The Critical Role of Coordination in Tech Projects

Photo of Mateusz Czajka

Mateusz Czajka

Updated May 22, 2024 • 10 min read
Businessman showing computer screen to coworkers in creative office-Apr-03-2024-09-07-59-6362-AM

Truth be told, we have a lot of solutions to software engineering problems within reach. We just don’t harness them. What impedes us? Often, it’s about poor coordination.

Introduction

What does it take to build a tech team that works in sync, like a well-oiled machine? If the first thing that comes to mind is ‘talent’, you’re not wrong, but it’s just one of the factors. You must also have a project coordinator, who’ll act as the bridge between business objectives, team capabilities, and the end user’s needs.

In this piece, I look at the factors that influence tech project success and share some of the best practices.

Effective communication

Effective communication lies at the very core of product development.

It lets you hear the voices of all stakeholders, from software engineers, product owners, and designers to end users, and incorporate them into the product. It also improves team productivity, according to 72% of business leaders.

That said, what is deemed as ‘effective’ can mean a lot of things. Back when the Agile Manifesto came out, the focus was placed on ‘face-to-face’ communication. Fast forward to today, however, most teams following agile methodologies interpret the ‘face-to-face’ factor as cross-functional collaboration through the use of online tools.

Aminata J., Senior Product Manager at Amazon, aptly notices that “collaboration tools have transformed the way we work, allowing for seamless connectivity and idea sharing regardless of location. However, they can also bring about challenges like distraction and burnout. To address these issues, it’s crucial to take regular breaks and assess tools regularly to ensure they work for you.”

Good communication doesn’t happen magically, simply by giving your team access to synchronous and asynchronous collaboration tools. It requires the involvement of an experienced Product Manager, who can create standards for written and verbal communication and ensure that all perspectives are heard by the team.

When building your own team or choosing a tech partner, it’s important to check what the team members define as ‘effective communication’. A great way to verify your alignment is by looking at endorsements from past clients.

For instance, our clients at Netguru often bring up “clarity” and “meaningful communication” as the most important values they seek in a partner. They also want to work with a team that is both “responsive” and “flexible” throughout the entire project duration.

Now that I’ve mentioned the product team’s perspective, let’s take a closer look at hearing out your potential users and customers.

Feedback loop

Gathering feedback from users allows you to develop your product in line with their goals and objectives. It acts as an invaluable source of insights not only for product managers, but also for all other members of the development team.

Naturally, since the market changes – and so do the needs of clients – seeking out feedback should be an ongoing process. The best insights collection method will depend on what you’re looking to validate, and the stage of the project.

If you want to test out a design concept, you could find a lot of success by running a usability testing session. And if you’re looking to collect input on the live features of your website or app, you can do so by session recording, running a survey, or even by conducting an interview. The bottom line is, make sure that you’re using feedback from your ideal customers to continuously improve the product.

Best practices in terms of teamwork

Explain what the expectations and goals are

The first step to ensuring effective teamwork is setting a goal. It’s impossible for people to perform at their best if they don’t know what’s expected of them.

Tell each employee what they need to deliver, but without telling them exactly how to do it. Give them room for creativity – they’re smart, they’ll find a way to figure out how to complete each task best.

Explain what outcomes you expect, and share criteria for excellence for every task or team function. Just bear in mind that these might differ between roles, for example, quality assurance specialists might have different quality standards to project managers. You should define specific ones for everyone.

Good teams communicate challenges as soon as they arise

No tech project is without challenges. While teams might not be aware of all of them right from the start, it’s key to inform everyone about a problem as soon as it gets spotted. Such an approach will not only reduce stress, but also help team members prepare potential solutions that will improve the chances of delivering the work on time.

We did a project for Edukoya, which had a tight delivery schedule. Their education platform had to be released at the beginning of the school year. However, as the project scope was broad, we quickly realized that finishing it on time would be impossible.

We informed the client about the risks, but also shared solutions to the problems. Thanks to modifying the scope and adding more people to the team, the beta version was launched on time – and it all came down to good communication.

Know what each employee is good at

Do you know what your employees strengths and weaknesses are? Being aware of them will help you distribute tasks better and enhance productivity and satisfaction, all of which will positively impact teamwork. Otherwise, you might end up in a situation where you give one of your team members a task they don’t have competencies to do, or simply hate doing.

Recognize the role of QA

These last several years have been incredibly rough for QA specialists, whose jobs were consequently substituted in favor of automation. And while I believe that automation is and will continue to gain ground in the field, businesses will go nowhere without the work of specialists who ensure code and design quality. In this regard, I agree with David Caudill, who wrote that the "fast track to faster software delivery was not to ‘fire your testers’”.

Quality Assurance is a far broader discipline than catching code glitches or running a ‘bug bash’. Unlike developers, who debug the code they created, QA specialists can look at your product through the eyes of end users. They are the bridge between the technical team and the end market, who can catch issues early in the development and nip them in the bud. This saves you time and money you might spend on debugging. I highly encourage you to read about the whole scope of their work in our article on quality assurance activities.

Validate all assumptions with end users and ensure their perspective is heard

A lot of the time, a product’s success comes down to understanding the expectations of end users and meeting them. That’s why it’s vital to conduct thorough market research to validate all initial assumptions.

One of our clients, Dar Al Arkan, wanted to become a property sales leader in the Middle East. While working on the project, we discovered a significant societal change taking place. The market that used to be male-oriented, with men being primary decision makers has undergone a shift with females becoming the main decision makers.

Our research has proven game-changing for the client and made them modify their product and their approach to sales. They started bringing female agents on board to answer the gender imbalance and cater to their target’s needs.

Poor coordination derails projects

Bad coordination and poor teamwork can kill even the most promising ideas. Market changes and tech advancements happen much quicker than they did in the past. This elevates the role of sound project collaboration even higher.

We don’t have to look far for cautionary tales – let’s take two failed healthcare tech projects:

  • The Healthcare.gov site went down within 2 hours from launch; it was full of tech hiccups and offered a poor user experience. Why did the rollout become a fiasco? One of the reasons was poor collaboration and communication between numerous government agencies, contractors and other stakeholders who were on the project. Bad coordination, or lack of thereof resulted in inadequate testing, insufficient control, and incomplete requirements.
  • Britain’s digital contact tracing app, which was supposed to alert members of the public that they might have been exposed to the virus, failed due to massive coordination problems. Chaotic management, overspending, and technical issues such as interoperability problems, made the NHS pull the plug on the app right after local trials.

These examples show that delivering successful tech projects, particularly at a time of market fluctuations like these past few years, comes down to effective communication, defining clear roles, and implementing feedback. At a high level, it’s about ensuring all team members are working towards the same goal.

It’s necessary to build systems that enable better cooperation, identify and eliminate factors that hinder teamwork, and create an environment where people are able to perform at their best.

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Mateusz Czajka

Chief Delivery Officer at Netguru. Mateusz is responsible for delivering top-quality, innovative...
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