How to Improve Communication in a Software Team

Software development is a cooperative activity by its nature. Software creation is basically a way of instructing machines to execute instructions, so it is a process that requires communication, even if there is only on programmer involved. When the number of developers increase, however, there is the need of  communicating with fellow developers about a multitude of issues, such as the    requirements of the problem, the intended results, the division of the program   in modules, etc. As the size of the program and the number of developers involved grows, the amount of communication also increases, and can easily become the bottleneck of software development efforts.

To improve efficiency in software communications, it is necessary to analyse the several parts of the process and try to improve it as much as possible. Here are some ideas that can be useful in improving an important part of the process: meetings.

Meeting Strategies

Avoid spending time on meetings. Meeting time can be useful for the definition of goals in a project, but it is rarely a productive time for the group. Instead of meetings, it is much easier to use communication tools such as email to keep  members of the project up to date with what is going on. If you really need to   have a meeting, however, use the following ideas:

  1. Keep the meeting to a maximum duration, say 40 minutes. If the duration is decide in anticipation, then it is easier to allocate time as needed.
  2. Create an agenda for the meeting, so that everyone knows why the meeting has been called. With an agenda, it is easier to focus on the points that matter, and there is a sense of accomplishment after the meeting is done.
  3. Some groups adopt the idea of "stand ups", where everybody is required to stand during the meeting. This makes the meeting more productive, because people are more active while standing then when sited. Moreover, people will get more  anxious to end the meeting as soon as possible.
  4. Avoid multiple recurring meetings. A recurring meeting that happens every week will waste time not only once, but every time the meeting happens. What     usually seems like a good idea will eventually become a waste of time, because   the same amount of time is allocated even if there are no new topics to discuss. Other than maybe one weekly meeting, the group should avoid repeated meetings on the same subject. The best strategy here is to call a meeting only when it is    necessary.
  5. Have meetings with only one person, instead of group meetings: The more people involved in a meeting, more time is potentially lost. Try to have meetings with as few people as possible. The best strategy is to talk individually to group members, instead of calling for a general meeting. This    way, an issue can be solved in just a few minutes, without formality. Request    group meetings only when something must be approved by everyone in the group.

Article created on 2008-08-25 22:40:14

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