With a WebOps framework, communication flows freely from kickoff to launch, and at every milestone in between. That means no silos, no surprises come launch time, and no wasted development hours.
Team communication is more important—and more challenging—than ever right now. The COVID-19 crisis has put more pressure on web teams to deliver as consumers rapidly change their shopping habits and increase their time spent online. Plus, the new reality of working virtually has created communication challenges for businesses, as well as exacerbating existing ones.
To overcome these difficulties and emerge as a stronger, more successful business, teams need to invest in fostering better collaboration. This means adopting a WebOps mentality, where teams work cross-functionally on web strategy and implementation. This organizational shift will help to improve productivity, drive results, and solve communication problems.
What Is Team Communication?
Team communication is the interaction and exchange of information, news, and ideas among a group of people dedicated to the completion of a common goal. Teams generally have complementary skills that enable them to complete tasks, jobs, or projects together. Web teams generally consist of marketers, developers, and designers but may include stakeholders from other areas.
The better the team communication, the better the web experiences they create. Improving team collaboration means moving away from the waterfall model—where stakeholders do the “idea” work and then pass off a list of requirements to developers—and embrace the idea that each member of the team’s experience and skillset is valuable and necessary at every stage of the development process.
The Team: Marketers, Developers, Designers
In most companies, there’s a marketing team, a development team, and a design team. These teams work on projects independently based on mandates handed down from stakeholders and project managers. This top-down approach leads to the creation of information silos, where teams are largely unaware of what other groups or working on, or how their work contributes to the big picture.
With a WebOps mentality, there’s a product-oriented web team. This team consists of marketers, developers, and designers, and each member of the team is a product owner. Each person is involved in web strategy, identifying project requirements, and seeing campaigns through to completion. That means no silos, no surprises come launch time, and no wasted development hours. Communication flows freely from kickoff to launch, and at every milestone in between.
Here’s what this approach could look like in practice.
Let’s say you’re building a new landing page for an upcoming product launch. The marketing team requests a call to action (CTA) box in the lower right corner of the page. According to the development team, that design would be a net new component that will take much more time to create than it would to reuse a CTA format already available on the site.
Under a waterfall approach, the development team would be tasked with creating the new component, regardless of whether or not the resources required offset the business case for doing it. With WebOps, members of the marketing, design, and development team sit down and discuss the whys and why nots, and together arrive at an efficient solution that best meets the goals of the project based on their shared expertise.
Strategies for Improving Team Communication
Embracing a WebOps mentality is the first step toward improving team communication, but it’s not the only step. Making this approach work means everyone working together on better collaboration. Here are some things that each team member can do, each day, toward this goal:
Instead of focusing on features, think about goals. What are the success metrics? What action do we want the end-users to take? Is there a specific pain point or opportunity we’re trying to address? To go back to the CTA example, having data on past landing page performance will help each team member to understand what has and hasn’t worked in the past, so the group can work together to refine old strategies and test new ones.
Use Time Wisely
No one likes to waste time, even when they’re being paid for it. Keeping meetings short and focused, and weighing development time against the ROI of the project or feature, will ensure that team members are making the best use of the time they have available, and that hours are being used strategically.
Hold Group Meetings Instead of 1:1s
One-on-one meetings are important for measuring individual team member engagement and solving one-off problems, but when it comes to building web experiences, it’s important to have all stakeholders present. If you want to build a successful web team, then it’s important that each member is on the same page. For example, a developer may not have any specific tasks in publishing a page of content, but they may have insights on additional features or best practices for layouts.
Ensure Everyone Understands Their Responsibilities
Anyone who has ever walked out of a team meeting unclear about what they need to do next understands how important this is. If you’re using time wisely as highlighted above, then your meetings end with everyone on the same page, a list of action items, and a plan for who’s responsible for what.
Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
It may seem as though the more groups communicate, the better the overall team communication, but research has shown that’s not necessarily the case. The quality of communication is much more important than frequency—and the more relevant, complete, and clear the communication is, the higher the quality.
Learn to Speak the Same Language
Developers, marketers, and designers each have their own language based on their business objectives and job functions. To foster quality communication, it’s important for teams to educate each other about the meaning of words and phrases specific to their tasks, and be proactive about asking for clarification when needed.
When collaborating with team members with different skills and experiences, it’s important to be open to new ways of working, and new solutions to old problems. You may think the CTA box should be in the lower right-hand corner of the page, for example, but the developers and designers may have good reasons why it shouldn’t. Being flexible with requirements—within reason—ensures that you’re moving forward with the best ideas, or at least solid ones worth testing.
Encourage Feedback and Listen To It
When team members are afraid to speak up, team communication suffers. Soliciting feedback and, more importantly, listening and responding to it, will make each team member feel heard. It’s also important to give your team different avenues for sharing feedback—for example, some members may feel comfortable speaking up in a meeting, while others would prefer to submit feedback digitally.
Find the Right Communication Channels and Processes
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing team communication—what works for a team at another company may not work for yours. You may have to test out different tools and processes before you find the right mix for your business.
Here are a few to consider (Bonus: they can all be integrated with Pantheon):
Slack: This real-time communication tool allows you to manage the flow of communication between teams. You can create separate channels for teams and projects, and even ones for employees to share funny memes and blow off steam. Slack works best when there are clear group policies about what to share via Slack vs. other communication channels and that the volume of communication isn’t overwhelming.
Asana: This tool allows you to organize, track, and manage projects, create templates for common requests, store and comment on files, and send project alerts to all stakeholders. You can also sync Asana with Slack, allowing team members to have real-time communication on projects.
Jira: This bug tracking and project management tool can help teams organize tasks and solve technical problems. With Scrum and Kanban boards, it’s long been a favorite tool of Agile development teams, but marketers can utilize it to manage complex projects as well. For web teams, it may be beneficial to ensure non-technical users receive adequate training on the tool and its capabilities.
Overcoming Team Communication Obstacles
Even the most successful teams struggle with communication from time to time. And as teams get used to new ways of working during the COVID-19 crisis, there will be new obstacles to overcome.
The two most important factors in meeting communication challenges are trust and leadership, and they go hand in hand. Team members must feel comfortable with sharing difficulties, and that requires trust in the group as a whole. Team leaders must foster an open exchange of ideas and work to fix problems as they arise, so members feel that their concerns are valid and heard.
Communication challenges could be as simple as a team member not having access to the right technology to do their job virtually, or as complicated as clashing communication styles or cultural differences. The more trust you can build within the group, and the more you can empower each member of your team to be a part of the solution, the easier it will be to overcome problems when they arise.
Invest in Improving Team Communication
When developers, marketers, and designers approach their work as a collaboration—with shared language, processes, and success metrics—they are better able to make concrete, measurable contributions to the company’s business goals. Learn more about how Pantheon helps businesses build cross-functional, productive web teams.Topics: Growth & Scale