Your business people and developers need to talk – Agile Marketing Principle #6

This is the 6th in a series of posts on Agile Marketing – the working definition of which is to “Create, communicate and deliver unique value to an always-changing consumer (or business) in an always-changing market with an always-changing product.” (here’s the original post.) Your product might be dead in the water if your developers don’t know what matters to customers. You can make this better by maintaining close, daily cooperation between the “business” people and the developers in your company.

But how do you actually do this? Developers and “business people” have different rhythms, styles of communications (and often, business hours.) There are a few things you can do to facilitate this conversation and help them to talk more – think of these as modest proposals to get all of your team members to talk more.

It’s called a standup for a reason

Three times a week (maybe on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), you should consider having a standup meeting (yes, a literal standup meeting) for everyone on your team. If you have 20 or fewer people on your team you should be able to get through this process in 15-20 minutes. The goal of a “standup” is to state one or two things you’re working on that are your Most Important Tasks, and to ask for any help you need from the team. The goal of standing is to limit the time for the standup, focus everyone’s attention, and to give each team member a bit more familiarity with what’s going on elsewhere in the company.

Take Requests from your team and your customers

Some of your best ideas are going to come from your team. And you don’t know which team members are going to provide good ideas, so having an open-door method of taking requests is essential to build the lines of communication on your team. A simple organizational scheme is best (a 1-3 sentence story that demonstrates the idea, or a one sentence task that reinforces the story); and don’t forget to say Thank You to your team. It’s easy to forget it takes a little effort to share an idea, and acknowledging that idea is a great start.

Provide Weekly Feedback and a List of Things That Will Get Done

(I know – you read this and thought “after a while, isn’t it useless to just make a list of backlogged tasks that never get completed?”) Providing weekly feedback – e.g. a list of things that were suggested this week – gives some feedback and visibility to the team and also provides a running record of what was suggested. Adding necessary items to a short-term, medium-term, and long-term list can be really helpful. You should also make it clear that if the item isn’t on the short-term list (and that list should be limited in number) that it’s not going to get done for a while.

Bonus method: go to coffee

The best way to talk is … to get out of the office and talk. Don’t forget to take each other out for coffee and lunch once in a while – you’re both on the same team. And while you’re out to coffee or lunch – talk to each other about a few things that you think matter to your customers. More of those customer requests will make it into your product.

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