The success of a software development project depends on individual skills of the dedicated specialists, as well as on how effectively they complement each other and collaborate. At the same time, collaboration itself often rolls within collaboration tools. The latter not only determine how collaboration flows but also can turn it into a flexible business process.

So what is more important in software development collaboration: employees’ expertise and communication skills or a correctly selected collaboration tool that powers team members and leads them to success?

When people outdo tools
Employees are the most valuable asset in a software development company, which can be proved by several facts.

  • Employees’ unique skills and expertise determine what software they will deliver, how profitable it will be for the company and what benefits it will bring to the customer.
  • Employees create a collaborative culture in software development. Dynamic collaboration is the basis of the popular DevOps strategy that puts together software development and software operations. And although tools can support DevOps, only people can make it alive by spreading the collaborative culture.
  • Employees build up customer relationships. Collaboration in software development supposes active interaction with customers. And only employees can ensure an individual approach to each customer, thus forging long-term partnerships.

When tools outdo people
Human collaboration can exist without tools. However, collaboration tools offer teams and an entire software development company several advantages.

  • Connecting people remotely. Team members differ by character, position, communication habits, interests, so it can be hard for them to collaborate in person. Fortunately, with a tool on their hands, employees can collaborate even without meeting each other.
  • Keeping collaboration records. Once people stop their communication, it’s only saved in their minds. So even two days later, it’s hard to remember in detail what was discussed. Tools allow recording all the collaboration so that employees review and reuse it or its components at any moment.
  • Support teams’ unity. Using tools, newcomers can assimilate with other team members and get involved in a software development project quicker.
  • Enable continuous collaboration between a software development company and their customers. Tools support collaboration regardless of physical location of the involved parties.

Five critical requirements to collaboration tools in software development
As you can see, the role of collaboration tools in the software development process is essential. But there is a certain risk too. For example, if a team member doesn’t fit the project requirements, he or she can be replaced quickly with no impact on the project. But if a collaboration tool is ineffective, it can take some time to identify the problem and to replace the tool.

So choosing tools, make sure they meet the following requirements:

  1. Cover different collaboration scenarios. To ensure quality software development services, the company should enable quality collaboration between all the stakeholders. So collaboration tools should support BAs-to-developers, PMs-to-BAs, PMs-to-customers and other collaboration scenarios equally well.
  2. Structure collaboration. When collaboration becomes massive, it’s critical to structure it and make it suitable for further reuse. For example, threads in such collaboration tools as Microsoft Teams or Slack allow finding relevant pieces of information by subtopics.
  3. Meet collaboration habits of different users. Software developers are usually introverts and aren’t interested in communication, while business analysts can be quite chatty. So consider implementing a tool that will support collaboration adepts and won’t annoy closed-off employees, along with keeping them tuned into the project.
  4. Enable external users to participate. When customers participate in the software development process actively, collaboration tools should be available for them too.
  5. Integrate with other solutions. If a collaboration tool is integrated with other enterprise systems (a CRM, ERP or a project management system), you can manage a project taking into consideration all the information about the customer and previous communication experience.

Support the synergy of people and tools
As you can see, collaboration tools are often indispensable to lead the software development project to success. They can structure collaboration, make it manageable and reusable. At the same time, the human factor is crucial. If a team is disintegrated even effective tools can’t guarantee success. That’s why organizations should support the synergy of employees and collaboration tools and to foster a collaborative culture to reach positive results.

About Sandra Lupanava

Sandra Lupanava is SharePoint evangelist at ScienceSoft, an IT consulting company.