TMCnet Feature
November 25, 2020

How To Set Up Collaboration Between Your Internal Team And App Development Agency

Fact: A state of software development 2020 survey shoes how 35.4% of companies are not satisfied with their app development agency.

The lack of collaboration between the agency and the company is one of the major reasons for this dissatisfaction.

Projects thrive on collaboration. If done right, the best collaborative practices can optimize the performance and the end result.

But it’s not an easy task. Lack of communication, different time zones and work habits, change of requirements, etc. can derail the entire project.

With a little guidance, these issues can be avoided. Here are eight best practices to set up collaboration between your internal team and the app development agency.

#1 Designate a resource as a project owner

Designate a resource in your team as the ‘project owner’. This person will be responsible to keep the project on track and to communicate with the agency as well as the internal team.

Fact: A study conducted by Spikes Cavell shows 57% of projects fail due to breakdown in communication.



As the project owner will be the point of contact for the agency and the internal team, it helps reduce miscommunication and delays.

Designating a project owner will also add a sense of responsibility in your team which will help increase meaningful collaboration between both parties.

#2 Set clear expectations and goals

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”
—Earl Nightingale

The collaboration will only be successful if both teams clearly know the goal and understand  what is expected of them.

You can follow the SMART goal guideline for this i.e the goal should be:

S - specific

M - measurable

A - agreed upon

R - realistic

T - time-based

Set up a discovery workshop with the app development team. These sessions are arranged by the agency to understand your business and to explain what they are going to build.

Discovery workshops are an important part of the process, as a lack of understanding of the requirement can turn into difficult problems at the later stage. You should ask the agency to organize a discovery workshop if it is not in their project plan.

This will help both the internal and app development team understand in the very beginning as to what is required.

#3 Involve all stakeholders in the design phase

The Design phase is the most important stage for the application development process. This is where you list every detail of the system that is needed.

Involve all stakeholders in this phase to avoid any surprises at the later stage. Changing or updating the requirement, later on, will result in delays and additional costs.

You can identify stakeholders by asking questions like:

  • Who will be the direct users of the app?
  • Who are the secondary users or beneficiaries of the app?
  • Who is going to work on the app development?
  • Who are the decision-makers who approve or disapprove of any functionality?

The best practice is to document all your requirements. This will be your go-to document whenever any clarification or verification is required.

#4 Use tools to make collaboration easier

Once you have successfully communicated the design and the goal of your application, the next step is the development. Collaboration in this phase needs to be spot on to run the process smoothly.

Fact: An Alfresco survey shows that 83% of professionals use technology for collaboration.

You can use a range of tools to make this collaboration easier and efficient.


Trello

Trello is a simple online task management tool. You can create task cards and move them around in to-do or In progress columns. This will help you see instantly which tasks are being worked on and what tasks are pending. You can then update the priorities if needed.

You can also add comments for the development agency to see and respond.

Jira

If you have a big project under development and you need a good collaboration tool with reports and detailed features, you can opt for JIRA.

There are a lot of add-ons available that can help collaborate better, like time tracking, reporting, drawing boards, and dozens more. But it requires some learning curve before you are comfortable with it.

Slack

Slack is considered one of the best tools for collaborative work. You can create channels, private groups with limited access, have online meetings, assign tasks, e.t.c.

Fact: Online collaboration tools can increase productivity by 30%.

There are a lot of useful collaborative tools in the market. Use the ones you are comfortable with. Ideally, you should decide which tools will work best for both parties at the beginning of the project.

#5 Divide project into smaller phases

It can take a while to build a mobile app. Dividing the project into smaller phases will help meet the timelines. Short term goals help make the product a reality instead of just waiting for the whole thing to be done. It also helps to identify if there are any gaps early on.

Most app development companies run sprints during their development phase. Each sprint runs between 1-4 weeks (depending on the project and preference of the team) and will have a specific number of tasks to be completed.

By keeping an eye on these sprints, their completion time, and the problems faced, you can constantly evaluate the progress and adjust the goals and priorities as needed.

You can create a Gantt chart to visualize these sprints and keep track of the progress.

Gantt charts help :

  • visualize the whole development phase
  • see if there is any slippage in deadlines
  • access the whole progress
  • avoid overload of tasks
  • see overlapping tasks

#6 Get immediate feedback from customers

Since end-users are the ones who will use the app, share with them the initial build to get the feedback. This will help you align goals with the users.

Maybe you are focusing on one thing, while in reality, the users are utilizing other features more? Maybe the dashboard needs another report? Maybe the user interface is not as intuitive as you think it is? Your users will give you genuine feedback.

This feedback should be discussed in detail between the development team and your internal team. You need both perspectives to have a full picture of the situation. You might have a better understanding of why consumers use the app the way they do, but the development team will have a much better understanding of technical limitations and design best practices.

At the end of the day, both sides need to come to an agreement if the direction stays the same or some changes have to be made.

#7 Schedule status meetings

Status meetings help track the overall progress. A daily/weekly status meeting can help you see if the agency is on the right track. It will also help remove any bottlenecks.

But these status meetings can be a waste if not handled properly.

Fact: $37 Billion are wasted every year because of unproductive meetings as workers can spend up to 4 hours a week in preparation.

To make sure status meetings are most productive, you need to:

  • Keep it short and simple.
  • Only invite relevant people in the meeting instead of inviting everyone.
  • Every resource needs to inform the following:
    • What have they done?
    • What are they going to work on next?
    • Is there any bottleneck that needs to be removed or answered?
  • Put a cap on time and make sure the meeting ends when the time is up.

If done right, status meetings can help you speed up the process and collaborate efficiently.

#8 Pre-define how to handle change in requirement

"A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will." __ Spanish Proverb

Products and their requirements evolve, so will be the case with your app development process.   Based on the feedback from different stakeholders there will be updates requested in the middle of the development. This becomes a major bone of contention between both parties if not handled right.

What can be done? Plan accordingly. Talk to the agency pre-hand how do you want them to handle the change requests.

We recommend reserving 20% of the whole process for changes. For example, if the projected working time is 100 hours, you should do a contract of 120 hours and use the 20 for change requests.

To keep the process as accurate as required, documenting these change requests is also recommended.

Final thoughts

Collaboration is the key to success of any project. A good collaborative environment can set your app development process for success. With these useful tips, you will be able to collaborate easily and effectively, making the whole process more productive, more pleasant, and ultimately much cheaper.

About the author

Bojan is the Head of Marketing at Infinum, an award-winning agency that helps companies transform their business with digital products. He graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology (News - Alert) and has his head wrapped around digital ever since. With experience in automotive, scientific publishing, FMCG and IT industries, he enjoys discovering new ways to reinvent products and services with technology.



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