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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 [...]

  • Communication with the team
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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 [...]

7 keys to outsourcing your IT project offshore

Here is an article posted on my company’s web site Liemur:


Selecting the right offshore company can be puzzling, especially if you have little idea where to start from. So, here is a short list of questions to ask yourself before you jump into the nearshore/offshore adventure.


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 [...]

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”. [...]