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Managing Global Workforce

SUJATHA M reviews K . MOHAN BABU'S new book.

BOOK: Offshoring IT Services : A Framework for Managing Outsourced Projects 
278 Pages, 
PUBLISHER: Tata McGraw Hill, 2006

Managing global workforce and distributed teams is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of Offshore Outsourcing, a.k.a. Offshoring; the reason why the author Mohan Babu, who is with Infosys, has dedicated an entire chapter on aspects of Managing Global Workforce in his new book “Offshoring IT Services : A Framework for Managing Outsourced Projects.” Offshoring necessitates interaction and communication of people – literally – around the world.

The book has been published at an opportune time, especially since offshore outsourcing is taking off and executives and IT leaders are looking for best practices that they can adopt in their initiatives. Managers and members of teams need to learn to work with professionals and peers from across geographic and cultural boundaries, separated by time and space. As offshore outsourcing becomes more pervasive, managers are beginning to pay greater attention to aspects of managing ‘geographically distributed teams’ or ‘virtual teams.’

The book examines the intricacies of offshore outsourcing by defining an Offshoring Management Framework (OMF) that address four major areas of focus, called ‘layers’ that include the Governance layer, Management layer, Technical layer and Communication layer. Offshoring experts are beginning to articulate the fact that general management best practices and organizational processes will continue to form the basis for most of the IT managerial and planning and developmental functions. The OMF and offshoring practices will extend such practices to leverage the time-and-space, and offshore-onsite dynamics of managing globalized projects. In this section, we review the section on Managing Global Workforce from Mohan’s book. 

The section on managing Global Workforce is peppered with examples and case studies, and highlights some of the key aspects including:
· Articulating clear goals: The onsite and offshoring teams need to be clear about the goals and objectives. 
· Define modes of interaction: Stakeholders across the offshoring spectrum may have varying goals and needs that will have to be addressed and planned for. 
· Focus on communication: Defining the modes of interaction may include communication management planning, essentially aiming to bridge the onsite-offshore gap. 
· Cultural differences: Teams and managers may have to recognize the existence of cultural differences that may not be mitigated. 
· Trust between teams: Working with teams across geographic and cultural boundaries hinges on basic trust between onsite and offshore teams. 

Executing and delivering IT application development and maintenance projects involves several layers of complexity, and the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Managing projects entails ‘regular’ project dynamics for which there are several well documented tools and techniques including that described in PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK). The added dimension of complexity in managing offshored projects is that of managing cross-cultural and geographic issues. Managing projects gets more nebulous when it involves orchestrating the efforts and schedules of individuals, teams and resources from across the globe. 

In the chapter on Managing Global Workforce, the author highlights three main aspects: Cultural, Technical and Human aspects. (Ref Figure 1). Managers aim to bring together a group of people from different cultures and geographies, with varying skill-sets and goals and ensure that their work is organized in a cohesive manner. The human aspect delves into what really motivates people, including a brief study of Human Resource management theories about motivation. 

Traditionally, IT Managers didn’t get invited to strategic decision making meetings, a forte of business leaders and executives. However, with offshoring on the rise, the author observes that the percentage of strategic influence that technology managers wield is increasing in focus, and adds that “by offshoring technology management and development, Managers are expected to bridge the gap between application development and the strategic goals of business.”

Another key to managing the technical aspects of global workforce is the fact that technical people build their distinct work cultures, regardless of their ethnic or social cultures. Therefore, managers need to understand the subtle nuances of managing technical people. Interactions between outside project teams will require attention to cross- cultural aspects including focus on communication, language etc. 

It is obvious from the study of the section of the book, Offshoring IT Services, that managing global projects draws on the fundamental practices of management, best practices and processes, and experiences of managers. What extends such practices for managing offshored projects is the dynamics of managing people and process across cultures and time-zones. 

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