The Communication Partnership – Building an Emotional Connection

Alexandru

Alexandru

Team Lead at Softvision
Alexandru is a team lead and software engineer, having gathered more than 10 years of experience in developing various web applications. While his main focus is the backend side of a project, he always manages to get involved in everything from the frontend, to usability, security and architecture. Joining Softvision back in 2012 was when Alexandru got hooked with the company's distinct focus on client interaction. Maintaining a thriving relationship and finding innovative solutions to their problems provide excellent challenges for him. As an agile professional, he is constantly improving processes within his team in order to adapt to the evolving business needs. Alexandru's motivation comes from helping clients to achieve their goals on one side and helping people grow professionally while creating sustainable teams on the other.
Alexandru

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The Communication Partnership

Within our business field there is no doubt that any partnership is based on a solid relationship which can only flourish with a healthy and efficient communication between all parties involved. The clients we work with need researched information, structured to their needs and delivered swiftly. As consultants, we are highly aware of this fact and through years of experience have managed to evolve the needed skills that set us apart in today’s vibrant business environment. In this article, we will explore some of these specific techniques.

Understanding the business

As a good practice, when growing a relationship with our clients we are extremely curious about every aspect of their business. The first step is setting up kick-off meetings and gathering the entire information available, analyzing it thoroughly and creating a clear picture of stakeholders, timelines and other constraints. Some may think that this should be enough. We do not. We go one step further. We want to know about the environment where the business operates, about the particularities and behaviors of its customers, about potential fluctuations, about growth and many other aspects. Our client’s concerns need to be our concerns. Our client’s successes need to be our successes. We strongly believe that only then can we truly embark on our digital journey, together.

While this strategy may be very prominent right after kick-offs, we are very aware that we live in an ever-changing ecosystem, where our partners’ businesses may shift rapidly. Therefore, we are constantly adapting our workflows to provide the best possible fit for the business.

From an engineering perspective, the main reason why we want to be so involved with our partners probably goes unnoticeable most of the times. But it is there: the pre-emptive work that goes on while architecting the solution. We design our applications while also considering what our experience has taught us: to always provide solutions that are easy to evolve and build upon. We are meticulous about what we do and how it will impact the application now and in the future. This thought process spans from a single line of code to the project architecture. Knowing the ins and outs of the client’s business provides yet another source of highly important data that influences our work. And this is why having a clear picture helps a lot since every decision has a long-term impact.

Good communication as a core skill

Hiring new engineers and helping them prosper is a major aspect of a solid growth within a software company. Right from the start we look for great people who – apart from their main technical abilities – can easily structure their ideas and have a highly developed team attitude. On top of these, we are investing in continuous personal development plans to ensure that each and every one of our colleagues understands the importance and has the skills to communicate efficiently in any context. While it is true that most of the time the conversation with a client can be handled by a project manager which adds a measure of clarity and overview, we encourage establishing a direct line of communication that can even span from a stakeholder down to the engineer that is implementing a particular feature. This is why we consider that any good engineer also needs to have a good communication expertise as a core skill.

We see ourselves as partners

One particularity of our pods is that they always aim to find the best solution for their project. This sometimes may even mean that we will advise against certain decisions with no reticence in case we consider there is a better solution. We take pride in our ownership and thrive in environments that challenge us.

Another characteristic that sets us apart is the proactivity which is a trait we all share. We will not wait for external requests if we run across new information (or worse, ignore it). Whenever we feel that there is an opportunity for improvement we will make our voice heard, consult with our partner and take the appropriate measures, together.

Communication is key

While every partner relationship is different, they all share the need for efficient communication, which is a fundamental value in our partnership. Since we hold a great deal of technical knowledge about our clients’ systems, we feel responsible to present everything as clearly as possible so that all parties are fully informed and can take the correct and informed decisions. Our pods frequently apply established processes, like sending a daily status, maintaining a clear and visible schedule laid out for the coming months, communicating important events such as deployments through a specialized and structured communication channel and many others.

We also make use of a variety of channels, tailored to each relationship and purpose. While the main endpoint will always be the classic email, we are also available on chat or video conferencing which adds a personal flavor to the conversation.

Just as important as communicating with clients is also the internal communication we have. We take great care to always take this one step further so that we can maximize our efficiency: daily stand-ups, chat groups, email aliases, alerts or even ad-hoc meetings ensure that everyone has the information he or she needs or may need in the future so that we can function as a single unit.

Adapting

There are various scenarios where we need to make ourselves understood in the shortest message possible, while also retaining the core ideas we need to transmit. By understanding the individual stakeholders, their technical knowledge and their business needs we focus on providing the best format for our messages to ensure they have the highest value. For example, a product manager might want to have clear and precise facts upfront, with the technical details and extensive explanations easily available on request.

Human interaction

It is certain that the email has revolutionized the way we exchange information with each other on the Internet. And it is by no surprise that this has happened: it is an easy to use tool, available to anyone and works instantly. On top of that, it is designed and organized to be persistent so anyone can review messages at a later time. This is probably the main reason why most email clients have the option to group email messages in threads so that the conversation that emerged is displayed properly. However, it is important to understand its limitations, an understanding which provides a great advantage when developing software for clients.

One such drawback that is prominent in our day to day tasks is the little personal involvement attached to an email message. While you may be taking your time to structure your content in the best way possible you cannot express your tone, your gestures or your facial expressions. On top of that, the impact it has on the recipient is influenced by his or her state of mind, any context he or she may lack and that you are not aware of or information that you yourself do not possess.

The solution to these barriers is a more personal, direct approach. Occasionally, there are instances when we feel like either our clients or ourselves do not completely grasp a particular issue discussed within an email conversation and this may have the potential to generate misinformed decisions down the road. Another example with the same outcome is having a new stakeholder joining the conversation without being aware of the established context. When this happens, picking up the phone, scheduling a video call or even chatting on Skype is a big help to set the record straight. It does wonders for us, it is beneficial for the project and builds a strong, healthy and more personal relationship.

Professional but friendly

While the number one quality in any of our partnerships will always be professionalism there are also gains that come from a cordial attitude towards our clients. Our goal here is for us to be perceived as a reliable partner, but also one who is easy to communicate with and happy to provide any help needed.

Conclusion

Although this topic is very large and entire books have been written on this subject, today we touched a few of the aspects that we focus on and that are tailored to our environment since they have passed the test of time and proved to have great results.

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Alexandru

Alexandru

Team Lead at Softvision
Alexandru is a team lead and software engineer, having gathered more than 10 years of experience in developing various web applications. While his main focus is the backend side of a project, he always manages to get involved in everything from the frontend, to usability, security and architecture. Joining Softvision back in 2012 was when Alexandru got hooked with the company's distinct focus on client interaction. Maintaining a thriving relationship and finding innovative solutions to their problems provide excellent challenges for him. As an agile professional, he is constantly improving processes within his team in order to adapt to the evolving business needs. Alexandru's motivation comes from helping clients to achieve their goals on one side and helping people grow professionally while creating sustainable teams on the other.
Alexandru

Latest posts by Alexandru