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Software Engineers’ Strategy for Cross-Team Projects

In the 21st century, where technology dictates corporate capabilities, companies often find themselves at a crossroads, needing IT support beyond their internal capacities. This scenario often leads to engaging in software project outsourcing, leveraging external expertise to complement their existing teams.

This necessity brings forth the concept of cross-team collaboration, a realm that software engineers frequently navigate. As we delve into this world, let’s unravel the challenges and triumphs of such collaborations from an engineer’s lens, applying project management strategies to effectively integrate diverse teams.

What’s so special about Cross-Team dynamics?

In our context, such collaborations aren’t just about liaising with different teams within the same organization. It extends to working with an external development team, a common scenario when internal resources are dedicated to maintaining existing products.

Software engineers stepping into this arena must adapt to working with teams possessing different, sometimes radically so, competencies. This adaptation often involves overcoming remote work challenges, as cross-team collaboration in today’s global environment frequently implies coordinating with professionals across various locations and time zones.

What are its benefits?

As you will see, it presents its fair share of challenges, yet it also brings a plethora of benefits that can significantly enhance the quality of work and the overall project outcome.

Highlighted benefits of cross-team dynamics in yellow bubbles against a dark background.

Enhanced information flow for better understanding and efficiency

One of the most salient advantages is the improved flow of information between the software house and the client. This enhanced communication is markedly different from scenarios where interaction is sporadic, and the client’s team isn’t deeply involved in the day-to-day project activities.

When both teams work closely, there’s a smoother exchange of ideas and requirements, leading to a better understanding of the client’s needs and expectations. This clarity in communication not only accelerates the project timeline but also reduces the hassle involved in achieving project milestones, ensuring a more streamlined and efficient process.

Knowledge sharing and skills enhancement

The free flow of information in a cross-team setup naturally leads to knowledge-sharing and learning opportunities.

For software developers and engineers, being exposed to different technology stacks and solutions broadens their technical horizons. This exposure is invaluable, regardless of the company or project they are currently engaged with.

Beyond technology, team members also have the chance to learn best practices and innovative problem-solving techniques from their counterparts. This aspect of the collaboration was evident in several of our projects, where we introduced clients, traditionally working with the Waterfall model, to Agile methodology elements.

The adoption of these new methodologies not only enhanced their current projects but continues to benefit their ongoing work. In one notable instance, we even formed full Scrum teams that have been collaboratively working with a client for years, yielding highly positive outcomes and feedback.

A change of pace and fresh perspectives

Last but not least, a fresh set of eyes and a change of pace can bring new energy to projects. Engaging with new people, breaking out of routine workflows, and encountering different ways of thinking can invigorate a team.

This change can be particularly beneficial in sparking creativity and overcoming creative blocks – a crucial factor in today’s remote work environment where opportunities for in-person interaction, especially with people outside one’s immediate team, may be limited.

A look at the challenges

When engineers and managers embark on the journey of cross-team collaboration, they face a spectrum of challenges, each demanding a strategic approach and clear communication.

Informing and Reassuring In-House Teams

A critical challenge surfaces even before the collaboration officially begins: the announcement of hiring an external team. Such news can unsettle in-house IT departments, with team members fearing job security or feeling undervalued.

The key here is to approach this situation with transparency and empathy. It’s essential to communicate to your in-house team that the integration of an external team is not a replacement strategy but a move to augment and support the existing workforce. The goal is to share the workload, benefit from shared knowledge, and enhance the overall productivity of the organization.

Communication issues

Miscommunication is a common stumbling block in these collaborations. It ranges from simple personality clashes to deeper misunderstandings rooted in differing professional backgrounds and perspectives.

For instance, a business manager’s focus on cost-effectiveness is understandable, but they might overlook the long-term benefits of a costlier solution that could prove more economical over time due to lower maintenance costs or greater efficiency. Similarly, the development team, focused on technical excellence, might miss the immediate business constraints that a manager has to contend with. Recognizing these differing viewpoints and finding a middle ground is crucial.

Moreover, actions that might seem beneficial in the short term, like pressuring an outsourced team member to work overtime, can damage long-term collaboration and trust. This approach not only strains relationships but also overlooks the agreed-upon rules of engagement, leading to a breakdown in team dynamics and morale.

Remote work – The new normal?

The shift to remote work, accelerated by recent global events, poses its own set of challenges. While many IT companies have adapted quickly to this change, it’s a transition that many teams are still navigating.

Remote collaboration, as per a Statista study, is riddled with challenges such as collaborating with colleagues or clients remotely, managing time zone differences, overcoming language barriers, and navigating cultural nuances.

These factors can impact the effectiveness of communication and project progress. It’s not just about different work ethics or communication styles; it’s about creating an environment where diverse teams can work harmoniously despite these differences.

What can you do to make this collaborative process succeed?

Well, as a great start, you can incorporate these seven tips, and you’ll be able to manage the complexities of cross-team partnerships more effectively, paving the way for successful and harmonious projects:

  1. Tailor your approach: Before jumping into action, assess which collaboration model fits your company’s needs best. Not every situation demands a full team from an external vendor. Sometimes, leveraging existing tools or hiring a couple of experts might be all you need.
  2. Set clear guidelines and communication channels: Establish a transparent ruleset and choose effective communication platforms like Slack or Jira. This clarity in roles, tasks, and boundaries ensures everyone is on the same page, easing potential in-house concerns.
  3. Initiate with a kickoff meeting: Start with a comprehensive meeting to align both teams’ understanding and goals. Regular progress meetings keep everyone informed and the project on track. Remember, familiarity breeds collaboration!
  4. Prioritize up-to-date documentation: Maintain thorough and current documentation. This not only streamlines the current workflow but also aids any future developers. Consider creating a project playbook detailing processes and timelines for efficient knowledge sharing.
  5. Harmonize tools and technology: Ensure both in-house and external teams have access to the same technologies and tools. Setting up a sandbox environment for testing can lead to smoother transitions and better end results.
  6. Include technical liaisons: In cross-functional scenarios, having a technically knowledgeable person on your team can bridge the gap between business objectives and technical execution. This approach fosters clearer understanding and smoother collaboration.
  7. Humanize the workspace: Acknowledge that every team member, whether internal or external, is human. Fostering a culture of empathy and understanding not only enhances morale but also drives better collaboration and creativity.

Pioneering cross-team-oriented solutions

At AcuTech, we understand the challenges of cross-team projects.

Our approach involves clear communication channels, regular updates, and an emphasis on up-to-date documentation to ensure smooth collaboration. We believe in treating team members as individuals, not just cogs in the machine, thus fostering a respectful and productive work environment.

Our commitment to cross-team excellence

Our comprehensive services include not just technical expertise but a deep commitment to understanding and aligning with our clients’ business objectives. With a focus on respectful collaboration and adherence to established rules, we strive to create a fruitful and productive atmosphere in all our cross-team engagements.

In conclusion, as engineers embark on a cross-team project, the journey is as much about technical prowess as it is about empathy, communication, and adaptability. Since all our engineers (mid, senior, and lead) are frontline working with clients in cross-functional teams – they all face the challenges mentioned in this blog post. They stand ready to support and guide you through this journey, ensuring that your cross-team collaborations are not just successful but are rewarding experiences that contribute to your professional growth and the project’s smooth delivery while also providing superb customer experiences.

Interested in learning more about how AcuTech can help you navigate cross-team projects? Reach out to us, and let’s collaborate to turn challenges into triumphs.

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