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Bridging the Gap Between Business and Development Teams

August 31, 2014 - Business Psychology, Marketing, Startups - , , ,
By: Chris Riley

Three things in life are pretty much universally certain: death, taxes and the great organizational gulf that always seems to form between business and development teams. Despite the importance of collaboration between the two, I find this disconnect between front-of-house sales and marketing and engineering occurs in even in the most forward-thinking organizations.

 

Sharing Goals, But Not Ideas

Once you examine the issues involved, you realize that despite the teams’ shared goal of building a successful company they are operating out of sync with each other. Frustration is rampant, and the project is suffering overall. It soon becomes clear, though, that the divide stems not from obstinance but from lack of communication.

Both teams always want more information about the product and the users, but each naturally takes different approaches for collecting and using that information. This means that the story often unfolds the same way: without talking with each other, one side brings in their own data-gathering tool while the other implements a brilliant but team-specific system to obtain the information they need. Ultimately, there is confusion, contradictory data and unfulfilled expectations. The room is full of people, but none of them are talking about the same thing.

“…inevitably not sharing important information will lead to lost opportunities, or even, in the worst case scenario, to killing applications.”

This certainly happens in startups, but unfortunately, it 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. I’ve seen very organized teams with mobile and web applications and modern development tools simply not sharing all the information they’ve gathered with the business users. There are many reasons, but the primary cause is the amount of time spent gathering the data and explaining the context can take away from working on the product itself. This is not a good reason, though, because inevitably not sharing important information will lead to lost opportunities, or even, in the worst case scenario, to killing applications.

 

What Should You Do?

 

Bridging this communication gap is not just good for harmony in the workplace, it will help the entire organization become more capable. In the modern world, an efficient exchange of ideas can play a vital role in the success or failure of your business. If the problem is entrenched in your corporate culture, it may be time to restructure the 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. The benefit of this dual perspective? They are able to facilitate unique solutions that can solve—or even prevent—problems before they happen.

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

photo credit: John Ryan via Flickrcc by-nc-sa 2.0


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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.