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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/

 

 

5 Truths about Communication inside a Project

Introduction
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 [...]

Fear and Trembling – Book Review

For once, I will not review a technical book or a study but a fiction. Not that I intend to become a reference in literature, there are far better reviewers than I for that, but this book is well related to a topic that I often talk about: cross-cultural communication. This book was given to me by my wife who knows very well my work on communication, especially cross-cultural one. I thank her for that. It is always extremely pleasant to have people around you capable of offering you the perfect book. I would probably have missed that one, had I been on my own.

The context is the following: a young woman, living in Japan, speaking Japanese fluently and knowing the country extremely well is getting a job in a Japanese company. She is not expecting the most fascinating job on earth but she clearly intends to do her best and integrate perfectly inside the company.

I won’t tell you about the story much more than that but I will comment on how this story appealed to me. The author is describing the daily life of someone who believed she could blend into a culture because of her excellent knowledge of the language and the country. She believes that she understands customs, habits, and practices well enough to become invisible inside the group. Of course, nothing goes as planned and her journey inside the company is fascinating. She is not Japanese and it is made very clear to her that she will never be. When I say clear, I mean she understands what is not necessarily said. She does indeed know the culture well enough to get these messages, but not well enough to achieve [...]

Cross-cultural business: who am I really dealing with?

If you are running a business in UK, especially in London, you are very likely to be working with people from all over the world. Since I am presenting seminars and business chats on cross-cultural communication, I am often asked what the implications are on a business. I have already presented some aspects of it in the perspective of off-shore development. I shall now consider the angle of business in general. So, in short, what if you are working with colleagues, partners, providers who are from another country?

Maybe I will start by answering something I already hear coming in your mind: “that surely won’t apply to me since I’ve been working in UK for XX years.” Well, I am far from convinced it is the case. If you are yourself a foreigner in the workplace you live in, at best you are adapted and work on adaptation mode without knowing, but deep inside there are elements of yourself that probably remain what you were educated as.

Before going further I will quickly recap what culture is about in the context of this article. I am using the definition given by Gert Jan Hofstede: Culture is the unwritten book with rules of the social game that is passed on to newcomers by its members, nesting itself in their minds. In other words, it is the sum of all the rules you have learned when you were a kid without necessary knowing you were learning them. They were just “the way to do things”. There are several depths in what makes culture. If we think of it as an onion with layers, in the outskirt we would have the Symbols made of Words, Gestures, Pictures, and Objects [...]

Where on earth will we outsource off-shore?

As we all know, outsourcing off-shore is a complex decision to make for a company. The reasons for doing so are generally cost saving of course, but also the hope to get the development happen faster due to a bigger and more readily available team.

When you have at last made the decision to do it, comes the difficult question of where to do it. By where I mean of course what company to use but I also mean where geographically. I’ll put myself in the shoes of a UK company as this is where I am working. So, you are based in UK and you want to use the services of people living in a remote cheaper country. Will you go in India as many have done? Will you go in Russia? Will you prefer to get closer with Eastern Europe? What about China? Then come more elements in the equation: language, time difference, reputation, process certification, etc. These are difficult parameters and indeed having 2h difference with the off-shore team surely needs a different logistic than having 8 or 10. Some argue that a big difference allows a team to work when the other is not and some will say that having a small difference allows better communication. All these questions and answers are valid, of course. But I would like to add one that is rarely taken into account: how will we get on with the local culture?

I was recently delivering a Cross-Cultural Communication Workshop for a customer which has decided to outsource in Romania. This workshop was part of a longer seminar designed to get both British and Romanian team acquire the same understanding of the project along a proper team [...]

Cross-cultural self stereotypes

Cross-cultural communication is a challenge for everyone! As Gert Jan Hofstede puts it in Exploring Culture, “Cross-cultural misunderstanding is a much under-estimated cause of trouble.” I am currently working a lot on this question for different reasons and I am very attentive to every cross-cultural trouble I am in front of. Working in London UK is a wonderful playground for the cross-cultural observer.
When you study cultures, the one topic that you need to be aware of is stereotypes. Almost every nation is seen with some specific attributes in the eyes of the other countries. To mention just a few, Germans are very organised, French are wine experts, English drink tea all day long, Italians speak a lot, etc. If you are a disorganised German or a very quiet Italian will not do any good as you are not as expected anyway. I remember a situation like that when I was 25. I was travelling the USA for 2 months. I was lucky enough to know a couple of families over there. These friends did something very good for me: they arranged for me to travel the country almost always from friends to friends; these friends sending me to other friends and so on. That was fantastic! But something I was not expecting happened to me at some point. In new-Orleans, I met a lady who had been informed of my arrival. And guess why she was waiting for me? …Because she wanted me to kiss her hand in order to say hello. Man! I had never ever kissed anybody’s hand before in my life! The only thing I knew was that you are not actually suppose to really “kiss” the hand and that [...]