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    3 email management techniques for offshore software development

3 email management techniques for offshore software development

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
Do 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 [...]

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    Keys to avoiding conflicts in an offshore IT project – Part 1

Keys to avoiding conflicts in an offshore IT project – Part 1

A new series of articles
I will start today a series of articles on the topic of conflict avoidance within a Software project, and more particularly within an offshore IT project involving international team members.

As soon you put people together to achieve a common goal, the best and the worst can and most likely will happen. The power of achievement of the group is almost infinite. Unfortunately, the power of conflict and misunderstanding is almost as big.

In this series of articles, I want to present various common obstacles in the life of a project team and how to avoid them. We are not doomed to conflicts. But good will and best intentions are not enough. One needs to realize and truly understand what is happening and see the forces in action, to be able to act on the situation and convert the bad into good.

This article is hosted on my company’s website: http://www.liemur.com/keys-to-avoiding-conflicts-in-an-offshore-it-project/



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    The Language of the Receiver: Why best intentions are not enough

The Language of the Receiver: Why best intentions are not enough

When you are project manager, you are like the conductor of an orchestra. You must have talent yourself and you need the talent of others. But to make a success, you not only need everyone to have the same score sheet, you also need everyone to share the vision of what the group is trying to achieve. This Vision might very well not be coming from you. You can have been hired to implement someone else’s vision, but in all cases everyone needs to understand the goal. You can be producing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies, but there is quite a gap between a version for a cartoon and a version for illustrating the way it could have been played at the time of Liszt. Still the same score and the same artists in the orchestra, though.

Sometimes, sharing a Vision sounds trivial but it is not always. The reasons can be numerous. Here is one of those situations…

I once was working on a pretty big software project for a customer that had some of these communication illnesses I like to cure (I mean the project has illnesses, not the customer ;-) ). Let me tell you about the symptoms and how they exemplify some of the language challenges topics I have presented in this blog.

The IT project team has over 20 people. This project is absolutely key to the business and there is no question about the status of “flagship project”. The project is presenting a double challenge to the organisation, not only they are starting one of the biggest project they ever had, but they have also decided to adopt a new software development process. They have decided to adopt Scrum [...]

5 Truths about Communication inside a Project

We are living in a world of communication. New fortunes have been made on the back of communication: Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. to name but a few. It has never been easier to communicate! …Really? Well, it has never looked easier to communicate. But is it really as easy as it looks?

Easy communication is a kind of mirage, a dream we all would like to be true. If the means are indeed easy to use, it does not mean that communicating properly is easier. It is even probably the opposite: because it looks easy we do not think about it and we communicate badly. And bad communication is the source of many costly mistakes inside a project. This is why we are going in this article to review a handful of truths about communication.
Communication within an International Project
The context in which I thought this article is mostly within a Software Project. It remains true in most projects though. I have experienced these “Truths” and their positive or negative effects first hand. I also have experienced them within International contexts, such as an offshore software project. Keeping them in mind has saved the day often enough to be mentioned. If today, with Liemur, my company, we are offering near-shore software development, it is because we master these principles (plus many others that are not in the scope of this paper, of course). Far too often, projects are put in danger because of poor communication. People are always trying their best. It is rarely the intention that went wrong but the perception of the action.
1: Written communication is weak
Truth #1: To communicate efficiently, one must combine written communication with [...]

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    Human dynamics: 3 IT Project Common Human Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Human dynamics: 3 IT Project Common Human Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


We often talk about common problems occurring on a Software project such as not having the business executives on board, recruiting the wrong Project Manager, having too many projects running at once, etc. These problems are true and valid. But what I want to talk about today is a small list of more Human oriented problems; the kind of problems that are happening without anyone really noticing, and for that very reason, very dangerous ones. For simplicity matter, I will stick to only three Software Project Management Mistakes in this article.
Making too many assumptions

Human beings are communicating with unique and extraordinarily rich medium: natural language. We use it every day in every circumstance to sort out any problem. But using words to communicate ideas and concepts is also very time consuming. As a result of that, because we are efficient, we make many assumptions about what the people we communicate with already know. For instance, if I say to a friend that I was driving 50km/h on the motorway or 180km/h, I do not have to explain that it is very slow or very high speed. With the slow speed, this person will immediately imagine that I must have had a good reason for doing so: traffic jam, fog, heavy rain, car problems, etc. I can assume that the person I am talking to knows that there is a speed limit on the motorway and that the speed limit is say 130km/h. I can also assume that this person knows how drivers would usually drive in the country I am, if speeding is common practice or very rare. I could even make assumptions about the knowledge the person I am talking to, has [...]

Does one size fit all?

No later than a few hours ago (I am referring to the time of writing this text, not its publication), I have written a rather unusually short blog titled “Are you a positive rule breaker?” If I say unusually short, this is because if you compare to what I have published in this blog so far, this was a dwarf of a blog. Why was that?

The answer is that I have written it under the “influence” of my Marketing Director and excellent friend Scott. Although I take full responsibility for the content of that blog, I shall admit my weak attitude towards his strong pertinent and professional advice to make it shoooooort. I said to him that I used to expose my ideas and thought more expansively. At this he replied that I was almost obsolete and that the trend is Twitter-like communication with 140 characters max. I then replied that this is all rubbish and that I actually don’t give a sh*** of Twitter’s constraints and that I will even take time in the future to write a blog about my level of contempt for this famous trend. I do not believe that you can indeed always express proper ideas in 140 characters with satisfactory result. To this answer Scott made two comments:

1à Twitter would pretend that they did psychometric researches that have shown that an idea is writeable in less than 140 characters.

2 à This is great. Do not forget to write this blog (he loves controversy and provocation as much as I do).

Well, here I am. I’m going to keep my words!

First of all, I do not believe a single second that Twitter has chosen 140 characters on any psychological research. [...]

Off-shore development: why can’t “they” get it?

What is culture and what does it mean to be a foreigner? Don’t worry; I will not give a detailed answer to these two questions; that would need 100s of pages to do so. These 2 questions, I had to ask them to myself when I married a foreigner and when I moved to live in London-UK. In fact, it is crucial to be able to answer, at least in part, to these questions to live happily with different cultures.

In short, and I’ll come back to that, living in harmony with a different culture than yours is difficult and there are so many good reasons for that that you should not feel bad about it. At the same time, we have seen in the recent years enthusiasm for off-shore outsourcing. Depending on what country you are based in, the elected off-shore country is always one which is more or less speaking your language. I’ll take two examples: United Kingdom will outsource in India due to their English heritage. France will outsource in North Africa for the same reason. Of course, other parts of the world are heavily used, like Russia, Eastern Europe, China, etc. But anyway, for at least UK and France, I can say that common language is seen as the way to work together.

Now what happens? Every day, we hear more and more about disappointed companies regarding the success of their off-shore outsourcing. And most of the time, the complains are the same and turn about inability to understand each other, deliveries that have not much to do with expectations and in the end, some managers recognise they would be far happier if they could stop dealing with “this lot over there”. [...]

Open Space and Mates’ Mere Presence

Who in the software industry has not worked in one of these huge open-spaces readily available in many workplaces? Those who have not can probably consider themselves as the exception. Those who have, probably wonder where on earth this idea of putting dozens and dozens of people in the same room to produce software, come from. I’d love to meet that guy who suggested that first, just to be able to put a face on it. I doubt there is only one source. Anyway… my point is not to find the culprit but to think about the consequences of such choice.
The question came to me first when I was asked to work in such place, then when I read Peopleware (Tom DeMarco) and then when I read about the Zajonc experience. All in all it deserves to think about it.

Let’s start with the Zajonc experiment. Robert B. Zajonc (pronounced Zy-unce – like Science with a Z; born 1923) is a Polish-born American social psychologist who is known for his decades of work on a wide range of social and cognitive processes. In 1969, this fellow and his team have conducted a strange experiment with cockroaches. He found out that cockroaches ran faster down a runway to escape a light source if the runway was lined with an “audience” of onlooking fellow cockroaches (each in its own plexiglass cubicle). This work led to the theory that the mere presence of species mates elevates drive/arousal of the performer. Since then, plenty of other research teams have lead other experiments. In the end, a meta-analytic review has been conducted by Bond and Titus in 1983 of both published and unpublished works involving over 20,000 participants. I [...]