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The Key to Successfully Communicating with a Development Team

Written By Nick Mendez | Mar 11, 2016

Developers are too frequently stereotyped as being secluded, anti-social or generally awkward. It does a real disservice to a field that’s expanding rapidly and welcoming hungry professionals with a widening variety of backgrounds and personalities.

Development is also, however, a pretty unique process. It employs methods of collaboration, inter-team communication and even management hierarchy that may seem wholly unfamiliar to outsiders. Whether you want to work in project management, creative direction or even design, your career will be much more successful if you can learn to crack that code.

Angela Riggs is a relative newcomer to development, having come from a background in education. She’s nonetheless acclimated herself to that community very quickly, using what she learned at Portland Code School to land a job at Metal Toad, a Portland technology consultancy.

Now that she’s been accepted into the development fold (via a dark and secret ritual, no doubt) I thought I’d ask her directly: what’s the key to successfully communicating with a development team?

Being straightforward goes a long way.

Being straightforward goes a long way, she told me. There’s less grey area in development: something’s either possible or not, yes or no, black and white. Speaking matter-of-factly cuts through the messaging to the core of your idea, and whether or not it can be implemented.

Angela also pointed out how quickly agencies iterate on processes and methodologies, and developers want their say! Being transparent about those changes allows managers to include the development team’s unique perspective in any changes, and build a more efficient organization.

When you’re speaking to developers about a project, include your reasoning! Development might be a yes or no science, but understanding a campaign’s long-term goals and vision is just as important to devs as it is to designers or copywriters. They want to feel good about their work too!

Agile methodologies can be very helpful in facilitating this communication. These systems assign numerical values to tasks based on their difficulty, and when implemented correctly, facilitate a shorthand form of communication between the various teams at an agency.

Communicating with your teammates isn’t rocket science—long as you treat everyone with respect and consistently demonstrate that their viewpoint is valuable. But as development teams grow, and more professionals join the field everyday, it’s important to recognize how unique their approach is, and consider how it fits into the greater creative process.

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