Imagine you’re developing a product and had a successful update launch with contributions from nearly everybody on your software development team. From the inception to the execution of the launch, everything went great.
But as the user metrics and KPIs roll in, you notice low user adoption rates. The downward trend continues for weeks, leaving you feeling concerned. Where did things go wrong?
You oversaw the team collaboration, tested the update, and ensured your customer base knew about the new update. However, the cycle of bad luck continues.
To avoid these problems, it’s important to regularly optimize your structures and processes to keep up with the demanding complexity of building new systems and product features. And a crucial component of a successful product development cycle is communication.
Communication between software development teams plays a crucial role in ensuring the product fulfills its deliverables. That means everything needs to be well-planned from the beginning instead of waiting for the management to find issues.
So, in this article, we’ll explore the risks associated with communication breakdowns between software development teams and how they impact team dynamics.
Risks of Separating Work Between Multiple Teams
You might notice low-growth patterns in your team’s performance, so you split work between multiple teams. Unfortunately, it might not solve the problem, especially when the software is complex.
Why? Let’s take a look at risks you need to take into account when separating work between teams, such as:
a. Impact on Team Dynamics and Communication
In today’s fast-paced software era, more and more companies rely on a geographically dispersed workforce to excel in the global economy and work with experts from different parts of the world.
However, when people worldwide collaborate to work on a software product, misunderstandings can creep in, communication deteriorates, and cooperation can lead to distrust due to a lack of management and communication.
Let’s explore how these issues impact team dynamics and how smart leaders can prevent them from happening in the first place:
1. Lack of Knowledge Sharing and How It Affects the Teams
Software development involves analyzing, designing, and implementing several tasks to enhance the product, so software teams need to cultivate an environment that promotes a positive knowledge-sharing process among them.
However, not sharing enough knowledge is an issue many organizations face. Every organization has specific people that are referred to as “deeply smart people.”
Not sharing knowledge would mean these employees won’t be able to create strong bonds, solve problems, identify skilled people, and work inclusively and effectively.
Some other disadvantages that come with a lack of knowledge sharing and how it affects team growth include:
- Low employee relevancy in the workplace and decreased productivity
- Lack of knowledge leads to a lack of empowerment and contributes to higher employee turnover rates as they’d look for empowering opportunities elsewhere.
- Duplication of effort when many team members are engaged in the same task.
2. Lack of Communication Between Teams and Its Consequences
Unclear objectives, limited feedback from team members, and an unpredictable work environment are all causes of the lack of communication.
Effective communication fosters the successful delivery of your product. Failure to capture what your client or customer expects from the software has a detrimental effect on the entire project.
42% of companies do not understand the need for communication and management, which is why 70% of the projects fail. Some of the common factors and scenarios that lead to communication failures include:
- Using complex software or too many communication tools
- Not implementing discipline through documentation, streamlined meetings, and consistent and timely updates
- Trying to make conversations elaborate, making it harder for teams to collaborate and leading to poor information retention
- Not being transparent about project updates.
3. How Team Members Might Feel Isolated and How It Affects the Team
Even when people work face-to-face, there’s room to feel unwanted and not appreciated enough. And over 40% of employees feel emotionally and physically isolated when working in a team.
These feelings make it harder for team members to communicate and connect with other members to discuss issues they might face. So, looking out for employees who don’t participate actively is always important.
Here’s how you can improve this:
- Enhancing communication to distribute the workload in teams evenly. This allows each team to stay aware of the efforts and deliverables of other groups.
- Emphasizing the agile manifesto’s significance in helping self-organizing teams produce the best architectures, requirements, and designs. This promotes working in small groups.
- Encouraging informal sessions, casual chats, and team-building activities outside work-related topics. These help employees build connections and not feel left out or isolated.
4. Consequences of Ignoring Retrospective Meetings
The scrum framework incorporates many high-profile benefits, and retrospective meetings are the core of any successful agile or scrum environment. The agile retrospective approach helps your team take a step back, review their work practices, and find ways to improve them.
However, the lack of retrospective meetings leaves no room for team evaluation and doesn’t improve the workflow. That means even if your team makes a mistake, chances are that they’ll repeat that same mistake.
Plus, the framework doesn’t even let you find the core problem that can help make the next sprint more productive. So, ignoring retrospective meetings means losing sight of a valuable opportunity to learn through each team’s mistakes and discover weaknesses.
Here’s how to bring back and use retrospective meetings:
- The ideal time for a retrospective meeting is in the middle of the sprint. This is because the problem encountered by your team is still fresh, so team members can easily discuss them.
- In-house agile retrospectives are much more effective. The changes are discussed by the team and put into effect by the team themselves. So, you should plan the agile retrospective and agree on the agenda with the team beforehand.
- The collective environment should be encouraged. The experience of working in two or more sprints together strengthens the bond between team members. So, making the agile retrospective a safe place to speak up without hesitation is important.
- Use different feedback techniques to keep things alive for your teams. This helps to motivate them and increases brainstorming capabilities. For instance, techniques like JargonBust, Silent Collaboration, and the bicycle can help.
Here’s what not to do when bringing back retrospective meetings:
- Don’t let the findings you make go to waste. The lack of action can lead to more problems.
- Don’t blame other team members for problems that occurred during the sprint. A positive attitude goes a long way, and remember, the main goal is to improve together.
- Don’t let the meetings get monotonous or boring. Try holding meetings at different locations, like the park or a casual cafe.
5. Impact of Unclear Responsibilities on Teams
Many people are involved in feature development projects. So, it’s important to define roles and responsibilities, such as by using FDD. Feature Driven Development (FDD) is an agile framework that helps organize software development and track progress on features.
Let’s start with the most obvious role: software engineers. They write code, which is an essential part of the development process. However, they’re also responsible for preparing project roadmaps, planning teamwork, gathering equipment, and communicating the progress.
However, they won’t know their responsibilities unless given proper instructions and deadlines. With unclear responsibilities, your team can end up duplicating efforts and even causing conflicts. This will make it difficult to collaborate in the following situations:
Undefined responsibilities become a major problem in emergencies. For instance, if you face a critical bug or system breakdown, knowing which team member was responsible for what task and whom the team should turn to support is important.
Without proper direction, valuable time and resources will be spent on solving the problem.
Unclear responsibilities also lead to delays, inefficiencies, and poorly executed features during feature development.
When your team members don’t know what’s expected of them, you cannot expect to get proper deliverables. The lack of communication results in project timelines that compromises the final product quality.
6. Making Decisions for Other Teams Without Consulting Them
The decision-making process is a team effort and shouldn’t be a one-person job. It brings down the team morale, makes your team feel unwanted, or that you don’t consider their ideas or opinion. This ultimately leads to resentment and impacts team performance.
Nurturing your team and fostering fruitful collaboration is key here. Separating work makes you more likely to involve a few members and take in their opinions when deciding.
It’s also best to involve the team you’re deciding for and keep them on the same page. Transparency promotes strong relationships between groups working towards a common goal.
b. Consistency Issues
Staying consistent is an ideal situation as it helps everyone to stay on the same page and work towards the same project goals. It also helps establish reliability, trust, and confidence among teams as they see teams delivering high-quality work consistently.
Let’s look at consistency issues during product development and what challenges teams face when maintaining quality across all teams.
Why Maintaining a Consistent Approach to Product Development Is Difficult
The dynamic nature of a product makes it harder to make all teams stay on the same page. It requires priorities to change consistently. Otherwise, it leads to a lot of problems and doesn’t lead to the desired deliverables.
For instance, each team won’t be able to keep up with the latest developments and will have undefined quality standards. These issues can complicate project management, leading to challenges and complicating the development process.
Challenges of Ensuring Consistent Quality Across Multiple Teams
Quality is subjective to each team, so teams face challenges in consistently checking quality. Challenges like coordination, knowledge sharing, and using the same tools and technologies make it difficult to ensure that each team has the same metrics to measure quality.
So, a quality insurance framework in the equation removes the possibility of anomalies and inconsistencies that can arise among different team deliverables.
c. Trust Issues
Software and the associated development promise desirable outcomes, but the issue of trust remains. How does this affect multiple teams working on the same project?
Lack of trust creates silos in the organization, where each team works toward its goals instead of working towards shared company-wide objectives. It also causes a breakdown in communication and ideation, leading to multiple errors and delays.
Let’s take a scenario here. A developer takes a long time to create a simple feature using Java. Their team asks why the feature took so long, and in response, they get a request for more time because the feature is extremely complicated.
At this point, trust is lost because of a lack of transparency and honesty in the developer’s explanation. Both parties now need to agree on a process. For instance, let’s say they adopt sprint planning.
Now they won’t have to interfere with each other and still be able to work together. However, ultimately, these processes create more conflict instead of solving the original issue.
How to Address Trust Issues within Cross-functional Teams?
The evolving digital era has enabled a new era of collaborative work, which means cross-functional teams walking in lockstep and toward shared business goals. However, trust issues linger despite efforts to surpass them.
How can you address these issues and aim for success?
- Building an optimized team with a unique mix of talents and skills helps foster balance and ensures you have the right players in each team.
- 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional because teams are drawn from different departments within a single organization. Due to different or conflicting agendas, they need help to cooperate on the same level. So, managers need to determine clear deliverables to help achieve the same goals.
- Creating a risk-free culture may not be approved by motivational speakers, but it leads to growth and helps cross-functional teams uncover new solutions to old problems.
d. Technological and Practice Inconsistencies
Software development is a fast environment with an ever-changing atmosphere that never seems to halt. The constant demand for improvement sometimes leads to poor adherence to best practices, where things slip.
How Do Differences in Technologies and Practices Affect the Ability to Integrate and Collaborate?
Software development ultimately comes down to humans, who are prone to making errors. Plus, each team will use different technologies and practices, leading to inefficient workflows, skills gaps, resistance to change, and communication barriers.
For example, if some team members are unfamiliar with a particular software tool or practice, they may struggle to contribute effectively, leading to delays or mistakes. Moreover, the code is one of many parts teams must worry about.
At a macro level, external factors like integration with existing in-house systems, hardware, and third-party providers need to be considered because its lack lowers the ability to collaborate efficiently.
Potential Solutions for Addressing Inconsistencies
Rushing through the development phase without any management and set deliverables gets you nowhere. Inconsistencies may arise due to different tools, lack of integration with other tools, frameworks, methodologies, and communication gaps.
So, you must understand how to solve those problems and help get the maximum optimal output possible. Let’s look at some potential implementations:
- Form flexible teams that can help reduce turnaround times and ensure that every component of the software they’re working on is optimized.
- Use Integration tools like APIs or appropriate middleware to fill the gap between software, technologies, and programming languages.
- Train and educate your team on a single standard to encourage collaboration. This’ll help each team work on the same protocols and follow a streamlined workflow.
e. Dependency Management Challenges
The relationships between teams working on a single project are called dependencies. Dependency management helps with actively measuring, analyzing, and working toward minimizing the disruption caused by intra-team dependencies.
But what can teams do to mitigate its impact?
How Can Teams Manage Dependencies Between Different Projects or Teams?
To effectively manage dependencies between different projects or teams, following these practices is important:
- Standardize processes to eliminate planning and coordination.
- Automate repetitive tasks using appropriate safety controls. Continuous integration/deployment (CI/CD) are examples of automation that help manage dependencies between teams.
- Align on common goals and take the time to plan project meetings, design reviews, check-ins, or retrospectives to give teams insight into what deliverables are expected of them.
- Eliminate as many dependencies as possible to ensure a smooth project workflow.
What Happens When a Team Fails to Deliver on Time?
The interdependence between two teams working on the same project or product falls within each team’s control. A competent project/product team typically defines protocols for teams with dependencies to collaborate and resolve those dependencies.
If one team fails to deliver on time, other teams may have to change their schedule, causing them to delay the required deliverables. This may lead to a chain reaction of delays that affect the final delivery of the project.
Plus, not following the timeline may require additional resources to complete the project on time. In the end, all this affects team morale and causes frustration among other teams.
Impact on Product Development
The product in question should be developed while keeping the audience in mind, so it’s important to be organized according to microservices during the development phase.
Let’s break down the impact of dividing teams and what risks you can expect due to the division.
1. Risk of Team Failure Affecting the Company
Common risks in software development projects can include tight schedules, budget changes, technical difficulties, and poor management.
Sometimes, even the most elaborately planned projects can face trouble. One example is a team’s failure taking a toll on the company and things in the wrong direction.
Plus, 32% of projects fail due to a lack of vision. That means you should stay mentally prepared for how the product might be delayed or how one team’s lack of vision can impact the entire company.
What can you do to reduce the effect of these issues?
How Can We Identify and Address Issues on Time?
When managing a project, it’s crucial to stay on top of potential issues that may arise and address them in a timely manner to ensure the project’s success. Here’s what to do:
- Tight schedules mean you’ll have to deliver the project before the time you anticipated. Sometimes, you only need to focus on the right resource and “crash the schedule.” You can also encourage fast-tracking between teams as long as they work together on the requirement analysis and development of the product.
- A common reason for budget changes is “scope creep.” That means you started the project with clear objectives, but as you get near the finish line, so many requirements have been added, which leaves you with nothing. The key is to stay close to the original goals and track them for optimal quality.
- Technical difficulties like information privacy, data security, and software integration can arise. These can be avoided by applying risk mitigation strategies.
Consequences of Not Being Able to Transfer Work
A product life cycle may require a transfer to a new team within the company. Reasons vary, but they bring along several consequences when moving the product, such as:
- Teams likely won’t understand what resources are available.
- They won’t be able to find out what structure, number of members, and resources the team will follow.
- They’ll face problems when fulfilling hardware and software.
2. Limited Flexibility and Adaptability
Agility and flexibility are both required for software development teams. Both these factors can be tackled by embracing agile methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban.
Fostering a culture of continuous improvement and investing in the training and development of the team helps each team become more flexible and adaptable.
How Does Limiting a Team’s Flexibility and Adaptability Affect Product Development?
Adaptability and flexibility are the new competitive advantages. Limiting these components means you take away the ability of the team to respond quickly to changing circumstances or challenges.
It also closes doors to new trends, adjusting to different situations, effective problem-solving, ability to communicate and listen, and work under pressure and brings down the team’s negotiation skills.
What Are the Potential Solutions for Addressing These Limitations?
Limiting a team’s flexibility and adaptability impacts the final product. So, resolving these factors timely and finding a sustainable solution is important. Here’s what to do:
- Allow team members to communicate. That way, they’ll become more adaptable.
- Re-organize teams through different patterns, including the one-by-one, grow and split, merging, switching, etc.
- Identify team members with negotiation and effective problem-solving skills.
3. Adequate Testing
Test software to ensure it works as it should. Because without proper evaluation, the software quality can decrease and lead to delayed time-to-market. It also damages the reputation of the software and causes a loss of customer trust.
So, following a proper test policy with a management plan is also crucial for the proper deployment of software.
4. Poor Resource Allocation
Resource allocation heavily relies on effective management and planning. If the resources are not effectively managed, it can drastically influence your project’s flow, leading to low-quality outcomes and delays.
Each team should be aware of its resources and be able to put them to use effectively. So, it’s important to ensure that every team has access to the necessary resources to complete their tasks within the allocated budget and on time.
Summary of the Risks of Separating Software Teams
Separating software teams may seem like a wise move, but it leads to communication gaps, duplication of efforts, knowledge silos, lack of consistency, etc. So, having a risk management plan is important to help your teams navigate difficult situations easily.
Importance of Considering Risks and Finding a Balance
When it comes to risk management in business, it’s essential to strike a balance between independence and collaboration.
For instance, companies that become too reliant on external partners lose their business independence while compromising their private data, financial stability, and intellectual property.
In contrast, if there is no collaboration, you can miss out on important opportunities to explore other opportunities for growing your business. So, the optimal balance between independence and collaboration helps smooth workflows, encourage quick turnarounds, and helps build healthy relationships between teams.
Solutions for Addressing Risks
To mitigate potential risks and improve team productivity, there are several solutions that organizations can implement, such as regular team meetings and cross-training initiatives. Let’s see how to implement them effectively:
- Organizing cross-training to encourage team members to improve product experience and business.
- Conducting informative sessions to provide valuable flexibility across teams.
- Clearly defining development processes so that they’re consistent and organized.
- Holding regular team meetings helps employees understand their key responsibilities.
It’s normal to split up teams and focus on different product components. While the strategy may benefit in the short run, it can also go wrong. Communication gaps, lack of expertise, inconsistencies, and lack of knowledge sharing are just some of the problems teams can face.
So, it’s essential to understand that the product development team is a single unit and shouldn’t act as an individual entity. Its main goal is to successfully deploy the product and monitor its use.
And you can do that by streamlining your collaborative efforts, understanding that no team is perfect, and balancing the problems of separating product development teams.