How Does Collaborative Coding Work?

We could always do with an extra pair of eyes or another brain to work on our projects. That’s why collaborative coding can be such a useful tool for programmers looking to speed up their development process. 

By working on your code with either a team or with one other developer, you can finish your project more quickly while also reducing the amount of errors and bugs – after all, they’re a bit more helpful than the traditional rubber duck.

However, programming is often seen as an independent process, so how exactly does collaborative coding work? We’ll explain that, plus its different benefits and drawbacks, and how you can make it work in your organization. 

What is collaborative coding?

Collaborative coding simply refers to any process that involves more than one person working together on a piece of code. In the past, this might have had to take place in an office around a couple of computers but today you can download RealVNC’s MAC remote desktop or other remote working technology to collaborate on code from anywhere in the world. 

There are three specific types of work that come under the umbrella of collaborative coding. You might have heard of pair programming, which is when two programmers pair up to work on a project. When more than two people work together, this is referred to as mob programming. 

The final form of collaborative coding – code sharing – is less about a collaborative process. Instead, it’s when code that has been developed independently is shared in order to let other developers debug or review it. Code sharing is already widely used in open source projects – that’s why we’ll be focusing on pair and mob programming.

The benefits of collaborative programming

Ultimately, regardless of whether you use a pair programming or mob programming model, collaborative coding is about working together. But what’s the point of collaborative coding? Here are the main benefits:

1. Increased efficiency

Improving efficiency and productivity is a key goal of any business, whether that’s a huge restaurant, a small business phone service provider, or a software developer. 

Collaborative coding allows you to work through issues with someone else, meaning that you can draw on another career’s worth of experience and problem-solving. When it comes to producing new ideas, you’ll also find that collaborative working will let you get to appropriate creative ideas more quickly. 

Efficiency will also improve in the more technical aspects of your code. With two or more pairs of eyes looking over your code, you’ll be able to spot mistakes sooner. As well as this, you’ll be able to establish an instant and informal process of code review and feedback, meaning that your code will be successful as early as possible.

2. Better resilience

When a project is the sole responsibility of one developer, all it takes to knock that project off track is a bout of flu. As well as this, you can be forced to abandon long-term projects altogether if a developer leaves the organization. 

Using collaborative coding will mean that these risks are significantly decreased by spreading responsibility for projects across multiple developers. If a programmer becomes ill, for instance, coding can continue without them, meaning that your projects are more resilient and safeguarded against disruptions.

3. Easier training and onboarding

When new developers join your organization, there are few better ways for them to get to grips with how you do things than by working with an experienced programmer. This means that adopting a model of collaborative coding will make it easier to onboard new recruits.

Using pair programming is also a great way to ensure that more experienced programmers are constantly developing their practice. Without this, developers can become stuck in their ways: collaborative coding is an innovative way that you can encourage cross-training in different programming languages, for instance.

Collaborative coding challenges

While there are many benefits, it’s also important to consider some of the issues that come with collaborative coding:

1. Higher costs

When you’re viewing collaborative coding from a financial perspective, you’ll soon come to the realization that you’ve now got two developers being paid for a job that you previously had just one developer working on. 

This means that collaborative coding will often bring higher initial costs – however, these overheads can be overcome in the long term as you see the quality and speed of your programming improve. Additionally, the increased resilience means you’re less likely to end up starting projects from scratch when unexpected situations come up.

2. Communication problems

Programmers are often used to working independently – collaborative coding, on the other hand, requires almost constant communication between team members. This is essentially a separate skill that needs to be developed over time, so developers new to collaborative coding may struggle to communicate effectively as they code. 

Starting people off on smaller projects and pairing up the right people with the right skills can help. And don’t forget to provide training, particularly if you’re using collaborative platforms, as you want to ensure everyone on the team gets the most out of it.

3. Platform requirements

As well as requiring a new form of communication, collaborative coding may demand different platforms and technology. Luckily, there are lots of platforms that are specifically designed for collaborative coding that work both in-office and remotely.

You might also find that you have to invest in other pieces of software to make the collaborative process as smooth as possible, from on demand remote support software to a team messaging app. While these platforms are easily accessible, this nevertheless presents an additional upfront cost.

Making collaborative coding work for you

With these challenges in mind, how can you make collaborative coding work for you? Here are our best practices for collaborative coding:

1. Find the right platform

When looking for a platform to host your collaborative coding efforts, you need to invest in one that is perfect for your needs – think about the size of your team (and whether you’re planning to scale further), your preferred programming languages, and its ease of use. You should also look out for platforms that have advanced security measures to protect you against malicious software or cyberattacks. 

While you’ll be able to continue using testing software, you’ll also want to consider whether your existing development software is able to streamline effectively with your new collaborative platforms. 

In addition, consider project collaboration tools like Jira, which allow developers to plan, track, and work faster when coding software. Encourage teams to collaborate on deploy previews when using these tools, so together they can test and review any code changes before deploying to a live environment.

2. Create balanced teams

Of course, the platform will mean nothing if you don’t have the right people using it. You’ll want to make sure that your collaborative coding teams include a range of different skills and experiences – there’s no point in pairing up two experienced developers who use the same programming languages and who have the same expertise as each other. 

In order to help you create balanced teams, you might want to create the equivalent of an online directory for your organization: list your programmers, their relevant skills, and their personal qualities.

3. Assign clear roles

Once you’ve created a collaborative coding team, you should make sure that every member knows exactly what their responsibilities are. In pair programming, a common distinction is between the ‘driver’ (who actually writes the code) and the ‘navigator’ (who keeps larger goals in mind). These roles can be swapped regularly to keep things fresh.

In larger teams, it’s still important that everyone has a clear role. This will keep everyone focused on their specific task, while also ensuring that you allocate human resources effectively by giving individual programmers roles that best suit their abilities and skills; you’ll also be able to give junior and senior developers jobs that reflect their experience.

4. Communicate consistently and regularly

Having clear roles will also help with another key part of collaborative coding: communication. This is because developers will know who to talk to according to their problem or focus. 

As well as this, you need to be sure to establish a consistent and regular routine of communication. When coding with others, constant communication will help programmers to spot errors and work together to overcome issues and problems. 

This is an essential part of pair programming, but mob programming is also reliant on strong communication. A team of developers producing a remote desktop for Android phone, for instance, will need to have programmers working together to ensure that the final app is coherent and effective.

Collaborative coding – take your programming to the next level

Collaborative coding – whether that’s pair programming or mob programming – is a great way to boost the productivity of your coding projects, as well as to ensure that the overall quality of your code is improved. 

There’s a range of different ways that collaborative coding can work. However, for it to be a success you’ll need to make sure that you use the right platform, assign people to the right teams, create clear roles, and maintain regular communication. With this, you can be sure that collaborative coding will take your code to the next level. 

Finally, if you want to learn more about collaboration, you might also be interested in our post on How to Develop and Improve Collaboration in DevOps Teams– it’s full of great insights and provides a step-by-step guide.


Sam O’ Brien – Vice President of Marketing

Sam O’Brien is the Vice President of Marketing for RealVNC, leading providers of secure, reliable remote access solutions. He is a growth marketing expert with a product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology. Sam has written for other domains such as Debutify and Cloudways. Here is his LinkedIn.

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How to Develop and Improve Collaboration in DevOps Teams

DevOps is becoming more and more popular in the world of business. By streamlining the development and IT management processes, DevOps reduces organizational silos and produces a better final product or service for the customer.

However, DevOps is fundamentally reliant on strong collaboration. Without honest, open, and easy communication and shared working practices across your organization, DevOps will just be a buzzword. 

If you want to introduce a true DevOps philosophy and culture to your organization, read on to learn how to develop and introduce collaboration in your DevOps teams.

What is DevOps?

DevOps refers to a set of practices and philosophies that aim to overhaul the culture of your organization – that means it’s quite difficult to get your head around what DevOps actually is.

It can be useful to start with an example. Let’s say, for instance, that you create a remote desktop software for iPad. Under a DevOps model, the people managing that software will be the same overall team that developed it. This means that any issues can be easily resolved as the management team will be true experts in the software.

DevOps is best thought of as an approach to software development and management that aims to overcome the gap between the planning and programming stage and the implementation and feedback stage. Rather than splitting the overall development process between a programming team and an IT team, DevOps creates one streamlined operation.

This can help you to draw on a wider range of expertise and skills, remove barriers to truly creative collaboration, and develop more effective operations.

In order for an organization to use a DevOps model, you must be prepared to break down the traditional divide between development and operations teams. This can take a range of different forms: you might choose to merge both operations together into one team or you might choose to integrate even more teams, such as those responsible for managing websites.

Why is collaboration so important in DevOps?

Why is collaboration so important in DevOps?

Because DevOps is all about getting previously separate teams to work together, it shouldn’t be a surprise that effective collaboration is what makes or breaks a DevOps model.

As automation – tools that make DevOps easier by automating processes previously divided between development and operations teams – is a key part of DevOps, some companies prioritize automation over collaboration. However, you have to remember that the tools are only as good as the people who use them.

Collaboration and communication is important from the very beginning of a transition to DevOps. That’s because people are naturally resistant to change – explaining why you’re overhauling existing organizational structures can create buy-in among employees. At the same time, you should show how collaboration can work in practice to produce better outcomes.

Without effective collaboration running through your DevOps team, you can probably assume that your processes will soon end up simply operating as before: divided between development and operations teams.

How to improve DevOps collaboration: a step-by-step guide

If you’re using a DevOps structure, therefore, it’s pretty clear that you need to always be developing and improving collaboration. Without this, you won’t be seeing any of the benefits that come with DevOps. So how can you improve DevOps collaboration in your organization?

1) Identify any clear collaboration problems

Before you start making any changes to your DevOps processes, you should take a step back and consider what is already working well and what can be improved. If there are any immediate issues, such as problems with your online telephone service that prevent engineers from working with each other, you should prioritize those.

You should also talk with employees from across the DevOps team. Their experiences will dictate what you need to focus on as you look to improve collaboration. You could also use business analytics tools to establish the effectiveness of collaboration in your organization.

2) Increase the visibility of everyone’s work

Increase the visibility of everyone’s work

If you want people to work collaboratively on a project, they need to actually be able to see the work that is being done. Improving visibility should be a key part of any DevOps model – engineers should be able to see what each other is working on and the levels of progress across the team so that they know who to offer help to.

For some developers, this can be a daunting step. After all, it’s easy to feel protective or embarrassed about work in progress. However, full visibility will let everyone learn from what others are doing.

Achieving full visibility in the technology sector can be difficult. Despite this, you can improve visibility by finding a workflow software that lets the entire team see test results, feedback, and ongoing development. By encouraging engineers to download remote desktop connection tools, your team will be able to have visibility of each other’s work from anywhere in the world.

3) Remove barriers to information

In the traditional model of using separate development and operations teams, engineers who produced a piece of software wouldn’t have had access to most of the information about how that software worked in practice. This had a detrimental effect on their future work, as they couldn’t learn from their earlier efforts.

That’s why an important principle that supports any DevOps culture is free access to information. This is obviously true for information such as testing results but should also apply to your overall culture and mindset: if you work in an office, keep your door open during meetings.

While you’ll have to be careful to consider privacy and security regulations, try to grant open access to your data for all DevOps engineers. By having the same information to draw on, your engineers will find collaboration much easier.

On top of this, consider communication tools like transcription software. These can remove barriers for the entire DevOps team by ensuring everyone has access to notes from meetings and can search for and edit past meeting notes in collaborative documents.

4) Celebrate bravery

Celebrate bravery

Collaboration can be an intimidating concept, especially if your developers are used to working in small siloed teams. That’s why creating a culture of collaboration is so important. One great way to do this is by publicly celebrating those engineers and developers who were brave enough to experiment with other engineers.

You should point out that collaboration is often a risk; developers will be worried about failing publicly. Celebrating the process of collaboration – even if the outcomes are failures – can be a really powerful way to develop a collaborative mindset among your DevOps team.

This culture of collaboration is also important when it comes to hiring; you shouldn’t just rely on technical screening. Instead, look for potential employees who are able and willing to collaborate effectively.

5) Mix up your teams

Many companies fail at DevOps by pursuing a DevOps model in name only – they don’t actually integrate the development and operations teams. Sometimes, building a successful DevOps team will require you to specifically diversify the subteams that deal with certain problems.

If you’re new to DevOps, you might want to buddy up developers with operations engineers. Forcing them together will encourage a collaborative practice to develop, while also speeding up the process of integration between the two teams. You should carefully consider the different skills of your employees and buddy up those with contrasting experiences and strengths.

It’s also important that you consider how to have a varied range of perspectives across your DevOps team. With remote working tools like RealVNC becoming more and more sophisticated, you can hire the perfect people for your team without having to worry about their location – this means that you can easily diversify your DevOps team as you grow.

6) Cultivate a DevOps mindset from the very top

Cultivate a DevOps mindset from the very top

Whether you’re a developer or engineer working in a DevOps team, or a member of your company’s management team, you have a responsibility to grow the DevOps mindset through your words, actions, and working processes.

This is especially important for leaders – they should model what good collaborative work looks like in practice by being open, accessible, and approachable. They should respect the insights of every team member and encourage them to put forward their views and opinions.

An important part of encouraging the DevOps mindset from the top of the organization is by providing opportunities to upskill your employees. This can let team members who originally worked solely as early-stage software developers build skills that are more applicable to the holistic and integrated environment of a DevOps workplace.

This will help to grow a collaborative DevOps mindset as employees will feel more confident and secure in their own skills, meaning that they’re more willing to risk failing publicly by working collaboratively.

Collaboration: the key to a successful DevOps mindset 

If you want DevOps to be more than just another buzzword in your organization, it’s vital that you find ways to develop and improve collaboration between your software developers and engineers.

Our guide to collaboration in DevOps will help you achieve this. By increasing visibility and removing barriers to information, some of the practical issues hindering collaboration will be overcome.

You can then start to focus on growing a collaborative mindset among your employees. Start celebrating collaborative work and model this from the top – soon, you’ll have a successful DevOps team working in harmony!