Best practices for effective software developer team collaboration

A software developer creating apps and collaborating with the team using Glip

Effective team collaboration is crucial for any department, whether the team is part of a startup or a large business. Some of the benefits include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Shared skills and perspectives
  • Better employee motivation
  • Engagement of remote teams
  • Financial savings
  • A sense of community

Collaboration in software development teams is particularly important, because individually talented developers and software engineers need to share skills and solve problems together to work most efficiently.

Working as a team drives creative thinking, offers alternative viewpoints, and helps accelerate product development. Every team member is aware of their own role and accountability, so they can perform more efficiently, resulting ultimately in more successful software.

We’ll look at best practices for effective collaboration in software development projects, and explore collaboration tools (like RingCentral’s Glip) that put teamwork at the heart of your company’s culture.

Software developer team using Glip by RingCentral to collaborate on a project

What is collaborative software development?

To describe it briefly, collaborative software development simply means that developers work together on open-source software, pooling know-how for effective problem solving.

Software development historically involved little collaboration, with most projects outsourced to a tech company. However, the growth of software complexity and continuous integration of different solutions mean in-house teams need to know what is required for using software so they can update websites and apps.

Why is collaborative development so important?

Software developers have to handle a huge flow of information, so team communication needs to be effective. A team that’s comfortable with sharing ideas and which displays strong communication skills will be more successful, and newcomers will feel more welcome in the group.

Being part of a team, no matter the team size, is also important for job satisfaction and engagement. Developers who are not passionate about their work may be careless, resulting in more bugs and more time spent on rewriting code.

External collaboration is also key, as teams work with clients and users to create software that meets their needs. The product team needs to communicate development processes to stakeholders in simple language. That soft skill of communicating in layman’s terms is almost as important as being literate in the many different programming languages. 

If the team fails to gain a full understanding of the required solution, they could actually end up making the wrong product. So, how do developers collaborate successfully and ensure the project’s success?

Global Design Team using Glip by RingCentral’s team chat feature to communicate and collaborate

How do programmers collaborate?

Pair programming and mob programming are two methods used in software and web development that help teams learn how others approach problems, and increase the number of perspectives.

In pair programming, two people solve JavaScript challenges together at the same computer. One proposes a code while the other types their suggestions and picks up any issues, before the roles are swapped. The idea is that two pairs of eyes are better at spotting mistakes.

Mob programming sees a cross-functional team gather around one screen and brainstorm solutions while one person types. This is a time-saver, as the code is reviewed in real time so there’s no need for individual code reviews.

A methodology known as “innersource” can also be used in a software project. It involves:

  • Transparency
  • Workload distribution
  • Ongoing communication and review
  • Sharing work and feedback

Developers are encouraged to share their work at an early stage, make each step in the development lifecycle visible to all, and use documentation to bring new contributors up to speed as and when the project requires.

Using version control software, team members submit work to a server with a master version of the code. It tells them if someone makes changes to the same file so they can be merged. It’s similar to the file-sharing function in Glip, which allows annotation of files by multiple colleagues without altering the original.

RingCentral Glip’s task management feature for creating and assigning of tasks

How do you promote team collaboration?

General tips include building a close-knit team, maintaining lines of communication, ensuring smart leadership, and using online collaboration tools. Diversity is also important, as it enables teams to look at problems from different perspectives.
Team managers can keep employees happy with some of these ideas:
  • Informal discussions to check how the team’s doing
  • Celebrating a win together
  • Sending thank-you messages in team chat
  • Providing constructive feedback to encourage continuous improvement.
In software development, there are some specific suggestions to help teams successfully collaborate.
Each team member should be seen as an integral part of the project—from software engineering teams and UI/UX designers to project managers and quality assurance specialists. Colleagues must be aware of their own contributions and have an overview of everyone’s roles.
Collaborative teams often use “agile” methodology in development projects. The product owner breaks down large sections of work into smaller units, and commits to delivering them in a set time period called a “sprint”.
Using the right tools is key to successful collaboration, especially in software development where intricate details are communicated between the dev team, designers, and project managers. Remote software development teams also need a quick and easy way to stay in touch.
Below, we’ll look at the key features you need from a development collaboration tool.
Remote software developers using RingCentral Glip for file sharing

Must-haves in collaboration tools

There are plenty of online collaboration tools available, some more suitable than others for software development. Here are some functions to look for in useful tools for a developer:

  • Communication tools
  • Organizational capability
  • Storage and sharing
  • Integrations

Communication tools

A good collaboration platform should become the main way the team communicates—both in the physical workplace and for remote employees. Team messaging, video conferencing, and audio calling are all essential, so check out apps that give you full functionality.

Features like screen sharing and whiteboards are perfect for brainstorming, while the ability to save chat history and record meetings ensures continuity.

Organizational capability

Developer collaboration involves a ton of information, and organizing the workspace is the only way to keep track of documents, tasks, and conversations.

Choose an app that lets you organize and search messages by threads and subtopics, and file documents by project or team. Project management tools will help you streamline workflows.

Storage and sharing

Storing essential developer documentation and making it accessible to programmers anytime, anywhere, is vital. Keeping resources in one place helps to avoid duplication or files going astray, so it’s helpful if the tool lets you share files from other apps.

Look for the functionality to edit documents in real-time, with version control settings for teams working on a file simultaneously.

Integrations

It’s helpful if your collaboration tool works with other software development apps—such as application performance monitoring in New Relic, and code management with Bitbucket.

And since you’ll be collaborating with remote developer teams, it makes sense to choose an app that suits a range of devices and operating systems.
Remote software developers having a group video call via RingCentral Glip

What are the best collaboration tools for teamwork?

The most effective collaboration apps are those that give you all the tools you need in one place, saving time and money. RingCentral’s Glip rises above its competitors because it combines communication tools with file sharing and project management for maximum efficiency.

Glip offers an all in-one collaboration hub, including:

  1. Team chat
  2. Video and audio calls
  3. File sharing and storage
  4. Task management
  5. Integrations

Team chat

Glip’s instant messaging service is great for fast collaboration, from quickly sharing code snippets to texting the manager a question.

Conversations can be organized by group or project for a tidy workspace, and you’ll get unlimited users and message history—for free.

Video and audio

Whether you need a short stand-up, an audio call, or a full video meeting, Glip can handle it. It’s super-easy to launch and join meetings from a browser, and the desktop and mobile apps mean remote development teams can join from anywhere.

Switch between devices, or start a meeting straight from chat. The video conferencing tool also comes with free screen sharing and recordability.

File sharing and storage

With unlimited file storage, Glip organizes all your development work in one place (including files from apps like Google Drive).

Review the backlog, discuss the roadmap, or make notes on a document—all in real time. Version control avoids confusion and keeps everyone on the same page, which is critical for software and app development.

Task management

Glip is great for keeping track of assigned tasks, which is especially handy for managing remote teams. Turn messages into tasks, tag teammates, add due dates, and file attachments. There’s also a color-coding system and a drag-and-drop function, plus automation of recurring tasks.

Integrations

Glip offers hundreds of integrations for software development teams. For example, you can pull in:

  • GitHub and Bitbucket updates
  • Jira alerts for bug tracking
  • Jenkins job notifications
  • New Relic alerts on your app’s performance levels
  • Comments and edits from Confluence
  • Project updates from Trello

Glip works with Mac, PC, iOS, and Android, to help you stay connected with cross-functional teams—making it an ideal tool for remote collaboration. You can also invite external partners to join your messaging, file sharing, and video conferencing.

Here’s a round-up of Glip’s best bits:

Key feature Free with Glip
Team chat Unlimited users (including guests)
Unlimited message history
Video and audio Video conferencing for up to 100 people
Screen sharing
HD quality
Record meetings
File sharing and storage Unlimited (any size and format)
Upload files in team chat
Share files from other apps
Task management Integrated team calendar
Start chat/video from task thread
Integrations Hundreds!
Build your own with RingCentral APIs
Security and support Enterprise-level security
Chatbot support, web self-service,
Knowledge bases

Since it offers features you’ll only find in the higher pricing plans of other apps, we think Glip is the best tool available for team collaboration.