No matter what your development project, communication, and understanding can make or break its success. Miscommunications or a poor understanding between team members or between you and your development agency can result in unnecessary features, expensive reworks, and endless delays.
If you plan to work with a software development agency, perhaps you don’t think team structure or project management is something you need to think about. On the contrary, team management is vital to the success of the project because it sets the tone for workstyle and communication. The latter is, perhaps, the most important outcome of a well-structured team because projects with effective communication are almost twice as likely to succeed.
Let’s explore how to structure the team that will be working on your project, and what communication processes are the most important.
Define the User Stories
Any project should start off with one or several kickoff meetings where you and the agency will define the scope of the project and user stories. A user story is a lightweight method for quickly capturing the "who", "what" and "why" of a product requirement. In simple terms, user stories are stated ideas of requirements that express what users need.They tell who the end-users are, what features they want, and why, and keep them as the focal point through the entire development process.
In terms of communication, user stories can also act as a bridge between business-minded people and developers and promote collaboration. They divide the final product into several building blocks and make it easy to work in a more agile, transparent way.
Ultimately, this will be the foundation for how the team is organized, how stories are converted to tasks, and how the overall project is developed in a schedule. The scope of the project and the user story reveal what skills are needed to develop different features, and consequently what developers will join that particular project.
Development Agency Team Structure
Once you have a clearly defined technical document and product idea, your agency can put together a team to fit the unique requirements of the project. Building a product from scratch requires assembling a group of multidisciplinary individuals that can work efficiently together and contribute to making a product that people will love.
Each product team will look a little different, these are the required roles of every project. In addition to developers, each team will have key roles:
- Project Manager: The project manager is someone who you will be in contact with a lot. They will be responsible for tasks such as assigning tasks, leading the weekly meetings, and inform all stakeholders about the project progress.
- Designer: The designer is another person you will work with a lot, especially during the discovery phase, as they layout the roadmap for the developers. The designer’s work laying out paths, explaining layouts, and recommending code for spacing creates the bible that you will be able to sign off on and understand exactly what will be built.
- QA Specialist: They will be responsible for testing the product as it’s developed and making sure the features work according to user stories. The result of their work is what will drive the discussions during the weekly meetings, and therefore cannot be overlooked.
As the agency forms this team, make sure you and your agency have a clearly understood communication structure so you know who is responsible for keeping you updated on certain tasks and who should receive your feedback.
Working with Project Manager Towards Full Transparency Development
Once the actual development begins, you will benefit most by maintaining an active role in the process. Most of it will revolve around regular updates, frequent feedback, and being actively involved in the management board for the project.
Project Management Board
When working with your development agency, make sure you only use a single development board for keeping both sides updated on progress, tasks, and potential issues. This may seem obvious, but most agencies will work in two boards - an internal board and a client-facing board.
At 923Digital, we believe in full transparency development. Our clients get a full insight into the whole development process by having access to the same task board that our team has. This is essential for sharing new ideas and receiving feedback as the features are developed.
There are many tools your agency can use to organize the project management board that follow different methodologies. No matter what you use, the board needs to:
- Make it easy to understand what tasks are a priority at any given time.
- Give a good overview of all deadlines and the project progress (One Sprint example below)
- Make it simple for team members to signal that they need more time to work on a task, or if they are stuck
- Make it clear what tasks belong to what team
- Facilitate communication between all stakeholders (including you!)
Weekly Update Meetings
Another important aspect of creating strong communication through the project are the weekly meetings and what kind of feedback both you and your agency needs to provide during those meetings.
With frequent feedback loops, it’s important to build upon previous iterations of the product. This means you, as a client, shouldn’t hold back when a previous feature doesn’t make sense anymore. You might also see new opportunities for other features that were not obvious during the kickoff meeting.
It’s important that you bring these things up on the weekly checks because it will most likely only result in higher product quality.
Many agencies can create inefficiencies and miscommunication by scheduling separate meetings for development and design. By scheduling a single update meeting with all relevant team members, your agency can spend the one-hour meeting per week gathering all requests and wishes from you and implementing both development and design in a unified way. This saves you time and ensures all aspects of the project are on the same page throughout.
We prefer to hold our weekly meetings on Wednesdays. This allows developers to manage their 5-day work schedules for peak productivity. Monday and Tuesday are best spent working on set tasks with minimal interruptions or changing demands. The Wednesday meeting allows the rest of the week to be spent reacting to any necessary changes and preparing for the following week.
For your next development project, make sure strong communication is a basis that defines everything else moving forward. By practicing full transparency development, you and your agency can open up stronger and clearer lines of communication to help your project achieve it’s core goals on time and on budget.