And why should you join a global team? Let’s set the scene. By 2025, IDC expects USD 21$ billion in missed revenue for companies in the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland) as a result of delayed product- or service releases, due to lack of tech skills available. Another study in the US shows nearly 60 percent of employers have jobs that stay vacant for 12 weeks or longer. It is getting crucial for companies to look elsewhere, like Vietnam. Which means software developers in Vietnam are going to have golden opportunities.
Let’s look at the business logic behind global teams. And the logic in choosing a developer career in one.
Organizing global teams
MIT Sloan Management study found, “Dispersed teams can actually outperform groups that are co-located. To succeed, however, virtual collaboration must be managed in specific ways.”
So, how can a manager foster a sense of belonging, ensuring that you as international colleagues collaborate well, perform efficiently, and work towards the same goal when you are not in the same location? Which method is the best way to organize?
As a rule of thumb, there are two different methods — and sometimes it will be a combination of the two.
On one hand, we have the traditional set-up where teams in each location have their own specific goals and focus area. These teams are often independent.
On the other hand, we have close colleagues who work together across locations with a common goal and focus.
Method 1: separation
In a short-term perspective, method no. 1, as in assigning each team their own separate tasks, may be the most effective way to work. For example, ALL front-end software developers are in Vietnam and ALL back-end software developers are in Finland.
Advantages are as follows:
A strong feeling of team unity, and team ownership for team’s success
Clear responsibilities for each team in different locations makes it easier for top management to keep track
Each department becomes specialists in an area or task
However, it is important to point out that based on our experience, this is an effective way to organize autonomous teams only when everything runs smoothly. Most of you who have worked as software developers for a while know that this state of bliss is rarely the case for long … After all, software development includes challenges, risks, innovation and pushing limits! We wouldn’t be in it otherwise, right?
There are several pitfalls of organizing a team as two separate entities, impacting your position and possibilities:
Interest, ownership, pride and team spirit is linked to your location, overshadowing overall company success
Less career advancement opportunities
A divided organization, where only top level management has the overview you miss out on
A lack of trust due to lack of equal collaboration, sense of belonging, and access to information
All communication will be centralized, filtered through team leaders
The perception of (im)balance of power can lead to power struggles instead of teamwork
Weighing up pros and cons, we quickly eye more challenges than benefits linked with this method.
Method 2: integration
Let’s take a closer look at the alternative way, where global teams share a common purpose. The article “Global teams that work”, published by Harvard Business Review, summarizes that global teams who succeed are those having a common purpose and focus.
In the example below, some front-end developers sit in Vietnam and some in Norway, while a few back-end developers are in Vietnam and the rest in Norway. Each team has a mix of members in the same role, working from different locations.
Instead of an “Us vs Them” mentality, collaboration is more efficient when team members across locations are integrated and share tasks and targets
Inter-team communication is enhanced because members of several teams now work in symbiosis
Contribution to overall company success takes precedence with better understanding and knowledge of company goals, culture and purpose
Career opportunities open up for EVERYONE, regardless of location. This encourages self-development and benefits the entire company
Long-term development opportunities for individuals strengthen your chance to gain deep product knowledge, impress, be appreciated and be retained
In the short term, communication across the globe will be affected by time zones, cultural traits and language skills. However, this is solved by proper onboarding, integration, and training. Understanding the purpose of your role in the company is a different kettle of fish to just following instructions from management. By organizing your global team with flat hierarchy and equality as cornerstones, the management will reap benefits like long-term stability, growth and improved risk management. And you will feel a sense of belonging on top of better motivation and a higher sense of purpose, as you get to influence, shape and make your mark in a way rarely seen in outdated traditional outsourcing. You even get involved in the business logic which, as a case in point, you care enough about to read this article through. It’s a win-win. Developers who work this way with us, never looks back.
How to hack it in real life
Recently, we co-hosted a Hackathon event with our co-employer AKVA Group. Their set-up was as exemplary a showcase of global integration as you’ll ever see. AKVA is a world leader in the field of aquaculture equipment. Their HQ is in Norway. Additional development branches are located in Chile and Vietnam.
During this Hackathon, they reshuffled their members into six new internationally mixed teams. For three days, these collaborated on potential product ideas — across borders and time zones. It´s not only possible for colleagues all over the world to unite in one company culture; they actually strengthen the culture by doing so. Even more, the event highlighted how an integrated workforce, regardless of location, can bring innovation by harnessing the great qualities of individuals in a team setting. Bringing out all these positives was simply great work by AKVA. No A and B teams. No territorial power struggle. Just one company. Fully integrated.
For us, it was pure joy to watch the guys in action. Unsurprisingly, the feedback afterwards from developers, POs and management alike, was glowing.