It is the team, not individuals, that deliver business value. Focus on creating effective and efficient teamwork because nobody is better than everybody.

In software, the development team is the unit of delivery. A productive team is so much more than a talented group of individuals. This applies whether you are building in-house software or working with an external supplier. Technical excellence is a valuable asset but it contributes little without effective teamwork. This does not occur by accident. It takes time to build a solid working relationship. A strong company culture can help to align everyone with a set of shared values.

A team should have everything it needs to deliver its objectives. It should be independent and empowered. In the agile world, feature teams are preferable to component teams. A team that focuses on features is able to deliver updates on a regular basis. As a client, you can see early and continual progress. Early delivery means a quicker return for your investment.

It’s amazing what you can do when you do not care who gets the credit.Harry S. Truman

When finding a new software supplier, look at the way their people interact. The best way to do this is during a site visit. Do you see great teamwork at play?  Effective teams have no interest in individual egos or finger pointing. Everyone helps each other to do the best job that they can. When someone makes a mistake, everyone learns from the experience. When things go well, congratulations go to the whole team. As Harry S, Truman once said, “It’s amazing what you can do when you do not care who gets the credit”.

Teamwork and Stability

Development teams enjoy stability. People that know each other work together more effectively. As a client, you become better acquainted with the members of a stable team. It’s easier to communicate and collaborate with people that you know.

When team members leave, they take their knowledge and experience with them. This takes time and effort to replace. High staff turnover leads to higher instability and the associated costs can be significant.

Context switching is another important factor to consider. A team that works on many projects will lose focus when moving between them. Software development is a complex business. People that excel have a lot of information stored in their heads at any given time. This information disappears when they move onto a different work stream. It’s like squeezing a wet sponge – everything of value suddenly disappears.

Understand your supplier’s approach to teamwork. For all but the simplest and shortest tasks, team stability will improve productivity. Focus on securing dedicated resources when building a long term relationship.

The working environment

Research shows that a team’s working environment has a profound effect on its productivity. People need a quiet and comfortable place to work. There should be whiteboards or the ability to write on the walls. Break out areas allow people to get together without disturbing those that need a little time to themselves.

The manager’s function is not to make people work, but to make it possible for people to work.Tom DeMarco

It’s not just the physical environment that matters. The way that managers interact with their teams will also influence the way that people work. As Tom DeMarco states, “The manager’s function is not to make people work, but to make it possible for people to work”.

This is something that you can’t appreciate when it’s written down. Visiting a supplier in their workplace is the best way to understand how people work together. For cases where suppliers work onsite at your premises, the same considerations apply. Build a comfortable working environment for your supplier’s team. You’ll discover how a relaxed team converts coffee and biscuits into productive outcomes.

Investing in people

The happiest people do the best work – it’s a simple and important statement. Paying someone a salary will not guarantee unfaltering commitment. Of course, professional people will act responsibly and generally do a good job. However, think back to a time when you worked for a boss you didn’t like. Without mutual respect and support, people will not be quite as productive. Treat your suppliers with respect and appreciate that they are helping to solve your business problems.

Ask your supplier’s views on training, employee support, and other staff development initiatives. You want to know that the people you are paying for are well looked after. Technology moves fast, it takes considerable effort to keep up. Software developers have a natural curiosity that helps to define who they are. They will tend to invest time into staying aware of new and emerging technologies. A good supplier will ensure that their teams do a great job for you and your business. They will provide creativity and innovation as well as doing a regular day job. Get the teamwork right and everything else will follow.