How Developer Cross-training Helps Projects Succeed
Cross-training developers results in increased productivity, more collaboration, and better results for client projects.
In the web industry, we only learn from what we’re given. If we code in a specific language or work on a specific type of site, we’re more likely to get pigeonholed into that language or those sites, just as a mechanic who only worked on Subarus could only help clients who also drive Subarus. We learn from doing — and, especially, we learn from doing different things.
This is of note, because, as a project management team, we are always looking for ways to improve processes and manage projects more efficiently and successfully. What better way than to increase the flexibility of our development team? What better way than through scheduled, intentional cross-training?
The development benefit.
In the world of web projects, demands can be unpredictable. Client priorities may shift, deadlines may be tightened, and unforeseen challenges can arise internally and externally. Flexibility is key.
This is where the idea of development cross-training comes into play. At Blend, developers are gradually exposed to unfamiliar existing projects on a rotating basis. While the goal is to have a consistent development presence from launch through ongoing maintenance, we also understand the need for flexibility — to grow beyond current projects.
Within our development department, cross-training has led to increased knowledge sharing and collaboration. Blend has always provided and encouraged a culture that promotes the exchange of ideas, techniques, and best practices across the team, and this is no different — we’ve experienced direct growth and continued improvement as a result of cross-training. Developers who work on diverse projects bring a wealth of experience and insights to the table, which, in turn, results in higher-quality solutions as developers draw from a broader pool of expertise and creativity.
Developers who are exposed to different projects are more likely to develop strong problem-solving skills. They learn to approach challenges from various angles and adapt solutions to different contexts. This adaptability enhances their ability to troubleshoot and innovate, resulting in more effective and efficient development processes. Moreover, cross-trained developers are better equipped to identify patterns and solutions that may have been overlooked in a siloed environment.
The project management benefit.
So what does this development flexibility mean for the project management team? Empowerment.
A flexible development team — with developers who are well-versed in multiple clients’ projects — empowers our project management team to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances. Cross-trained developers can be reassigned to address urgent matters without disrupting the pipeline or existing timelines.
This flexibility has been extremely beneficial to our PM team. We’ve seen decreased stress and increased confidence in keeping projects on time and budget, even when unforeseen challenges arise. What’s more, cross-training has made us less susceptible to bottlenecks and single points of failure. Where, in the past, a single person being sick or on vacation might hold up an entire project, cross-training now mitigates this risk by expanding the pool of experts, allowing others to step in and maintain momentum. This redundancy is especially critical for business continuity and mitigating the impact of turnover.
The clients benefit.
Over the past few months, I have taken on the role of client relationship manager. In this role, I’ve worked to strengthen and develop the relationship between Blend and our clients, and in this short time, I’ve seen how cross-training our developers has led to a direct and positive impact on our client relationships.
In fact, I saw it first-hand on a recent client visit. By having multiple developers and resources available for this client, we’ve been able to ensure all their important initiatives kept momentum at the same time — and they shared their appreciation. Say what you will about the importance of cross-training on our internal process, but if the internal improvements didn’t also have an equal or greater impact on our clients then how valuable or beneficial would spending that time and effort on this initiative really be?
When cross-trained developers seamlessly transition between projects, clients benefit from a more cohesive experience. Their projects stay on track, time to understanding is sped up, and developers more easily identify cross-client opportunities to enhance success for all our clients. These ripple out into a stronger client-developer relationship — and stronger long-term partnerships.
At Blend, we’ve always placed tremendous value on being a partner, not just a vendor, with our clients. It’s been very rewarding to reflect back on our initiative to cross-train developers and see the positive impact internally, but even more importantly, the positive impact it’s had on our clients.
While no web development firm is the same as the next, cross-training developers on all clients and projects is a strategic imperative. It fosters agility, promotes knowledge sharing, improves problem-solving skills, reduces organizational vulnerabilities, and helps build strong lasting relationships with clients. In a world where change is the only constant, cross-training is an investment that pays dividends far beyond the realm of project management.