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Since the beginning of IT development and up until now, stakeholders in IT projects have been complaining that the outcome products contain too many bugs, are not user-friendly or that they do not match business needs. The other commonly-raised issue is that development is perceived as too expensive, too complex or that it takes too much time. Because of these complaints and since people don’t like making irreversible decisions, Agile methodologies were born. Approaches, standards, norms, methods, and techniques were conceived to address the above‑mentioned problems.
Even though Agile methodologies have been developed, IT professionals still fail to make their customers happy at times. One of the reasons for it is that in the past, the only customers used to be IT professionals as well. Since then, a lot has changed – now frequently, customers are people from outside of the IT industry. Because real achievements are not made by individuals but by teams, good teamwork is the key to the project’s success, and there is a need to tear down the wall between the customer and the development team, as well as between the team members. People need to understand each other; a common language and denominator for business and technology has to be developed.
It is true that bad technology can make a project fail and nowadays, there are no manuals that can solve every problem; in Agile methodologies, there is also not much documentation. But even technology that is perfectly well-suited for a given project, as well as copious documentation and voluminous manuals are not enough to make it successful. Since teams are built out of individuals who work together in order to reach a common goal, improving teamwork is essential. On top of hard skills, soft ones are necessary, as well as some knowledge of psychology and communication because we use our minds in our work. We need to know how to engage team members in their work; we also need to be aware of how other people think – for instance, a good tester has to be able to imagine how the application can be misused by the end-user, as well as to come up with a solution on how to put the user back on the right track.
Because of constant social changes, today everything is blurry – for instance, it is not even known who precisely a software tester is: A business analyst? A test automation expert? For this reason, communication-related problems are still present in IT projects. And since Agile is based on cooperation, communication is very important and is one of the key project success factors. In this blog post, some common communication pitfalls will be described, including their causes and example solutions, which are meant to improve teamwork in Agile projects.
In order to tackle many of the above-mentioned issues, various kinds of workshops can be organized, as they can be beneficial to IT projects for many reasons. They make people engaged, which is when they deliver. They also encourage differences and out-of-the box thinking, and they make it easier for people to come up with ideas, especially innovative ones; they also increase the project’s agility. The most beneficial ones tend to be those during which every person has to share their opinion, as they are more conducive to coming up with new ideas and solutions. Finally, workshops can be one of the means to prevent a situation in which an application unusable for users is developed, resulting in project failure.
The first kind of workshop is about making people communicate openly, as common intelligence and knowledge-sharing is always an added value in a project. Example workshops:
The next kind of workshop can make people understand each other better. Example workshops include:
Then, there are workshops that can make everyone understand the direction in which the project is going. Examples of workshops which can prove helpful in envisioning the future are the following:
The final kind of workshop is one that makes it easier for the team to build a common identity – it is Our coat of arms. During it, the team has to define its values, beliefs, goals, and tasks, as well as a motto. It needs to draw from its experience (i.e. the team’s best and worst moments). The key to the workshop’s success is sincerity. Then, the ideas are discussed and a final coat of arms and motto are defined. This workshop can increase the team members’ engagement in the project, as it can make them feel more a part of a team with shared goals, instead of just individuals working on a given project.
To sum up, Agile methodologies and good practices, etc. are not enough to make a project successful in the eyes of the customer. The key factor is good teamwork. Because teams are made out of people who differ and are not perfect, various issues, notably related to communication, may arise. Factors such as open communication, mutual understanding, common vision of the future and group coherence play a significant role in the group’s cooperation. For this reason, holding a workshop devoted to the improvement of any of these factors is likely to improve the cooperation of virtually any Agile team, resulting in higher effectiveness in the project and better product quality.
Author: Joanna Bebak