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The Communication Divide between Developers, Project Managers and Clients

Posted: Sep 25, 2020
Development

The accent in a person’s voice often indicates what part of the world they live in. Those of us who live in the Midwestern part of the United States hear a different accent coming from individuals living on the West Coast. The accent of a person can make it harder to understand information coming from that person. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago gave me an ear for different accents. Having family from Mississippi gave me even more opportunities to listen to and observe distinct accents. From my experience, it takes some time getting used to when listening to people with different dialects and accents. However, after spending time with these individuals, you gain the ability to understand what they are saying, predict what they are going to say next, and respond in a way that they understand.

According to an article by Richard Nordquist on Thoughtco.com, "A dialect is a verbal departure from standard language. Dialects are characteristic of a particular group of speakers and have their own charm as well.” A couple examples Nordquist gave were: “'Y'all' in the South, 'Yah' in Minnesota, 'Eh?' in Canada.”

It may be more difficult to understand a person’s dialect and accent when specialty jargon is used. This is the dilemma that developers have when in communication with project managers, and project managers to clients.

The Developers vs. Project Managers

Developers rarely have communication with the clients directly. This is because clients may not have a great understanding of technical jargon and terminology that the developers use, so it is up to the project managers to bridge the gap. The project manager will need communication skills to be able to understand the client’s needs and then deliver the information to the software developer. Project managers are the key to any successful development team, as they make sure everyone on the project is on the same page.

The project manager must have a full understanding of the client’s needs and goals. Their job is to also understand what is feasible and within scope of the project. While communicating with the client, for example, half way through the project, the project manager may learn that the client would like to implement an integration with a third party vendor. This is the first they are hearing of this integration. The project manager brings the idea to the developer, who upon hearing the idea, immediately says this will take more than 100 days of heads down programming. In this scenario, it may cost the developer countless hours learning how to integrate from all these third-party platforms. The project manager might be shocked to hear that this (what they believed was a simple integration) would be such a huge undertaking and would absolutely cause a large delay in the project timeline.

The example above may be extreme; however it is an occurrence that can make a budget explode, even in smaller scopes. Projects that seem never ending, extremely delayed, or have too low of a budget for the desired work are never ideal circumstances. The solution to these types of situations are to build a communication guide that fits all parties.

To have effective developer, project manager and client communication, you all need to be on the same page from the beginning.

Start Your Project on the Same Page

Have a meeting with all parties at the beginning of the Discovery phase of the project to identify the scope of the project. The Discovery phase is critical to understand the scope of the project and predicting the questions that arise. A good project manager should be able to identify and predict what questions the developer may have and the features the client might desire. The project manager then can have a better understanding of the client’s priorities, which they can then translate to the developer. Having the developer understand the desired scope and goals as well helps everyone find a solution and will fill in the blanks that requirement documents often leave out. This way, everyone is on the same page right off the bat.

Use pictures. Having a visual representation is the most effective of communication tools. Developers use flow chart diagrams. Wireframes are also extremely helpful and are also a very important, especially when completely rebuilding a website. Wireframes and flow chart diagrams can be collaborated among all parties and keeps everyone on the same page. A developer can take the requirements document and turn it into a flow chart diagram showing the results of the document visually.

These tools are just pieces that make up a strong communication plan and a strong communication plan will ease the divide between clients, project managers and web developers. Just like an accent, web developers use technological terminology and lingo and it is up to the project manager to be that “translator” between the client and developer. And just like being fluent in another language or dialect, a project manager needs to understand and predict the needs of who they are communicating with. It is important for this communication to begin right at the start of the project, so everyone has the same understanding of what can be expected throughout the project. 

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Author:

Ken Anderson