How cross-functional dev teams can work more efficiently

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More businesses are using cross-functional teams to remain competitive. Still, these teams are ineffective if the proper strategies aren’t in place to maximize productivity. Building innovative products requires organization and strong communication skills, but that doesn't mean these qualities are only found in traditional work spaces. By fostering a collaborative environment,  IT managers will create the ideal setting for team members to be successful at every phase of development. 

Development teams that are cross-functional must work together without becoming disorganized and unstable. Here are some of the best solutions for project managers hoping to make their cross-functional development teams more efficient. 

Hire Specialists and General Developers 

Specialized developers are necessary on a cross-functional dev team, but so are general developers with diverse skills. Both of these developers will fulfill important roles as project managers delegate tasks. 

By comparison, specialized developers give a competitive edge to a product by enhancing quality with their knowledge and experience. Fellow team members can also rely on these specialists when needing assistance with extremely specific tasks and complex issues.   

Still, developers with multiple skills are flexible and provide unique benefits during development. These team members come in at various points when developing software and use their general knowledge to move a project along during each cycle. They also have the knowledge base to assist new and experienced developers at every level.   

Automate Deployments 

Automating deployments allows cross-functional development teams to work more efficiently because it strengthens the pipeline through consistent, immediate actions and smooth transitions between each development cycle. Technically, deployment isn't time-consuming in testing environments, but testing code this way requires more than one developer and multiple deployments throughout the day.

Considering the manual effort and the increased possibility of human error, automation can be the solution to deploy code without halting productivity. By choosing to automate deployment within the initial phases of development (or planning for automated deployment before the project begins), team leaders can decide the best tools and techniques for deployment. Using this method will lend to a higher level of speed and accuracy amongst team members. 

Be Mindful During Estimation 

Miscalculating the time it takes to complete a project is common when you're bringing together a new cross-functional dev team. Project managers may know the amount of work involved, but there are other points to consider before estimating the time to completion.   

Estimation is valuable when setting deadlines and determining costs during development. Both project managers and team members use these estimates to guide their work and know their available resources. But if the scope of the project is underestimated, teams may struggle and overlook important details. As reported by McKinsey, the average cost overrun for software projects is 66%. Instead of estimating based on assumptions and past experiences, ask these questions:   

  • What are the capabilities and experience level of each team member?    
  • How much work is required to complete the project?    
  • How many working hours are scheduled for the team during this project? 

Every team member has a unique working style, and there are many other factors worth noting before using estimation during development. The estimation may not be perfect, but it should be reasonable and give developers the time and tools they need for quality output. 

Harness the Power of Communication 

Dev teams are less effective with improper communication. When cross-functional teams don't verbalize updates and address complications, it often results in a stressful work environment with misinterpreted information. This lack of communication contributes to dysfunction. In fact, a Harvard Business Review Study noted that 75% of teams that are cross-functional are also dysfunctional because they often fail to meet budgeting and scheduling guidelines. Furthermore, communication failures surface frequently, resulting in flawed products that decrease customer satisfaction. 

Countering dysfunction and improving communication requires a bit of creativity from team leaders. Encourage communication by using collaborative software like Asana to show the progress of each team member along with scheduled deadlines and upcoming tasks. Messaging software such as Slack can also serve as an effective communication tool for asking questions and starting conversations that can be useful to all team members.   

Along with the assistance of software programs, assess the working environment of cross-functional team members. Everyone needs personal space, but placing developers too far apart creates an atmosphere of isolation. If workstations can't be physically rearranged, assign a shared space when working on specific project goals, or use the space as a break room for team members to connect during downtime. 

Develop Better Testing Strategies 

Cross-functional teams must work quickly, but quality should never fall by the wayside. For quality assurance, testing should be done throughout the entire development process after every cycle. When testing is only performed towards the end of a project, rebuilding code based on undesirable test results becomes increasingly difficult because the project is at a higher level of development.   

By planning to test code in advance, cross-functional teams will have the time and flexibility to utilize comprehensive testing techniques that will speed up the development process. 

In summary, when completing any project successfully, team members must have the necessary skills for the job, but they must also approach projects with a sense of optimism and a motivated mindset. When cross-functional development teams enjoy working together, they look forward to meeting company deadlines as a group while delivering a quality product that exceeds expectations without the hassles and delays caused by disorganization and miscommunication.  

Nacho De Marco, CEO of BairesDev 

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