The relationship between developers and non-technical teams at your company can be tricky. Because you’ve built out a great engineering function, you want other teams across the company to rely on their expertise. But for many developers, this manifests in ad-hoc requests from their colleagues in the form of last-minute emails and unexpected visits to their desks. Not only can this frustrate them over time, but it could also derail their productivity at work.
For engineering managers, the challenge is to ensure that your non-technical colleagues get the help they need without asking your programmers to repeat themselves. While you can’t solve this cross-team collaboration challenge overnight, here are a few steps you can take to reduce duplicate technical requests for your developers.
Make Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Easier to Find
We spoke to a few developers about how they tackle requests from their colleagues in sales and marketing. What we found was that questions tend to fall into two categories: 1) Product questions and 2) feature requests. When it comes to cross-team communication, the former is often the most significant source of frustration for programmers.
Gervasio Marchand, a Developer who works on our Talent platform, says that this is the result of how people use private channels. “Conversations with public information should be made more widely available for everyone to access,” he says. “This would prevent duplicate requests because everyone would be able to see that something is already in progress.”
Benjamin Hodgson, another Developer here at Stack Overflow, says that solving this problem is as simple as documenting the answers to frequently asked questions. He adds, “It depends on the context of the request. When someone asks about how the product works, I usually direct that person to Stack Overflow for Teams because that’s the most sensible place for that content to live.”
Take Advantage of the Feedback That You’re Receiving
So far, we’ve discussed how to enable your developers to respond to duplicate product questions. But what about feature requests? Should you create a boilerplate response to let your non-technical colleagues know that you’ve received their email? Not when you want to improve team collaboration.
In fact, Hodgson tells us that duplicate feature requests are incredibly useful for developers. “The fact that more than one person has asked for something is a useful signal,” he says. “We can’t promise that we’ll do everything, but recurring requests help us determine what we should prioritize.”
As an engineering manager, take advantage of the feedback you receive about your product. Using duplicate feature requests to refine your roadmap not only gives your team clarity, but it could accelerate your entire company’s growth. Start by meeting with a few of your programmers to review the product feedback that you’ve received over the last six months. Which ones appear in your inbox more often than the rest? Of course, you shouldn’t feel obligated to address every single request. But at the same time, don’t ignore the trends that you see, especially if the requests are feasible from a technical standpoint.