4 Communication Best Practices to Look for in an External Team

Adriana Campoy
July 10, 2020

It can be tough to decide to outsource a project, and concerns about communication can be a major factor. If you're looking for development help, you might wonder whether your software partner's communication style will be compatible with yours, or you might even be worried about being kept in the dark about the team's progress and challenges. With these legitimate concerns in mind, we decided to share some key best practices to keep an eye out for when you're searching for a software development company to work with.

1. Regular Updates and Demos

A primary concern might be whether your external team will consistently keep you in the loop. You want to be sure that your software partner is in the habit of scheduling regular meetings to demonstrate progress and collect your feedback. A good indicator of best practices in this area can be if a team uses an Agile framework like Scrum, where frequent feedback from stakeholders is built in to the structure of how the team operates. Depending on your desired level of involvement, in Scrum you can get a good picture of how things are going on a day-to-day basis by attending the team's daily scrum. At sophilabs, we love the way Scrum facilitates communication and transparency both within the team and with stakeholders, reinforcing a culture of honesty and trust.

2. Real-Time Communication in a Team Channel

It's a good idea to look into what tools your potential software partner uses to communicate. Emailing back and forth can be slow and clunky compared to instant messaging tools like Slack that allow for easy synchronous communication. At sophilabs, we create a team channel for every project and use these over individual conversations, keeping everyone on the same page and avoiding communication silos.

3. Strategic Video Calls

Sometimes hashing something out in Slack isn't practical, especially when there's a more complex issue at hand. An experienced software partner should have a good handle on when something calls for an ad-hoc video conference, allowing you to to dive deeper and resolve issues more effectively. However, your external team should also be mindful of avoiding meeting fatigue and respecting the many demands on your time. At sophilabs, we communicate frequently and consistently with clients to reduce the number of necessary meetings, and we make sure the meetings we do hold have a clear, focused objective that everyone is aware of.

While these more nuanced communication tendencies may be difficult to fully evaluate until you start working with an external team, it's wise to pay attention to how a software company handles communication with you throughout the sales process to start getting a general idea of their communication culture.

4. Active Listening

Great communication is not just about frequency and the tools you use. The quality of the communication that takes place is critically important, forming the basis of a trusting relationship with your software partner. As skilled consultants, members of your external team should practice active listening in order to truly understand your needs and priorities and create solutions that benefit your business.

A good listener gives you their full attention while you're speaking (i.e., they don't multitask or try to predict what you're going to say) and demonstrates their focus on your conversation through eye contact and body language. They should ask you thoughtful questions to help you expand on your pain points and help them empathize with your point of view. They might rephrase what you said and repeat it back to you in order to make sure they understood. These techniques may sound like common sense, but quality listeners are more rare than you might think. Looking for these great habits from the very first conversation you have with a potential software partner will help you choose a team that's genuinely interested in your success.

Good communication is the foundation of working together effectively. If you're planning on outsourcing your project to an external team, make sure you don't underestimate the importance of quality communication with your software vendor. Looking for these key best practices while you're shopping for a software development agency can help you find a great fit. If you want to learn more about how we do things at sophilabs, including how we collect requirements to ensure we understand client needs, take a look at how we work.

"4 Communication Best Practices to Look for in an External Team" by Adriana Campoy is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko.

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