When it comes to working with an external software development team, building the relationship is often one of the greatest challenges. Coming from different working cultures, locations and backgrounds, creating a fruitful and synergistic partnership between internal and external teams can often be tough, and typically takes time.
With multiple perspectives involved in the decision making and development process, conflict at the early stages of engagement with an external team is common, as all parties try to put their best foot forward to achieve their interpretation of the project.
Despite these teething issues, the reality is, building a collaborative relationship between your internal teams and your external software development partner is key to maximising the success of any technical project.
In this blog, we explore what you need to do to effectively integrate an external development partner with your internal teams and take full advantage of what both sides can offer.
Communicate Regularly and Encourage Team Contribution
Good communication lies at the heart of effective teamwork. With this in mind, it’s important to give external teams the power to contribute when it matters or when they’re best positioned to add value. An external team brings new ideas to the table and so their perspective and contribution should be actively encouraged and welcomed.
To motivate external contribution, it’s important the culture is positive and the process is clear on how ideas should be presented. Whether this is through a particular channel or through an individual. Whatever the case, it needs to be communicated early and made clear how the recommendations will be considered.
Future decisions need to take external team’s viewpoints into account and the outcomes need carefully communicated irrespective of the final decision. Development teams that are regularly ignored will struggle to integrate with internal developers and are likely to feel like outsiders in the project.
When the external team is happy to share ideas naturally at the right time and to the right people, you’ll know you have an asset that has effectively integrated into the business.
Build Clear Processes That Empower the Software Development Team
For the software development team to effectively feel empowered, they need to understand the processes around their involvement in a project. For example, how to make arguments for a particular strategic decision or how to demo a particular tool that could help.
For such a dynamic to work, it should be clear where, when and how the team’s contributions should be made and there full transparency on how their ideas will be reviewed. To achieve this ambition, the right project management and communication tools are needed to ensure everyone is working together comfortably, and knows where to look for feedback.
Helping the external development team understand your company’s way of working is crucial to helping them integrate in the right way, while maximising their value to the business.
Provide Clarity Around Ownership and Give the Software Development Team Responsibility
To further encourage the integration of an external software development team in your business, it’s important the team feels both empowered and responsible. They need to be able to make their own decisions at times, without being excessively micromanaged. This trust is absolutely critical to enhancing collaboration and maximising contribution when it matters most.
To avoid any internal politics, it’s also important the team is made aware of the key decision makers within the business and their credentials. This will help them appreciate who they’re collaborating with and provide a point of contact when it comes to decision making. This transparency is absolutely key when it comes to ownership. The external development team must have the faith of internal decision makers, and should not require external sign off for every little thing. They’re being paid to use their expertise to deliver added value, and in order to do that, they need the freedom to take action.
Develop a Welcoming Attitude That Builds a Positive Relationship
To take full advantage of the external development team’s value, they need to be encouraged to think outside the box. Their knowledge and skills will likely be very different to those found internally and so you need to find a way of tapping into them at every opportunity. This independence is key to the value they can offer and so it’s integral that thinking differently is welcomed, and not discouraged.
At the start of the relationship, to make a good impression, it’s likely the external team will come to the table with ambitious new ideas, and this is where it’s important to have the facilities in place that can help channel that creativity, while giving them guidance and direction.
The attitude shown towards these ideas will play a major role in how the team lay the foundation for the future of the relationship. It’s important to remember, the team should not just feel like they’re picking up the tasks nobody inside the business actually wants to do. At no point should the external team feel like 2nd class citizens.
Why Efforts Need to Be Made to Integrate and Empower External Software Development Teams
When hiring an external development team, the opportunities are almost endless. However to make the most of them, efforts need to be made to tap into their expertise and knowledge. This means they need to be carefully integrated to give them every opportunity to contribute and add value. By providing fresh ideas around delivery and development, an external team can improve efficiency through tips, tricks and tools while diversifying the conversation by adding a new voice to the mix. This can help improve development project outcomes, drive internal learning and maximise the potential of the project.
All in all, coordinating internal and external teams is about balance. It’s essential teams don't feel micromanaged throughout delivery, and have the ability to contribute, while also feeling like a part of the internal team too.
When a balance can be found and the external development team are working in harmony with internal teams, your development process is likely to be far more efficient as each side takes advantage of the other’s work, skills and expertise. In this scenario, both internal and external teams complement each other when it matters most for the benefit of the company and all involved.