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How to achieve effective global communication with external partners

2nd Nov 2016

Outsourcing software development is a well-established industry trend. After all, “there’s always more to build than we have time or resources to build – always” (Jeff Patton,User Story Mapping, 2014). Outsourcing partners can be found all over the world, but wherever they are located, the primary issue always remains the same.

Communication, communication, communication

To build an effective product, you need a clear vision of what the product needs to do. Once you have a clear vision, you need to make sure all the members of the team share that same vision, so everyone knows exactly what it is we are trying to build. Effective communication is, therefore, a key aspect in ensuring we all end up with the same idea.

The trouble is, when your collaborative partner is in a different city, country or even continent, it can be so much more difficult to get your ideas across effectively than if they were right there in front of you…

One, often hidden, pitfall is culture.

Different cultures around the world can respond to the same words in very different ways, and a prime example of this is the use of the word “no”. Depending on where your partner organization is located, their culture may consider it rude to say “no” to a request from someone they respect, so instead they may say “I will try” even if what you’re asking can’t be done. This can lead to some sticky situations at the end of a sprint!

Alternatively, other cultures may provide an instant response of “no” to a suggestion, but what this really means is “let’s enter into a spirited debate to discuss this further”. Picking up on these subtle differences can be tricky, especially if you are communicating remotely and are unable to pick up on a person’s body language that might help you understand what theyreallymean.

Viva la revolución!

Let’s face it, until true holographic telepresence devices are here, there will be no complete substitute for face-to-face communication. However, as technology continues to improve, we can at least mitigate the largest obstacles.

At the forefront of this communication revolution are a multitude of instant messenger applications providing real-time text (good), voice (better) and video (best) communication, as well as screen-sharing capabilities allowing you to get your point across in the most effective method.

However, in addition to simply words and ideas, there also needs to be an exchange of files and documents between organizations, too. The best way to achieve this is to get everyone using a cloud-based system that can bridge the gap between the collaborative partners. To be truly effective, this system also has to be accessible from anywhere.

If all else fails, electronic systems will always be there to provide you with quick access to travel and hotel booking portals, allowing you to visit your partner organization and thrash out – in person –  the finer points of those all-important requirements!