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Global Software Engineering
Dr. Christof Ebert
AUG 31, 2012 13:15 PM
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Companies in IT and software business will fail if they don’t master global software engineering. Prestigious journal Harvard Business Manager recently wrote that outsourcing with global IT services and software development ranks as one of the top business ideas of the past 100 years. Software and IT industries are today truly global. Be it offshoring or outsourcing, component or service integration – managing global software engineering has rapidly become a key competence for successful engineers and managers. The diversity of suppliers, cultures and products require dedicated techniques, tools, and practices to overcome challenges.

But half of these globally distributed projects fail in the first year. 70% fail to deliver value and are cancelled within three years. Collaboration across teams, projects, companies and time zones is not easy. Even the fanciest videoconferencing cannot overcome the fundamental culture, communication and time zone difference problem. Consequently, there will be no miracle technology to overcome time zone differences. However, a better understanding of the available technologies can help managers and their teams to better cope with mitigating the challenges imposed by time zones separation.

A variety of tools available in the market to support collaboration among distributed team members. However, organizations still claim that there is insufficient value leveraged from the adoption of these tools alone. Reasons are manifold, but often relate to a lack of tools strategy in companies, where tools just organically evolve. In consequence the tools do not support teams, and the three major concerns of distributed teams, namely performance, integrity and security are not addressed.

ALM and PLM are natural technologies to integrate tools for distributed teams. Where integration is not possible, federation might be the alternative. For instance, a collaborative software design session can be supported by the combined use of a whiteboard with a video camera pointed to it, live streaming what is being drawn on the board and a shared document for collaboratively taking notes on the fly as the meeting goes. Eclipse will help initially, but ensuring performance, integrity, and information security across multiple tools, teams, and companies finally requires a sustainable collaboration strategy. In addition, mobile and cloud versions of the tools facilitate distributed asynchronous work – people can work when commuting, at home, etc.

No current tool supports all the activities necessary for global software engineering. Users must therefore prioritize their collaboration needs and the tools to support them. Introducing collaboration technology should be a stepwise process, starting with a collaboration platform to share applications. A consistent life-cycle management which connects processes, tools and information sharing needs is indispensable when working in external networks with participants from different organizations. Above all, global software and IT needs a clear strategy and organizational change management to keep all distributed teams on the same level and to gradually move forward – together and across time zones and other perceived boundaries.



IEEE International Conference on Global Software Engineering (ICGSE) is the leading forum for addressing topics such as how to make distributed teams more effective and efficient and how to cope with challenges along different methods, tools, distance, time-zones, and culture. ICGSE 2012 will take place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, from 27-30 of August. Join the conference and learn how to overcome challenges in distributed software projects.



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Author:    Dr. Christof Ebert is managing director at Vector Consulting Services. He supports clients around the world to sustainably improve product strategy and product development and to manage organizational changes. He serves on a number of advisory and industry bodies and is adjunct professor at the University of Stuttgart.

Contact him at

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