Informal collaboration tools for global software development teamsL  (BILAL )


Software development teams that include engineers around the globe are adopting informal collaboration tools to overcome communication and cultural barriers and build trust and comfort among members.

A global team differs from a co-located team. Co-located teams will instinctively initiate a process of informal collaboration. This is natural human behavior that gradually leads to increasing trust and mutual understanding. When team members have established a trust relationship, they will ask each other questions and proactively provide information. They will also estimate each other’s abilities better, which leads to more effective division of work.

Figure 1. The roles of various tools in the collaboration process

Informal collaboration tools within collaboration platforms follow the models of these public services. The tech-savvy user group in a software development team is already familiar with such systems and knows how to get the best from them. This is making it easier to introduce similar tools without a high degree of user resistance.

Classifications of tools

Figure 8. Classification of relevant tools and information

Combining tools

A global development team can best use a combination of software engineering tools such as IBM Rational Team Concert and generic informal collaboration tools such as IBM® Lotus Live®.

In some cases the tools can be seamlessly combined, such as the integration between IBM Rational Team Concert and IBM Lotus Same time for presence and chat.

Many studies have concluded that there are significant barriers to communication in global teams. In addition to cultural and language barriers, there are the three other main areas that are problematic:

  • awareness
  • medium
  • synchronicity

Each of these areas can be addressed by using various informal collaboration tools. The tools are of particular value to global software development teams because they can lower the barriers that such teams encounter.

  • Awareness: Geographical separation leads to lack of awareness of other team members’ skills and expertise or even about their existence in a large project.

    The need for awareness can be addressed by using the following tools:

    • Blogs
    • Social bookmarking
    • Collaborative virtual environments
    • Instant messaging
    • Podcasts
    • Profiles of team members
    • Presence
    • Threaded discussions online
    • VoIP
    • Wikis
  • Medium: It is not possible to communicate face-to-face or to use visual communication (for example, writing on whiteboards).

    The problem of communication medium can be addressed using these tools:

    • Remote desktop viewers
    • Telephone calls
    • Shared whiteboards
    • Videoconferences
    • Collaborative virtual environments
  • Synchronicity: Time zone differences and different patterns of working (national holidays, for instance) lead to limited times when team members can communicate synchronously.

    The problem of synchronicity can be addressed using the following tools:

    • Blogs
    • Social bookmarking
    • E-mail
    • Collaborative virtual environments
    • Newsfeeds (RSS)
    • Podcasts
    • Threaded discussions online
    • Wikis


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