Whether you're a new or seasoned developer, you'll need to know how to work on a dev team. Some developers prefer to work alone — believing that they're more efficient while working independently — but an effective team is more than just the sum of its parts. Plus, there are several reasons why you might need to collaborate with your team, such as:
- The project could be too large for one developer to complete on their own
- The project could involve several technologies, and one developer isn't going to be an expert in all of them
- The project has a deadline, and it can't be met by one person
In any of these situations, there are multiple ways you can improve your team's collaborative effectiveness. Matt, a developer from Ohio, shares 10 tips for working on a dev team. Read on — or watch the video below — to learn more.
1. Make your work easy to understand
Have you ever come across code that was impossible to read? Code that is difficult to understand can slow down a dev team's process and hurt the final product. Other developers on your team should be able to understand the purpose of every function or file included in your code. In the video above, Matt recommends ensuring that your work is easy to understand by:
- Using style guides. Style guides provide conventions for naming functions, making comments, and more. Following these guides make it easier for everyone to understand each other's work.
- Keeping your files organized. This makes it easier for everyone on the team to find what they need.
- Naming your files, functions, and variables well. Always write full descriptions of your files without using abbreviations to make it easier for others to access and use them.
2. Write out documentation ASAP
As Matt explains, documenting your work helps in several ways because it:
- Keeps everyone on the same page
- Makes it easier to jump back into older code
- Enables asynchronous collaboration
- Helps track and resolve bugs
Although documentation may not seem like an important part of your skillset, it's crucial to facilitate the kind of communication that produces successful applications. Therefore, you should document every step of your process.
3. Make sure everyone knows what you're working on
Keep your teammates informed about your projects as you complete them. You don't need to update them on every step along the way, but you should let them know when you start and finish. Send a message to your team, or synopsize your agenda during your next meeting. Letting everyone know what you're working on helps your team avoid overlapping efforts, improve productivity, and eliminate redundancy.
4. Prioritize tasks
Depending on the team you're working on, you may have tasks assigned to you, or you may have to claim the tasks you want to do. Prioritizing your tasks — or listing them in order of importance — ensures that you're focused on the right thing at the right time. This may include keeping a backlog, which consists of less vital tasks that developers can work on between larger projects.
5. Limit work in progress by working together
Matt recommends working with your team using a "swarm and destroy" approach. Swarm and destroy is the opposite of divide and conquer, which involves everyone working on their specific tasks. With swarm and destroy, everyone works together. If someone seems to be falling behind, they can reach out to their teammates for help.
6. Have regular stand-ups
A stand-up is a quick, daily team meeting where everyone shares their progress with their individual tasks. Stand-ups can encompass each of the three tips above — keeping everyone informed, prioritizing tasks as a team, and lending a hand when necessary.
7. Think as a team
The team should aim for a mutual accountability mindset. Although it may be human nature to serve your own interests, this often doesn't help (and might even hinder) your team's progress. Matt uses a sports team as an example, explaining how if one player does what they want — even if they do it very well — their efforts accomplished very little if the whole team loses. Thinking as a team, making each problem everyone's problem, helps the entire team win.
8. Follow your leader
Every team needs a leader. Not only do they help keep everyone focused, but without one, it can be harder to resolve disagreements and roadblocks. If your team doesn't have a leader, establish one as soon as possible. This way, when hang-ups arise, they don't derail your dev team's overall process.
Using a leader to decide the outcome of conflicts saves a lot of time. Still, if you disagree with someone — including the leader — it's important to voice your opinion tactfully.
9. Do code review
As Matt explains, reviewing each other's code improves the overall quality of the end product. If your dev team doesn't have an established process for code review, try to institute a code review policy. Code reviews are helpful because they:
- Ensure that all code is up to a certain standard
- Allow for systematic testing
- Keep developers accountable for their work
10. Use pair programming
Lastly, Matt recommends employing pair programming, which involves two developers working in tandem. While one developer writes the code, the other acts as a navigator — spotting errors, thinking one step ahead, and searching for any solutions their partner might need. In this way, the navigator helps guide the coding process, and the end result is more stable code.
Even though pair programming requires two people to work simultaneously, it may save time in the long run that you might otherwise spend debugging.
Pair programming can be a powerful tool but should only be used when needed. Simpler tasks can probably be handled on your own. Still, it's important to make sure everyone is open to collaborating on occasion. It'll make the work go by faster and easier.
With these ten tips, you can improve your team's communication, productivity, and collaborative efficiency. They'll also help your team work together as a cohesive unit. Plus, as you support each other, your projects will become less stressful and more fun. If you want to learn more skills that'll help improve your effectiveness as a developer, check out our catalog.