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Bridging the Communication Gap Between Business and Development Teams

March 29, 2021 - Business Psychology - ,
By: Chris Riley

Three things in life seem universally certain: death, taxes, and the great communication gap that forms between business and development teams. Despite the importance of collaboration between the two, this disconnect between front-of-house sales and marketing or engineering teams occurs even in the most forward-thinking organizations.

Sharing Goals, But Not Ideas

Once you examine the issues involved, you realize that despite their shared goal of building a successful company, business and development teams operate out of sync with each other. Frustration runs rampant, and the project suffers overall. It soon becomes clear, though, that the divide stems not from obstinacy but from a communication gap.

Both teams want more information about products and users but naturally take different approaches to collecting and using that information. Hence, the story often unfolds detrimentally. Without talking with each other, one side brings in their own data-gathering tool. The other implements a brilliant, but team-specific, system to obtain the information they need. Eventually, this results in confusion, contradictory data, and unfulfilled expectations. The room is full of people, but none of them are talking about the same thing. 

This communication gap certainly happens in startups, but unfortunately, is not unique to any one type of business. I’ve spent most of my career working at the intersection of marketing, engineering, and production. Particularly, I’ve seen very organized business and development teams with mobile and web applications, along with modern development tools. However, some of these teams simply don’t share all the information they’ve gathered with business users. The primary cause of this is the amount of time spent gathering data and explaining the context. Such a significant investment of time detracts from work on the product itself. Inevitably, not sharing important information will lead to lost opportunities, or, in the worst-case scenario, to killing applications.

What Should You Do About Your Communication Gap?

Bridging this communication gap isn’t just good for creating workplace harmony, but also helps the entire organization become more capable. In the modern world, efficient exchanges of ideas play a vital role in the success or failure of your business. If the problem’s entrenched in your corporate culture, it may be time to restructure the business and development teams completely. But, an easier way to increase communication may be to establish a liaison team. In addition to establishing a systemic line of communication, cross-trained team members will appreciate the challenges of both teams. What is the benefit of this dual perspective? They can facilitate unique solutions that solve—or even prevent—problems before they happen.

Have you experienced this communication gap in your company? How was it handled? Share your experience in the comments!

This post was originally published in September 2019 and updated in March 2021.


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Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.

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