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Managing Cross-Cultural Differences in Global Software Development

Managing Cross-Cultural Differences in Global Software Development
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by Sanjeev Kapoor 10 Dec 2014

The global software development market has witnessed a boom largely because of the increasing adoption of IT in enterprises and also because of the way we are all moving towards a hyper-virtual world where the borders between real life and virtual life are gradually fading away. Global software development market has seen particular growth because of the advantages that IT outsourcing brings with it.

Reduced costs and access to a wide range of resources are not the only benefits, but one can also expect increased productivity, performance and the ability to focus on core competencies. However, in order to ensure that global software development works, one must always consider issues that may arise while a project is in development, within a cross-cultural context. In this article, let us take a look at how we can manage cross-cultural issues in global software development.

There are many obstacles that may arise within a cross-cultural relationship between vendors and clients. Some of them are discussed below:

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1. Working style: Working styles across cultures differ. This is mostly because of the differences in ethics, values, beliefs and social hierarchy. For instance, Eastern cultures such as those found in India and the Philippines stress on the importance of hierarchy within an organization. However, such hierarchies are rarely important in a North American company. This could lead to confusion over roles and responsibilities.

2. Verbal communication: Communication in Eastern counties tends to be flowery and more formal in nature. To receive an informal letter from a client who wields a lot of power may seem a little daunting to an employee in an Indian office. Communication, when initiated by people in hierarchical societies may seem too rigid and cold. However, they are only trying to do what they think is right: being formal. Whether while speaking or writing, if the communication appears too formal, you could take it in your stride as that is part of the culture in the East.

3. Non-verbal communication: Non-verbal communication includes etiquette, expressions, behavior and other forms of expression that are not said verbally or in writing. They can be observed by others. It also includes clothing habits and personal hygiene.

Some of the solutions to overcome these cross-cultural issues are:

Managing relationships: Learning how to manage relationships, no matter to which culture your vendor or client belongs to.

Staffing: Staffing requirements should be done carefully. If you are a vendor, you could choose employees who are culturally more neutral. If you are a client, try to understand the differences in culture.

Training: If you plan to move a large part of your work to a different country or if you take up a huge software development project from another country, a two-way cultural differences training workshop could be held for those who are involved.

Importance of understanding cross-cultural differences

It is important to learn to manage cross-cultural issues, not only to avoid miscommunication when it comes to global software development but also to build better business practices. Not only will we be able to build better software programs and engage in superior software development, we will be able to build sustainable and long-lasting business relationships with our clients and vendors.

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