Collaborative development environments will be the next "killer app" in software development. They'll make use of wikis, instant messaging, forums and online presence. But don't just barrel into it without thinking through the options
Collaboration has always been an essential part of the fabric of the Internet. E-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, discussion groups and wikis are common collaborative elements that have matured over time. The rise of the Web as a natural extension of an individual's physical and daily world, the economic pull of outsourcing, the integration of third-party software, the use of home and remote offices, and the growth of strategic partnerships among organizations all contribute to the increasing distribution of teams and the need for better collaboration.
Collaborative development environments will be the next "killer app" in software development. We define a collaborative development environment as a virtual space where the stakeholders of a project - even if separated by time or space - can meet, share, brainstorm, negotiate, record and generally labour together to carry out some task. Whereas traditional development environments focus on improving the efficiencies of the individual developer, collaborative development environments focus on improving the efficiencies of the development team as a whole.
Collaboration has been used for years in other domains and there is much to be learned. Here is a top 10 list to keep in mind as the way we interact with one another continues to evolve.
- 1. The medium must fit the message. Before choosing how to collaborate, determine which collaboration mechanism is best. Whether it's a portal, wiki, instant messaging application or the use of virtual worlds such as Second Life, some methods are better served in collaborating with superiors, whereas less formal methods can be valuable in developing a rapport with peers.
- 2. Over communicating and including too many individuals can be as detrimental as under communicating and excluding team members. Collaboration should not serve as a vehicle to undermine any individual's position within the team.
- 3. "Present" does not mean available. Presence awareness features of instant messaging show whether a colleague is online, busy or out to lunch. But to be effective collaborators, we need to be mindful of how intrusive our communications are. A simple query to a colleague can determine his availability before asking numerous questions that he can't focus on.
- 4. Simplicity is key for productive collaboration. The collaboration method must make our jobs more efficient, not create more cycles of work. A discussion board can often help get the dialogue moving among a large team, but in some instances it is necessary to pull the discussion away to a smaller group for a final result.
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