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Science, Technology and Medicine open access publisher.Publish, read and share novel research. Good business communication is key for efficient business decision making and the running of everyday processes. Businesses use intranets, apps, emails and video calls to communicate between employees and across departments. An intranet is a private hub that can be accessed by any authorized users within a business organization - it is mainly used for internal communication and collaboration. Intranets have taken big leaps forward during the last 6 years and now often include features to allow teams and individual users to collaborate and communicate with people (internal and external), send, receive and edit documents as well as intuitive features to easily navigate the user interface and connected environments. Instant messaging (IM) – instant messages are commonly used for recreation but are now widely used within business organizations for employee-employee messaging or employee-management messaging. Chatrooms – whether business or casual, private or public, chat rooms are forums for specific groups of people to interact and receive notifications. Bots – a chat bot or chat robot is software that can interact with users using chat mechanisms, whether a person is using IM or has joined a chat room.
In many cases, it’s essential to have a method to communicate with either a single member of staff or the whole team. Although discussion forums may seem like old tech to some, it is still one of the preferred communication business tools used today. One challenge many companies face is a lack of participation from employees in the general day-to-day activities of the organization. Although not a direct communication tool, gamification can be applied in business intranets to break up routine and to encourage engagement in areas including and other than business matters. Gamification is also a very practical technique that can be used to motivate better performance, drive business results and generate a competitive advantage. With so many communication options available these days, it can be hard for businesses to know what tools to use and how to use them most effectively.
In this age of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and telecommuting, an intranet solution will result in a more flexible workforce and ensure all employees are working towards the same goals. Intranets can connect with external data sources like Google, Google+, Wikipedia, plus your own business systems etc. Regardless of the specific software you use, IM provides an interface for individuals to communicate one-on-one. In some cases, users will be able to get stock status, weather reports and even movie listings. This will come in very handy when tackling projects and any troubleshooting issues and when properly utilized, will lessen the need for email. Customers will no longer have to wait for long periods of time to get the answers they need about a product or service.
Employees are more likely to enjoy their work and do well if they feel they are part of the work community. No time will be wasted answering the same questions again and again once the company forum has been integrated with enterprise search. This allows it to be assigned to the right employee and have it checked and resolved in time. An issue tracking system often contains a knowledge base (KB) about a customer’s information, issues, resolutions to common problems and other essential data to be used in troubleshooting and resolution. Enticing articles, eye-catching images and videos across the company intranet will result in more traction and engagement from everyone in the organization. In the past, people mainly tune in to podcasts on their desktop computer or laptops, but they are slowly becoming more popular on mobile devices.
Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to reach company or business goals.
Implementing gamification techniques can provide managers with valuable information about what activities and content types are producing the best results.
What trends can we expect to see in business communication in the future and how will these trends affect the way we do business and communicate with colleagues and clients online? Most software also allows the creation of group messages, but this is not the primary intended use of IM.
Some bots can be quite hi-tech, but in most instances users are aware that they are not interacting with an actual human. Today, customers can get instant replies that provide resolutions to their issues and inquiries. Logging on to a discussion forum at the start of the work day is a great way to increase employee engagement and produce new ideas and decisions. This will enable forum information to be discovered by people who need it, when they need it. A case tracking system helps centralize customer support queries and keep track of any open issues. The ticket within an issue tracking system is the running report in a specific issue containing information about whether it has been resolved or not and other relevant data. Training and tutorial videos, video messages from management and behind-the-scene footage can be posted on the company intranet which can increase employee engagement and retention. The internal blog is a place where employees can share ideas and experiences fast and in an informal fashion. For many businesses, it’s easy to grasp the idea of a podcast for external marketing, but a business organization can also utilize podcasting to reach the internal workforce. This concept taps into a person’s basic needs, desires and impulses which revolve around the idea of achievement and status.
One common technique of gamification is rewarding users who have accomplished desired tasks with points, badges or elevated status.
This works well when employees or team members are spread across different geographical locations and different time zones. Forums are also effective in archiving organizational knowledge to be used by anyone as a reference. Using a company forum in this way often produces better results than communicating over email, for example. Track team productivity, prioritize the most relevant and important queries and collect valuable customer feedback that can help in improving your products, services and customer relationships. A trouble ticket is usually created in a call center or a help desk and will always have a unique reference number assigned to it.
Infographics are well suited for marketing departments and for showing and explaining particular company processes.
Some business experts have stated that many employees make listening to company podcasts a part of their weekly work routine. To get the most value out of gamification, you as a business should go beyond the data and try to understand how and why users are behaving the way they do. Robinson1 and Valentina Grouverman1[1] RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA1. While email could be considered a closed discussion environment, forums are an open environment. An issue tracking system is generally used in an organization’s customer support call center to create, update and resolve reported customer issues or even issues reported by employees within the company. This case number is provided to the customer to help staff quickly locate, open and communicate the status of the request. This medium is visually appealing and helps communicate many instructions quickly and easily.
An internal podcast can cover topics such as messages from the CEO, new processes, employee assistance programs and other human-interest topics.
Introduction The effects of globalization reach into almost every aspect of the software development business.
Chat rooms and group messaging environments may seem the same, but the interfaces are often very different. If an employee sees a forum post they are interested in or are knowledgeable about, they will usually be able to contribute something useful or valuable. The desire to appear on the leader board will drive staff to do and complete more tasks efficiently which fuels engagement. Computers have become nearly ubiquitous in technically advanced societies, whether embedded in household appliances or supporting international data libraries. For instance, your company might get more out of an instant messaging platform than a chat room if you don't have a lot of team-based projects, and individuals only occasionally need to contact other individuals within the organization.
A discussion forum integrated with internal email will allow the business to have the best of both worlds.
You can start from there by using a simple microphone, a free audio-editing software and a computer.
In parallel with the demand for new computer systems and functions, there is a growing need for highly productive software development teams who can work in the global market. Employees can participate in forums using Outlook, or the company’s mobile email client or via a browser.
Once everything is rolling and producing good results, you can invest in better equipment or put more focus on getting influential podcast guests. For this reason, there are practical benefits to examining the factors of globalization that influence the success of software teams.
Predictably, advances in communication technologies and transportation draw the business sector into ever greater interaction around the globe (Vardi, 2010), a phenomenon termed "globalization." As commercial ventures, nonprofit organizations, and other agencies establish offices worldwide, the teams that develop software for their use have changed to accommodate the global viewpoint.
Many teams experience a need for staff, advisors, and customers from around the world, creating a "globalized" team, and some aspects of software teamwork are changing as a result of the new pressures. This chapter examines the characteristics of these technical teams, the obstacles to their success, and the various tools available for their use in coping with the demands of globalization. We focus here on the effects of globalization on team composition and performance, considering technological aids to counteract teamwork challenges that are introduced or heightened by globalization. Categorizing development teams by their compositionNot all software teams are alike in composition. Traditional and distributed teams are formed deliberately for the most part, and stakeholder organizations have some degree of control over composition and expectations for performance, as opposed to crowds, which may form haphazardly.
Because the approach to "crowdsourcing" (see Howe, 2006) differs sharply from traditional or distributed teams, we leave that discussion for another publication. Like crowds, distributed teams may sometimes form spontaneously or from a need expressed by team members rather than by managers.
Such grassroots teams soon take on the characteristics of teams formed by directive, and so we do not treat them separately. Aside from geographic location, a second important dimension of teams is that of affiliation. Traditional and distributed teams may comprise individuals from a single organization or from many.
When multiple employers are involved, the teams may be described as collaborative, indicating a common set of goals but not a common source of support.
When all members belong to a particular organization, the team may be designated as proprietary, indicating a unity of purpose and support. For team members and leaders, the collaborative arrangement may add organizational diversity to an already heterogeneous team. A third important component is the mix of skills, experience, and abilities that members provide.
Categorizing success factors and barriers to team performanceNot all teams perform alike, even when tasked with similar jobs under similar conditions. How does globalization affect the performance of software development teams, and what tools exist to help the team perform better?
Consider what makes a traditional software development team productive, without regard to the effects of globalization or location.
Based on our experience, we identify the critical success factors as follows for both traditional teams and for those that are distributed regionally or globally: selection of the people who make up the team, team management, effectiveness of communication, adequacy of tools, and control of external factors. The topic of the first two items, the selection of team members and their management, can determine the effectiveness of any team. Yet the “right” people for a distributed team may be different from the “right” people for a traditional team, and project management can be more challenging because of the distributed nature of the team.
To ensure the success of distributed teams, one must consider explicitly the pressures and barriers to teamwork that occur when the team members are not located in proximity to one another and may have very different cultural and working environments. New global challenges relate to the behavior and expectations of the people assigned to the team, their management, the work itself, and the tools and technologies routinely employed in their tasks. In our experience, software team managers who promote communication and provide appropriate aids in the form of software tools are more likely to reach their goals and maintain good working relationships.
We explore some of the reasons underlying this statement in the sections on management and tools, with particular emphasis on software tools. The same technological advances that promote globalization on a grand scale can facilitate globalization within a distributed team, particularly in a technically adept group such as software developers.



Regardless of the makeup of the team, success may be influenced by external factors, such as network disruptions, poorly defined requirements, budgetary pressures, and the nature of the work itself. Managers of any team, distributed or collocated, encounter these constraints and events, and successful managers achieve control through various means. It is not our intent to examine team management in general, only in the context of globalization. In the sections that follow, we offer the knowledge that has been gained by the authors and by others who have reported their experiences in the technical literature.
Our goal is to encourage examination and discussion of globalization as it affects the practice of software development, along with the technologies available to improve results.
Selection of team membersThe needs or mission of a project will often dictate the choice of whether to have a distributed or traditional software development team.
Software development managers may be more comfortable with traditional or collocated teams when the end product is to be used in a local or in-house environment at a single location.
If the software is run within the confines of a smaller organization, then the development team may also take on the same characteristics.
Thus, when developing software for use within a limited geographic area, common sense often calls for a team from that same area.
For example, an essential skill may be needed that cannot be found within the same locale, or deployment of the software may be planned outside the confines of the organization or to other countries, thereby requiring adherence to laws of a specific locale, a software interface design that incorporates specific cultural or language features, or technical support across widespread time zones. A manager of a project or a loosely organized group of people with a common goal may determine the need for the formation of a distributed team to provide the sought-after skills, cultural awareness, or presence in multiple time zones. A recent and highly publicized example of this was formation of the international team that won the “Netflix prize,” a computing challenge to improve the probability of anticipating Netflix subscribers’ interests.
The Netflix prize was awarded to a group of teammates from many academic backgrounds, including computer science, machine learning, and engineering, bringing into play different perspectives and skills. For example, a person with a highly unique skill-set who can address a project need may work and live in another time zone, which is inconvenient for other team members and may not easily communicate in the same language as others on the team. Distributed software development teams may encounter impediments to productivity resulting from the same reasons that led to their formation in the first place.
Forming a distributed team to provide skills or cultural knowledge not available locally may force team members to work with people who have different technical backgrounds or languages. They may be accustomed to various work environments, legal restrictions, and political situations, and they may use disparate methods or styles of communication or rely on different technical infrastructure. As the physical distance grows between team members, often these cognitive challenges grow as well. Members of a distributed team who are located in the same geographic area or within a single country may readily become comfortable with each other’s cultural, language, and communication nuances. Members of a distributed team that crosses geographic boundaries, especially at great distances, and particularly from multiple organizations in different countries, may find a significant challenge in understanding each other. Thus, forming a team based solely on members’ knowledge may introduce operational difficulties as the work gets under way. Aside from the practical benefits of assembling necessary skills within a team, there is another bright side to including distributed participants. Members may bring a diversity of skills, attitudes, personalities, and even cultures to a project, creating an interesting, exciting, and educational mix. The specialized attributes of the team members can be used to advantage in creating a software product with wide appeal because each team member contributes the point of view of his or her own background. This diversity can foster a natural mind-set of “thinking outside the box” because each team member is already “outside of the box” compared with the others (Hinds & Bailey, 2003). In an atmosphere of openness and acceptance, a programmer in a different geographic region often brings a different viewpoint, which in turn improves the universality of product design and can offer multiple avenues of problem-solving. Team managementMany books have been written about team management in general and software team management in particular. See, for example, Covey (1989), DePree (1989), Guaspari (1991), Harragan (1977), Hill (1992), and Humphrey (2010) for general discussions of management, and Brooks (1975), Chrissis et al. Many of the principles, practices, and advice can be applied to distributed software development teams although written with traditional teams in mind.
Yet some special circumstances involved in directing globalized teams may take a team manager by surprise or cause the team to function with less than full efficiency and productivity. In the following paragraphs, we have merged the cited writers’ general principles with some of our own experiences and comments about managing distributed teams.
As mentioned earlier, distributed and traditional teams have commonalities that should be exploited to full advantage. In both types of teams, the team leader brings focus to the group by firmly establishing the mission of the team’s project. The leader directs and enforces the use of written specifications for the software with specific protocols for establishing boundaries for the software and assigning each person to specific tasks on the project.
Those who lead by consensus seek agreement from all team members as to the scope of their work. Communication guidelines set by the team leader foster a cooperative environment and favorable work relationships.
The team leader manages not only the team members and scope of work, but also the hardware and system environment, according to the project’s specifications or other factors. Additionally, the team leader manages common tasks, such as project scheduling, labor forecasting, expense reporting, time reporting, and acquisition of needed software or hardware.
Table 1 gives an overview of the similarities and differences between traditional and distributed teams that may influence their management.Additional responsibilities fall to the manager of a distributed team. The effective team leader feels comfortable communicating with team members whom he or she cannot see face to face.
The only contact they may have with one another is for the sake of the project.Work environment and communicationTraditional team members work in close proximity to one another allowing for face-to-face communication. E-mails, telephones, and shared project documentation supplement the communication environment.Face-to-face communication is rare. In-person meetings are replaced with telephone conferences and electronic white board sessions. E-mails and phone calls are likely more frequent, and project documentation can be more crucial in defining goals for the project.Development (hardware, software, network) environmentThe development environment is often set by the organization and is rigid and often cannot be easily adapted for software projects out of the ordinary. In this scenario, the needs of the software product dictate the hardware and software environment needed by its members, yet it may be possible to divide the work such that one individual works on one platform, creating a platform-independent or portable package to be tested by another team member.
The team leader will recognize the talents and environments of his or her team members and exploit such differences to successfully reach the team's goals. Effective distributed team leadership requires that the team leader recognize and value the varied characteristics of team members.
To overcome the challenges of diversity, the team leader fosters teamwork regardless of differences, promotes the mission of the project, and ensures that each team member benefits from successful completion of the goals. The team leader monitors work fairly regardless of individual personalities or cultural differences to ensure that results meet schedule milestones, relying on a focus on the work to address and overcome any issues between team members.The leader of the distributed team can assure success by maintaining an atmosphere of responsibility for work results and schedule. Cultural differences may influence whether rewards for meeting milestones would best be monetary or otherwise or whether the reward ought to come as public praise for work performed well or private comments. Practical guidelines for monitoring distributed teamsEffective management of global software development teams occurs best if the manager proactively maintains a watchful presence. The need for oversight can be more pronounced while working with distributed teams than with traditional teams because the isolation of one individual from another may allow irritation to fester unnoticed. Traditional team members and managers are normally located in close proximity, and the manager or team leader can ascertain the presence of the team member at most any time by dropping in on them physically to see the progress of their work.
Although managers of traditional teams can literally “stand over” their team members and their work, managers of distributed teams are deprived of this luxury.
Consequently, the manager of a distributed team needs to select team members who can work independently and responsibly and who take it upon themselves to proceed with subsequent steps in a project once they have completed milestones if moving ahead is appropriate. Often the best team members are those who are self-reliant and are good problem-solvers who take the initiative to address challenging issues in their physical or technical environment before asking the team leader to intervene. In general, such people are experienced because a novice team member requires more oversight and direction or training. Although these characteristics are valuable in any teamwork, they become even more important when team members must work independently at widespread locations, coming together on occasion virtually or indirectly to achieve the team’s goals. The effective manager maintains accountability by setting milestone goals and quality expectations for both the team and for its individual members. The goals should be announced internally so that the team can keep them in mind and self-monitor while developing their software. The individual team member should be encouraged to communicate with the manager and affected team members when they may not be able to meet the schedule with the desired results or if they are not available to work at the expected pace. Managers can then intervene with additional resources or other alternatives in order to meet the project goals. Being proactive in maintaining accountability is essential to good management of distributed teams. The effective manager imparts a sense of camaraderie to the team and fosters a reliance on one another to stay on schedule and produce the desired results in a timely fashion. For some teams, it is effective to praise or reward individuals and the team as a whole when they have achieved their goals.
The manager can set the tone by encouraging and welcoming praise for one another in communication among team members. These actions will foster desired camaraderie and even help maintain accountability of the team. These values must be promoted by the team manager to be fully adopted by the team as a whole.It is essential for the manager to maintain knowledge of the progress of the work assigned to team members in nontraditional teams. For the team to achieve milestone dates and maintain a schedule, the manager should review software results on a periodic basis. This can be achieved by having team members post their work to a common storage location for the manager to review. Work results can be reviewed by using screen-sharing tools between the manager and the team member, as described in Section 6. While reviewing the software, a good practice is for the team leader to be in direct communication with the team member so that the manager can provide real-time feedback and explanation of the software deliverable being reviewed.
It should also be a practice to turn the software deliverable directly over to one or more team members chosen specifically as testers to review and test the software for accuracy and completeness of the software as expected. Trust in the team member is always desired, but accountability for the results using software testers ensures the desired results.3. Cultural effects on teamworkCultural diversity has both positive and negative effects on distributed team effectiveness and success.
By employing team members from anywhere in a world, organizations can have access to a larger pool of skills and combine the best expertise available in the field regardless of members’ geographic locations, thereby improving team quality and reducing development time.
However, as noted earlier, distributed teams face greater communication challenges than traditional teams, especially teams that are not homogeneous with respect to cultural composition. Understanding the impact of cultural differences is one of the keys to distributed-team success in the global environment.In one study, participants in global teams described challenges associated with intercultural communication and positive effects due to a potential for better decision-making (Shachaf, 2008). The negative impact came from increased complexity of communication, due in part to team differences and in part from working at multiple locations.
Cultural and language differences often resulted in miscommunication, which undermined trust, cohesion, and team identity. Study participants mentioned challenges, such as lack of accuracy in both written and spoken communications, requiring team members to invest more time and effort in producing and understanding messages.Yet cross-cultural diversity can enhance project team experience as a source of innovative thinking that improves the project design and enhances its chances for success through different approaches to solving problems.
Because of a wider range of perspectives, cultural diversity can increase creativity and generate innovative ideas and alternative solutions. Increased globalization is forcing a growing number of managers and employees to interact across linguistic and cultural boundaries that have demonstrable but unnoticed impact. Often without people’s realization, culture influences how closely they stand, how loudly they speak, how they make decisions, how well they handle conflict, or even their styles of participating in meetings.
In the English-speaking world, American, English, Canadian, Indian, Nigerian, Australian, and other cultures have their own differences of accents and vocabulary. Spoken language versions may range from easily understandable to incomprehensible among a group from around the world, if some team members have very strong accents.
There are also regional differences of expression, and it may not be easy to understand colloquialisms.
For example, an Australian may say “sticky beak” for a nosy person, and Americans may refer to someone having “horse sense,” meaning a practical view of the world. Also, based on the context and tone used, a word or phrase can have several different meanings. This is particularly true in the software industry, in which the Indian communities of Bangalore and Hyderabad now play a strong role (Glaeser, 2010), but also in China, the Middle East, and other areas.
Differences exist in body language, attitude toward age and rank, directness of speech, and attitude toward the passage of time.
For example, Americans say, "Time is of the essence," which means that time is of the utmost importance in American business. In the United States, delay or slow pace may be seen as a lack of respect for one’s employer, team members, clients, and business partners, and it is very important to get to the point, particularly during business meetings.


Some norms of body language accepted in the West convey the exact opposite of meaning in the East. For example, direct eye contact during conversation in the West is a sign of honesty, while in many Eastern countries it is disrespectful and can be even seen as a threat or hostile behavior. In a distributed development team, body language messages are muted because of the rarity with which team members may encounter each other.
However, it is valuable for team members to recognize such differences if they do meet and to be open with each other about their expectations and understanding. Differences in Western and Eastern communication styles may cause dilemmas because so much of a distributed team’s interactions depend on written or spoken communication. On the other hand, many Eastern cultures use "coded" speech (Krishna et al., 2004), and a lot is left to the intellectual "decoding" by team members, which enables them to correctly interpret a vague comment that is full of nuanced meaning. Straightforward statement from some Western team members could be misjudged by others, especially by those who are from an Asian background and who might find it disrespectful to their knowledge and ability to understand the underlying meaning.Cultural background influences how people express themselves and with whom they are willing to share personal issues. For example, although many people in some nations may feel comfortable talking openly about their personal problems, people in Middle Eastern and Asian cultures generally discuss such personal only issues with very close friends.
A lengthy consensus-building process is usual in Eastern cultures for making a decision that would be acceptable to all team members. They all would share the responsibility for this decision, and every member of the team needs to feel comfortable with a proposed way to move forward. In Japan, for example, people are reluctant to say “no” or disagree with others, especially those who outrank or are older than themselves, because it is a sign of disrespect. It can be very difficult to be completely confident that a decision or agreement has been finally reached with support from all team members because of this. On the other hand, verbal agreements in Japan would have as much weight as written and signed contracts, while in the United States, they may simply be an indication of willingness to pursue a question further (Chui, 2005).In today's globalized world, travel restrictions in the form of entry or work visas play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders, which may prevent multinational software development team members from meeting each other in person.
Almost all countries now require visas from certain nonnationals who wish to enter their territory. Although visa restrictions are primarily based on citizenship, the holding of a residence permit may also be of importance. Therefore, on some occasions, team members working within that zone might be able to meet with each other in spite of working across national boundaries. Geographic location, physical distance, and government policies may separate management and employees within a global team. The separation may require a change in management practices and also a different approach to treating transfer of services, products, and tools across international borders. In third-world countries, a shortage of hardware and abundant labor may promote hardware sharing, raising the risk of loss or damage to work products stored on the same machine.
Data repositories generally cannot be located within countries whose governments may compromise confidentiality or security.
To address security concerns, global teams may be required to follow enhanced security procedures, such as using a virtual private network, encryption, and antivirus or anti-malware software.4.
The right tools for the teamAs noted in the team formation and management section, communication is paramount for good teamwork, but not necessarily easy for distributed teams. For this reason, most teams rely on tools and products to aid communication.Technology-mediated social participation supports closer coordination among larger groups of people, making it possible to address the problems of distributed workgroups in new ways.
Communication tools can be divided into three groups: (a) synchronous, (b) asynchronous, and (c) knowledge transfer. Synchronous tools are dynamic or “real time.” Asynchronous tools allow information to be transferred or received over a period of time, not requiring simultaneity.
A knowledge transfer tool can be a collection of information or a tool that aids in using a collection of information. Depicted conceptually in Figure 1 (Thissen et al., 2007), all of these types of tools contribute to successful distributed teamwork, each in its own way. Synchronous communicationSynchronous communication tools for software developers are much the same as those for any other type of far-flung working group.
Some forms of communication take place with all participants involved at the same time, such as a telephone conversation or other real-time interactions. We describe here how these tools can help teams share thought processes and therefore boost quality and productivity among a software team.Table 2 provides examples of the types of synchronous tools that may be of use to such teams. The Internet has brought about advances in how distributed teams can benefit from a different type of phone?the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone.
This technology makes it possible for team members in any location to have a number in the same area code as other team members, reducing long distance or international calling costs.
VoIP can also be used to put team members on the same phone network, meaning that a team member in a different location could still be reached by typing an extension versus entering in the entire sequence of area code, and so on. Instant messaging (IM) can be a quick real-time way to get an answer from a teammate without the disruption of a phone call. If the person is not available, then IM could be considered asynchronous and function similar to sending an e-mail. They are similar to seminars and are like a short class or discussion session, but instead of all of the participants looking at a classroom’s blackboard, each participant is in front of a computer screen.
Some webinars include voice capability through VoIP, while others provide a telephone dial-in number for vocal communication.
Webinars are useful for discussions or show-and-tell where all of the team can look at the same information at the same time.
Online automated translation services and locally installed translation software can provide some timely information to a distributed team because the services are readily available and accessible when needed. If there are simple item labels in a software tool being developed, such as a command button with simple commands that needs to be rendered in different languages, these translation tools could provide the basic translation immediately.
They could also be used to translate pieces of a message or a document shared by the team for brief or informal communications. The message may lose coherence in the translation.Many distributed teams rely on synchronous tools, but there are situations within teams where real-time communication just does not work well. Global or distributed teams have to deal with varying time zones and different work schedules, and so not all of the team can be available at the same time. Even collocated teams find situations where synchronous tools are not right for the situation.
Asynchronous communication In the globalized workforce, one significant problem is that of time zone differences because it can be difficult for team members to find a common time of day at which all are available for meetings or other forms of communication. And yet, time zone differences can benefit a software development team’s productivity because they let the combined team work around the clock.
Asynchronous tools are therefore an asset to distributed teams because they facilitate communications without respect to time zone. Many of the current tools that support asynchronous communication recognize the fact that they may be used by people whose schedules are not well aligned (see Table 3).
Some of the tools provide indicators as to the user’s current state, such as online, busy, unavailable, away from desk, and on the telephone. These software features can be used to advantage by team members to communicate without interrupting or disturbing their coworkers. File transfer, issue trackers, and recordings put information within reach of the team members when it is needed. Whether the team is distributed or traditionally collocated, communication and sharing of information need to happen for the team to be successful. Asynchronous communication tools allow the team to choose the right time to access the information, minimizing disruption to any individual’s schedule. With the flexibility of e-mail, a team member or leader can send messages to a single individual or to the entire group and can include file attachments if needed. Beyond the basics of sending and receiving, e-mail software can be used to organize and archive information for ready access. Many e-mail systems have calendars that allow users to set reminders, keep track of tasks, and take advantage of a variety of other features. Messages can be sent without perfect knowledge of the language or perfect pronunciation, aiding teams whose members have differing native languages. For many distributed teams, e-mail is the communication channel of choice.Groupware or shared calendars are useful tools for keeping up with the availability and commitments of team members. Each member keeps up with his or her own calendar and sets limits on who has access to entries. Other team members can see who is available, who is on vacation, or when they might be available to meet. With shared calendars, each can see this information at a glance for individuals or a whole team.
When working with distributed teams, a view of the team’s shared calendar is as close as one might get to a traditional team’s option of walking down the hall to see which programmers are at their desks.One of the complexities of writing software as a team is determining who is currently responsible for a specific task, class, build, or package.
This issue crosses into both global and collocated teams, so issue trackers can be a great answer.
An issue tracker can be a simple tracking system for one project, a single system for multiple projects, or a part of an integrated project management system. These systems allow issues or bugs to be assigned to a specific team member, with others on the team notified as needed. Viewing bugs by who has been assigned, by team, by category, and by project are desirable features with this type of software.
Often, a team meeting via web or conference call may occur at a time that is inconvenient for one or more staff.
When that happens or when critical and complex information is being exchanged, the team manager may choose to record the call, creating an archival record that can be referenced later. Recordings could be viewed in the same way as webcasts, but webcasts most often provide live-streaming information.
By recording the webcast or call, the information can be grouped with online training materials or text-based minutes for asynchronous review. Knowledge transferKnowledge transfer is a specialized form of communication, and it can be difficult to do at a distance. For global software development teams, whose members need to coordinate their activities closely and ensure that their products integrate well, knowledge transfer can present a challenge.
In response to that challenge, several products have been introduced and adopted in the marketplace, particularly by distributed teams.What is knowledge transfer? For example, in a software development team, there may be roles for a specialist in gathering requirements, designing a database, determining the best user interface, or evaluating the appropriate platform. It can be very important for each specialist to explain some of the concepts, constraints, or implications of his or her knowledge and understanding. Table 4 shows examples of many tools that can be used to share knowledge in a routine informal way or for more controlled and planned training processes.
The table gives a sampling only, and should not be seen as endorsement by the authors nor their organization. The communication is clearly visible as the presence of a file, indicating that this item is ready for the next step. A wiki is a website that anyone can contribute to by using built-in editing tools that post directly back to the web pages. Distributed teams can create and use a wiki site to share information on a new tool, on a package they are developing, or anything they want to collaborate on?the list could be endless. A wiki is a place to keep information organized in a central location where everyone can add to it or learn from it. Ward Cunningham, one of the creators of the wiki software, calls it, “The simplest online database that could possibly work” (Leuf & Cunningham, 2001).How often do software developers search online for some piece of information they need to know? Programmers make extensive use of online search tools when they need an answer or an example. Electronic search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, are frequently a programmer’s greatest resource because of the immediacy of information and access to technical posts from around the world. For a distributed team, who cannot ask questions to the person at the next desk, online search tools are a common resource to turn to. This ability to search by topic and keyword is a form of knowledge sharing with the rest of the world. They range from simple capture of voice and computer screen input, all the way to learning-management systems that track training progress and full classroom-type image capture.
The simple desktop tools, such as SnagIt or Captiva, allow teams to record, save, and share information easily and informally. The first person to learn a new tool could record a quick how to or beginner guide, and the other members could review it when they need it. More complex tools, such as Moodle, offer the ability to create a more formal presentation, quizzes for certification, and shared training materials.



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