How to Coordinate your Business and Development Teams - Spring2 Innovation

How to Coordinate your Business and Development Teams

October 3, 2022

Recently, one of my acquaintances in software development was ranting about his managers – “business overlords” were his exact words, I believe. His complaints mainly centered around the fact that the fast-paced, client-focused pivoting of the sales & marketers put pressure on the development team to design their work to be highly flexible and scalable. Moreover, having the parameters of a project be changing as you’re trying to make progress on your work is extremely frustrating – especially under tight deadlines to get a product to market. While a philosophy of flexibility and scalability is by no means a bad one, it is disconcerting when framed as a defense strategy to be employed in a never-ending battle between developers and “business overlords”.

The biggest challenge in a private organization is the high-level coordination of the different teams that comprise it. There are the development teams which create and maintain your product and services. There are also the business teams whose focus is staying in tune with your customers to better sell your products for revenue. And you probably also have some support teams who keep your customers happy. With this separation of responsibilities among your employees, there’s inevitably numerous perspectives that guide the direction of your company. Naturally, each team’s specialization gives them different knowledge, goals and visions for your organization. In this way, it can sometimes feel like your coworkers are working against you when they’re really just working from a different perspective.

No organization can fulfill its potential of success while weighed down by an internal war. However, the varying perspectives of your people is actually an opportunity to improve your organization’s vision based on the different areas of expertise of each person. The key to alignment then lies in sharing the knowledge that fuel each team’s goals, so that out of the clamor of different ideas can immerge a superior, multifaceted solution. If my acquaintance had been able to better understand where his business overlords were coming from from the start, he might’ve been able to spend less resources being uncertain in the final design of his work and more energy implementing the right solution. Or perhaps he could have come up with an even better idea that the sales & marketers might not have thought of.  

That’s why we’re huge proponents of everyone in the organization knowing their customers – understanding the end user allows everyone to make the right decisions while doing their best, most productive work.

The people in your organization who spend the most time interacting with your end-users, clients and partners have direct knowledge of your stakeholders and are the ones who understand their needs and expectations the best. When that information is consistently shared across the entire organization, everyone can work more effectively to cater what the market wants and needs. Time – the resource we all want more of – is saved by not only avoiding wasted work aimed in the wrong direction but also by evading disagreements over conflicting department goals and cutting down on the communication required for knowledge dumps on a by-project basis. Allowing a foundation of end-user knowledge to be shared across every team member increases coordination and reduces the risk of interpersonal disputes and miscommunication.

The difficulty is that customer wants and needs come into the organization in fragments of conversations and interactions. Knowing how to summarize and share this knowledge base in an informative yet manageable way becomes the challenge – which is where design thinking empathy tools are really helpful. Developing personas, user journey mapping and empathy/unarticulated maps for your end-users allows the knowledge to be handed off in a concise, methodical way that everyone can understand. Rather than having long meetings where a business team member gives a brain dump to the rest of the organization that leaves everyone feeling overwhelmed and confused, these empathy tools provide simple templates for that information.

The exercise of keeping those frameworks up to date also encourages business teams to stay connected to your customers and allows them to notice trends happening in the market that they need to account for. As my developer acquaintance remarked, the needs of customers can change quickly and drastically but tracking your end-users allows you to watch out for warning signals of those shifts to come and pivot accordingly in advance. 

To learn more about the value of empathy tools, consider taking one of our design thinking business training sessions or reach out to for more information.


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