Keywords: Offshore Software Development, Project management, Communication, Email

Summary: Emails are so easy to use and so often used that we never think about them again. This article will introduce 3 dangers inherent to emails: immediacy, room for interpretation, crucial information storage.

We will present solutions to reducing these risks:  delaying all sent emails, a safe email protocol agreement, thread management. This article is the part #2 of a series. The previous article in this series is available there: Keys to avoiding conflicts in an offshore software development project – Part 1.

The Risks

Angry manDo you remember that email you sent fast because you were upset, angry or simply in a big rush? You know? …the one that came back in your mailbox with a big nightmare attached to it!… Well, it happened to us all and is likely to happen again. It would be nice to avoid the next one, though.

In a cross-cultural configuration like in an offshore software development project, the risks are much higher: a word badly interpreted, a tone misread, a joke not universally funny, etc. The problem is even worse as most of us are not even aware of the risk. We all believe that humans are humans and that we basically exchange the same way by emails. No, humans are not all identical and they certainly do not read emails with the same eye as yours. Interpretation is everything; we will see that in the next article of this series.

And what about that other email containing the new agreed deadline? It was …when you were talking about how to recruit a Graphic Designer. This quote must be somewhere, correct? Unfortunate that the last 3 search you made did not show what you were looking for!

When teams are remote from each other they make a great use of emails. That is natural as it is fast, reliable and as we have seen in part #1 of this series: asynchronous. The experience shows that one difficulty is to keep track of the threads and conversations exchanged. Emails contain various level of information, but it is very common to contain crucial information about the project, even if you do not want it. This goes from a precision on a requirement to a re-definition of a dead line or information about who is in charge of what. All in all, you may very well have a great software tool for your project management; it is very likely that your email will be a mine of information anyway, even against your will.

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