Effective Communications: A Key Element of Software Developers’ Skillsets
Imagine a scenario in which you are building an extension on your home. You have a vague idea of what you want. Unfortunately, you don’t know how to put that vision in the language that the architect and contractor need in order to turn your wishes into a reality. Even if you did, you are not sure of many details and can’t anticipate the questions that will pop up. Worse yet, you are leaving town for an extended period and will be too busy to check on the project.
What are the chances that you will be happy with the extension upon your return? Not great. In fact, the chances of failure are so high that the project almost certainly will be put on hold.
Organizations face precisely the same challenge. The nature of modern development projects demands constant communication. Emerging platforms such as artificial intelligence and its machine learning subcategory offer profound ways for an organization to improve its processes and efficiency and even reinvent itself entirely. But doing so is impossible without all stakeholders communicating deeply and fully.
This communication occurs on two levels: People within the organization, its vendors, and other stakeholders must communicate on a very deep level. The organization also must reach out to its end customers — whether it is a B2B or B2C project — to make sure what is being built meets their needs. This back and forth must be ongoing.
The challenge today is far greater because the emergence of awesomely powerful tools generates orders of magnitude more data to sift through in order to determine how customers are reacting. These platforms also give organizations far more choice in what features and services to develop.
Things also must be done far quicker. DevOps and other agile processes wring every possible minute out of the development process. Products are put into use far more quickly than before. Quality assures efforts and development cycles overlap. This puts an even greater focus on communications. There literally is no time to waste.
Communication is the most important element in a successful business, whether the people involved are employees of the company or if a firm such as VLink provides a pipeline of talent to supplement and complement the existing staff.
The need for communications is so vital that VLink Chief Digital Officer Nitin Nijhawan said during a recent VLink webinar that he personally screens job candidates. The technical skillsets of these candidates can be gauged from their CVs and screenings with recruiters. That’s not enough in the modern age, however: Nijhawan gets personally involved because he wants to ensure that the candidate has the communications skills capable of explaining sometimes very nuanced information. “Communication is very important,” Nijhawan said. “What this hand is doing, the other hand needs to know.”
Likewise, David Chan, the CEO and Founder of IntelleXt a panelist on the same webinar (referenced above), said that CEOs need to make sure that the features that are being introduced are what potential clients in the market truly want.
The vision that Chan and Nijhawan share is a development team that is nimble and flexible. Those qualities – a hallmark of what VLink provides–extend from the skillset employees need, to their ability to help guide the overall organization. Nijhawan says that a key is to meet as often as is necessary with upper management to discuss things such as what problems exist, the solutions, what features show promise, and should be built upon, and those that looked great on the drawing board but should be deemphasized.
The need for communication is deeper today. IntelleXt’s core idea is to use AI and natural language processing to boil through the complexity of complex legal documents to enable parties to negotiate the issues that truly matter to them. It explored using the concept in the enterprise contracting sector and then in the financial services area before finally focusing on real estate. It also worked with three outside development firms before landing on one they liked. Nijhawan says it’s important for any client to understand that “We work as a partner, not a vendor”.
The point is that such a journey makes it clear that a highly communicative team is vital for success. That’s the case–whether the project is a home extension or a complex make-or-break IT initiative.