Developers should consider themselves part of the lifeblood of your company. After all, they create the software that drives your growth, innovation, supply chain and e-commerce. Without those developers, your company would stagnate (at best) or fail (at worst).
However, that doesn’t mean you should treat them like royalty. It means they should be in the communication loop. The thing is, developers can be a tricky group to communicate with effectively. They can often seem like quirky people who don’t always have the best social or communication skills. That doesn’t mean you can (or should) avoid them.
It means you should consider how best to communicate with these teams. With a few modifications to your usual efforts, you can communicate efficiently and effectively with your developers and keep your business running.
How? Let’s take a look at some ways you can communicate efficiently with your software engineers.
Know What You’re Talking About
This may seem obvious to you, but it’s not to everyone. The thing about developers is that they really know what they’re doing. Unfortunately, those high-level skills come at a price, one that prevents them from being able to communicate with you in terms you can understand.
That’s why you should attend all meetings with developers knowing what you’re talking about. Don’t go into a meeting without a solid understanding of the objectives and how to achieve them. The more you know about what you are talking about, the more effectively (and efficiently) you will be able to communicate with those developers.
Document Your Objectives
Now that you know what you’re talking about, it’s important to document everything. If you had a well-developed, well-written document of a project’s objectives and processes, it will give your developers a clear roadmap of what needs to be done.
Know The “Why”
When you approach a developer with a request, know why you are making that request. Not because your boss told you to, but why that request is important in terms of the company’s website or application stack. If you say, “We want the X button to be shiny,” a developer will laugh at you. If you say, “We want the X button to be shiny because it will make it easier for people to notice,” the developer will at least respect the request and make it happen.
If a developer asks you why you want something done and you don’t have an answer, understand that you will have to think of a “why” if you want to be able to communicate easily with that developer.
Have a Clear Idea Of The Finished Product
Developers like to deal with specificity. Let’s go back to our shiny button example. If you say “shiny button,” a developer might translate that into a lime green glow with unicorn sparkles. What I really meant was that I wanted a subtle highlight around the button to make it stand out better on the page.
It’s important that you can better communicate to a developer what the finished product looks like in their head (or the CEO’s head). Be specific, clear and accurate. Make sure the developer knows exactly what you have in mind when you say “brilliant.”
Communicate With Respect
You may not “get” developers, but they are human beings just like you, who have probably earned (through delivering product after product) a great deal of respect. If you talk down to those developers or speak to them in a demeaning manner, you won’t get very far. If you are a manager, you have probably taken courses on effective communication. In those courses, you were taught to respect the people you talk to. Remember those lessons when dealing with developers.
Don’t “Change The Scope”
You have outlined a plan for a project and your developers are working diligently on it. Out of the blue, someone in management decides to make a “scope change,” which will put the project timeline at risk of failure.
If a scope change is unavoidable, the best thing to do is to first have an informal meeting with your developers to let them know that the possibility exists. And when you have that meeting, make sure you know exactly why the change is occurring, have a clear idea of the new finished product, document the new scope change, and talk to the developers respectfully.
If you hold a meeting and say, “We’re changing the scope of the project, we don’t know what it will be and you’ll do it whether you like it or not,” you probably won’t enjoy it. how your developers react.
Instead, approach this type of meeting with the understanding that how you present this news (and with what specificity you bring to it) could make or break the project.
Developers are people. They deserve your respect because they have worked tirelessly to deliver software that helps your company grow beyond your wildest imagination. It doesn’t take much extra work to communicate efficiently with team members. Make the effort and the rewards will be more than satisfying for everyone involved.