Lero Industry Day on Global Software Development

Every now and then, Lero- The Irish Software Engineering Research Centre organises industry days, where  researchers talk about their work with Irish practitioners. The one we had today happened in Dublin, and was hosted by Enterprise Ireland in its East Point premises in Dublin. It was organised in connection with the conference we are hosting this summer at UL – the International Conference on Global Software Engineering, for which I happen to be the local organisation chair.

(Photos by Jack Downey, the Lero Industry officer whose organisation efforts made the event possible.)

The event included 3 talks and time for networking and discussions; there were approx 30 attendees.The detailed programme can be found here.

Dr.Ita Richardson spoke about the need for extending standards like CMMI and ISO15504 to include guidelines for Global Software Development and regulated industries such as medical devices.

My talk was a reflection on the role of collaborative practices such as informal communication, socialisation and cultural mediation. I introduced the socGSD project. I spoke a bit about my field sites and the use of ethnographic methods. I shared  with the audience a number of stories on things as banal as using instant messaging, Skype and social networking applications in day-to-day collaboration between distributed team members. No matter how banal they look like, a lot of managers don’t seem to understand yet their role as the glue that brings people together and allows them to create rapport. I concluded with a few recommendations, emphasizing the role of direct and frequent communication between sites, flexibility in organisational practices and cultural mediation. I got very positive feedback after the talk – several participants came to me to tell me how they resonated with the things I spoke about.

The third speaker was Vikas Sahni of Softedge Systems and it was great to hear from a practitioner how some of the things I touched upon in my talk were seen from the other side. One point where Vikas disagreed with me was cultural mediation and the role of people who can bridge different cultures. He gave the example of an Indian project manager based in Ireland who had difficulties in syncronising with his developers in India, while an Irish project manager was getting excellent results with an Indian team. In my view, this proves the danger of generalisation and of talking about “good practices”.

What works in one case can fail in another, because software is developed by people, and most problems are not connected to technology, but to people, to paraphrase Tom DeMarco. Not everyone can be a cultural mediator – it is a matter of people skills and personality.  Next week, my colleague Alexander Boden will present our joint paper and poster on the topic of cultural mediation at the CHASE workshop collocated with ICSE’09 in Vancouver.

It was a wonderful sunny day, so after contemplating the idea of seeing the Bodies exhibition, I followed an impulse I had since the day I first arrived in Dublin – to get on an open bus and do the tourist tour.

I hoped off in Stephen’s Green and sat on the grass for a while, and then hopped back on. I was planning to see a film at the IFI, but because the bus got stuck in traffic, I got off in Heuston and returned to Limerick.

May 11 2009 11:15 pm | conferences and Events

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