionally thought of as separate from the team. A single development team should include all cross-functional skill sets. This will not only help create a bigger-picture perspective, it will also help enhance empathy — and knowledge sharing.
  2. Once collaboration has begun, move toward inclusion. Choose a development team lead and begin inviting that representative into corporate planning meetings, project planning meetings and customer meetings. Consider two or three representatives with different skill sets to ensure full representation of the team’s responsibilities, so that each of the previous silos has a voice.
  3. Once those wheels are in motion, give the team more authorization to make independent decisions, as well as the opportunity to work with other groups inside the company, such as the operations team

The value in shifting

As technology evolves, so do technology teams. The value to your organization? Not only will you be alleviating the most critical challenges development teams currently face, you’ll also experience additional benefits. The most important of those is enhanced accountability.  When everyone is working independently, it’s far too easy to point fingers or pass the buck. When everyone shares the load, everyone shares accountability. Isn’t that the ultimate goal?