The most important skill of a software developer is communication

3 elements your communication plan is probably missing

The most important skill of a software developer is communication

Nowadays, you can open Google and enter the keyword “most important skill software developer”. Then you can get many valuable results. We can try similar key phrases to enrich the list. For example 13 Technical Skills You Should Have As A Developer, or The most valuable software developer skills to get hired now.

I can see that almost all the answers are great and give us useful information. Based on that, the software developers can improve their own skills. Whereas the recruiters can build useful metrics to gauge their candidates.

In this post, I’m trying to have a different point of view. I don’t want to have a long list that’s no one can be perfect at all points listed. Instead, I want to pick out the most important one.

Communication – the most important skill of a software developer

Make it be scoped

First, let’s limit the topic to the software development industry. The communication skills of a software developer are completely different from the communication skills of a salesperson.

Information technology means communication

Everyone knows that software development is a part of information technology. And information technology is about building systems that receive the input data. Then, execute it to return output data as expected.

In real life, when someone tells each other something. The listener will get the message, process it, and have an appropriate message to reply.

What is the difference between an information technology system and real-life communication? We cannot see any differences besides the execution environment, real-life vs. machine.

This is why I can say “Communication is the most important skill of a software developer”. We will expand the story with the following points.

When a developer needs to perform the best communication in software development

As mentioned, “communication is the most important skill of a software developer”. Next, we need to point out situations that require communication skills.

Requirement analysis needs the most important skill of a software developer – Communication

You hand him a bunch of documents and specifications. A person with good communication skills can easily understand all the points. Further, he can sort all the points up in different aspects: by priority, by granularity. Then, he can ask expensive questions to address unclear paths. In particular, he can recognize potential risks and have valuable reports for clients. As a result, they can make good decisions.

About “questioning”, it is really a skill, which every developer needs to be equipped with. In other words, it is the most crucial point of the most important skill of a developer in software development. Questioning is not only to get clarification of a single point but also to enrich other edges. When a well-communicated software developer asked a question, he considered the direct impact and several variations. As a result, he can process a large amount of information. That’s what makes him different.

Software development needs the most important skill of a developer – Communication

Programming is more than just writing executable code. It is written with rich information. Each line you write will be a message that you want to send to other teammates. That is why, ensuring well-communication in writing source code is very important.

1) Naming is communication

It is said that a good developer can take hours to name a single variable. In my experience, it corrects 100%. Although it is not applied for all cases, it works for important ones. I myself often spend a lot of time on defining good names for my variables, classes, interfaces, methods, and so on. The reason is, the good name will provide maximum information so others can easily understand its purpose and even its life cycle.

2) Making comments is communication

These days, I prefer the less-commentary style of coding. That is not to say that I don’t use comments. Instead, I maximize the information in the names of these variables, classes, interfaces, and methods. However, they are very short. So, they can contain a limit of information. That’s why there are many cases where we need to use code comments for further explanation.

3) Applying design patterns is communication.

It’s not just the best practice to design things in similar situations. But also how we pass information to other teammates. The thing is, I only need to read a few lines of code that apply a design pattern. Then, I can easily understand all the factors involved without further reading. Furthermore, I can understand how 3rd libraries work technically by realizing their design pattern application. This is extremely important in powerful OOP programming languages like Java, .NET, and C++.

4) Complying with the development process is communication.

Why not? The processes and workflows are the backbones to driving project efficiency. Therefore, a good communicator understands that each step of the workflows and each state of the processes will have an impact on the stakeholders. Updating task status is the simplest step, which a developer needs to complete in real-time. Furthermore, we need to monitor the workflows, find out its weakness, and suggest ways to improve it.

5) Complying with the development conventions is communication.

Conventions are really important to drive project efficiency at granular level. There are a few major conventions such as coding conventions, documentary conventions, and reporting conventions. They are to ensure that all members of a project work in the same way. Sometimes, the convention is not so strict as the process.

Good reading, understanding, and complying to conventions define a good developer in communication. He gets input (reading) then performs good output (understanding and compliance).

Software documentation needs the most important skill of a developer – Communication

This topic is in the scope of a developer and the others like QC/Tester, IT admin, etc. However, from the developer’s point of view, documenting is very important. Basically, the developer needs to provide good documents and instructions. They help the related people understand how it works in terms of engineering. Additionally, they help the IT/Admin easily follow to set-up and maintain it in the runtime environments.

Why is communication even more important in offshore software development outsourcing?

Important Skill Software Developer - Communication

With software outsourcing development, you started working with people from different companies. More complicated, in offshore software development, you need to work with people from different countries. Along with that are different major languages and cultures. That’s why communication is even more important for a software developer working in this industry.

Good communicators know both sides of a situation. Therefore, they can maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages.

The productivity overcoming the language

You are a developer from Vietnam working with a client from the United States. There is no doubt that English skills are very important. In fact, language skills of developers are not often at the top level. However, a good communicator knows how to reduce risk and improve productivity.

Firstly, that guy senses the situation. Secondly, he can actively establish communication conventions. He can use simplified grammar, sentences, and words. Thirdly, he can lead the client to do the same. Very simple, he can ask the client with direct statements instead of complex instructions with lots of rarely used phrases. Responsibly, he can send the client a pre-apologize that sometimes his English is informal.

In particular, he can defeat the language issue by providing different ways of asking questions. First of all, he writes the question. Secondly, he provides more information to ensure that clients won’t misunderstand. Thirdly, for complex business logic, he can come up with detailed scenarios. They provide input data and expected output data. Finally, the client reads the scenarios and answers”yes” or “no”.

This is an art. And a good software developer must continue learning time over time the communication skill.

Beat inefficient communication due to different time zones

Time zone difference is another communication problem. It prevents the transfer of information from the fluency. By equipping the most important skill of a software developer, he or she can create smart communication strategies. Very simple, he will maximize the transferred information. In addition, he will spend time on unofficial working sessions to check the communication channels. Just a little time spent, but he can get confirmation for the tasks of the coming days.

By doing this, we can minimize the risk of time difference. We can make sure that the development flow has not been blocked. The team will always have tasks ready to do.

The conclusion

This post is not to deny the points listed by other articles. They are splendid and enthusiastic. I just want to give a new perspective. In which, a good developer should appear as a good communicator. In fact, I know a lot of developers with great technical skills but not communication skills. They can still get the job done very well. But just in case all the technical specifications are well-prepared. In a case where communication skills are required, they get confused.

The final words

HDWEBSOFT has many years of experience in custom software outsourcing development. Therefore, we understand the benefits of good communication between developers and clients. That’s why we applied best practices to maximize productivity overcoming language and time zone problems. Along with that, we always have communication training for all the developers. In it, we ensure they fully understand that communication is the most important skill of a software developer. In addition, we ensure that they are equipped with the best methods to handle that.