Chapter 1: Introducing The Phenomenon of Global Software Work


Chapter 1: Introducing The Phenomenon of Global Software Work

1.1 Introduction

It is 9 a.m. Monday morning and Peter Kelly, Managing Director of Academy Information Systems in Trowbridge, UK, has just arrived at his desk. He sits down to examine the progress on the latest release of Academy software for housing benefits. For three years this development has been outsourced to Mastek, an Indian software company. Kelly consults the Mastek website relating to the project and the ˜dashboard shows relevant indicators of quality, utilization, efficiency and schedule. Subsequently, he meets Sanjay, Mastek s project manager, who updates him on the progress verbally. Part of Academy s project team has arrived for work six hours before Kelly and has already made progress on several programming specifications given to them the previous evening. This is because the majority of the project team live and work in a different time zone, country and culture at Mastek s India development centre in Mumbai. Around lunchtime in the UK, before the Mumbai part of the project team leaves for home, they transfer the completed code to the server in Academy s Trowbridge office. The UK-based Mastek and Academy staff then have time for testing the completed code before incorporation into the beta release of the application. They can then prepare detailed specifications for the India-based team that they will pick up electronically in the Mumbai morning.

This brief story is an insight into the day-to-day life of Global Software Work (GSW), which is the topic of this book. We define GSW as ˜software work undertaken at geographically separated locations across national boundaries in a coordinated fashion involving real time or asynchronous interaction . GSW can thus include work done across global borders through outsourcing, alliances, or subsidiary arrangements. GSW is still an unexplored form of work and is enabled through organizational forms quite distinctive from traditional global arrangements as typified by large multinational corporations. Unlike manufacturing activities and professional services such as consultancies that have been studied in the past, software development in global settings remains empirically largely unexamined. Software development is a knowledge- intensive activity, and typifies work in the ˜knowledge or ˜network society. An analysis of such work in practice can provide interesting insights into the kind and extent of operations that can be effectively conducted in conditions of globalization. GSW takes place within an extremely dynamic and diverse global marketplace that is populated by organizations big and small from countries both developed and developing. The GSW arena is thus unique in that firms need not be fatally handicapped by existing size , and can potentially make an impact based on their knowledge competencies, ability to leverage technology and the cost advantages they offer. Diversity, complexity and uniqueness are thus inherent in GSW, making it an exciting and relatively unexplored domain of study. Analysis of GSW has implications for different disciplines concerned with such arrangements, including information systems, international management, computer supported collaborative work and organization theory. GSW arrangements are also of concern to policy makers responsible for economic growth and infrastructure development, particularly in developing countries such as India that has benefited greatly from an expanding export oriented software industry.

The aim of this book is to develop an empirically informed understanding of the process of Global Software Alliances (GSAs), the organizational arrangements that are established for the conduct of GSW. The evolution of GSAs are conceptualized within the context of globalization. We do this through the analysis of case studies that allow for an interrogation of various issues in the relationship from a variety of perspectives. Through inter-case comparisons, we seek to develop theoretical and managerial implications that can inform a better understanding about the conduct of the GSW phenomenon. The book can be read on two levels. First, and primarily, it can be treated as a study of globalization, examining specific cases that are both a model of and a model for globalization. Secondly, our analysis will be of interest to managers and practitioners charged with the task of undertaking GSW who are prepared to go beyond simplistic ˜how to -type guides and methodologies. The strength of the approach is in the use of case studies to provide an in-depth analysis of particular issues, together with rigorous employment of theory that can help to develop both practical and theoretical implications.

We have structured the book in eleven chapters that may be read in a linear fashion from ˜cover to cover or as a reference and resource in the GSW area. Chapter 1 introduces the phenomenon of GSW. Chapter 2 provides an exposition of the theoretical underpinnings of the research approach and chapters 3 “9 describe and analyse key themes within the detailed case studies of companies involved in GSW in India. These cases are the result of research undertaken during the period 1995 “2000, involving some 200 interviews. Chapters 10 and 11 are concerned with the implications of our analysis at a theoretical and practical level, respectively.

The aim of this chapter is to present the GSW phenomenon in depth and set up the theoretical basis for the subsequent analysis. This phenomenon is shaped by three defining themes relating to the nature of the organizational form that enables such work, the kind of work that is conducted and the complex global trends within which such work is carried out. A detailed discussion of these three themes now follows .