Collaboration and Software Development

etymology of collaboration   Google Search

Most of us have probably used the term collaboration enough to have such a good idea of what it means that we don’t really have to stop to consider its implications. As the Google summary above says, the term derives from the latin word collaboratio (which also derives from the Latin terms for together (col) and and work (laborare)). Despite its similarities to the word cooperate — which also has connections to working (operari) together (co) — collaboration when it comes to software development and programming has a very distinct meaning from cooperation.

How Does Collaboration Differ From Cooperation?

While cooperating is an essential part of working with someone on a project, it does not connote a sense of ownership. This is an important distinction since ownership, the taking of responsibility for a task, is vital to working effectively when developing software. When collaborating with clients, it’s important that developers and programmers be willing to offer their clients the benefits of their expertise, particularly since it’s their expertise that clients needed when they first decided to work with an outside consultant.

Effective Collaboration Requires Active Thinking

When working with a client on a project, developers should also take on an active role, making it clear that their work on a client’s project does not mean that they are waiting to be told what to do. Much like the difference between reading a novel actively versus passively, the active collaborator will think about the implications of a particular feature or function, or what it will mean to work with inherited code, or how porting a Windows app to an iPad could affect its UI or UX. This type of active thinking encourages developers to consider what types of problems might arise throughout the project, putting them in a much better position to avoid surprises from unexpected events. Active collaboration requires the developer to work on a project while considering the idea that first motivated it, keeping in mind the needs that drive it, and looking forward to possible innovations or developments that might ultimately improve its functionality.

ballroom dance

Collaborative Software Development And Dance

Though it probably goes without saying, it’s worth recalling that collaboration cannot happen alone. Much like a ballroom dance, the art of collaborative software development requires that the partners work together for the harmony to come alive. If ego gets in the way, or one of the collaborators refuses to trust and respect the other, the entire performance/production can become a tangled mess the leaves one of you with a broken foot. As with dance, when a collaborative project is executed properly, the result is an efficient, graceful and smooth working relationship.

At the risk of exhausting the dance metaphor, just as dancers can reference past experiences with other dance partners to assess their ability to dance well with a new partner and to understand which type of partner works best for them, so too can companies and organizations reflect on their own internal collaborative processes in order to inform their development partner about what seemed to work and not work in the past. Ideally, the software development team you hire can offer you similar insights gathered from their own experiences working with collaborative processes and relationships.

As part of your collaboration, your software development providers should be able to discuss with you:

  • Their process for handling internal communications
  • How they will set up meetings with you
  • What types of reports they will create for you
  • How they work with your in-house designer and developers
  • How they will coordinate deployments of your new software, etc.

It’s vital to recall that when you are collaborating with a developer on a project, you are essentially yoked together so that you can pull your project through with the benefits of your coordinated efforts. As such, collaboration should not become an exercise in independent study, wherein your developer suddenly disappears for weeks at a time only to come back for occasional feedback. Effective software development is a creative effort and, as such, it requires that all the collaborators be available to each other throughout the process, sharing in a willingness to revisit what was found in discovery and what might have changed since the project kickoff.

J. Carlos Perez

J. Carlos Perez

Carlos is Director of Marketing at Art+Logic. He received his BA in the College of Letters from Wesleyan University and then attended graduate school at U.C. Berkeley, where he was a medievalist. After stepping off the academic path, Carlos began working for a tech startup in New York and went on to specialize in SEO, online copywriting, Wordpress, AdWords, and social media. He likes to be outside.

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