Social Structures in Extended Team Model

Extended Team Model (ETM) is an emerging mode of arrangement for Global Software Development (GSD). As described in one of my previous post, ETM is a customized offshore outsourcing model aimed at building an extended arm of a client by having access to software development resources of a vendor, usually located offshore, by forming a partnership. Like any other kind of GSD arrangement, ETM can also be characterized by certain types of structures (i.e., social, communication, and work).  Appropriate nature and alignment among these structures are expected to ease collaboration and communication challenges. However, our research is based on more strong assertion about the potential of appropriate social structure for easing coordination and collaboration challenges. As the social networking and social structures are gaining significant attention in GSD, we are very much interested in empirically and systematically exploring the role of social structures in encouraging collaborative behaviors in an ETM-based GSD engagement.  Social Structure represents the formal or informal social networks (i.e., ties and interactions) that may exist within a project or an organization. Our initial findings from a case study of ETM have shown very promising results. Whilst we are still performing an in-depth analysis of the data gathered using qualitative data gathering approaches, the preliminary results (CHASE 2013 Paper) have enabled us to assert that the existence of strong social networks can help people to better collaborate on their work activities and share knowledge. When people know each other they are more likely to emotionally feel close to each other and can be more comfortable to share relevant information. These initial findings have led us to state that it is important for managers to identify and understand the mechanisms that are suitable for building and leveraging social capitals when forming GSD teams. Our research mainly driven by Mansooreh Zahedi and I has started focusing on understanding how organizations, teams, and people build social ties, which are the building blocks of social structures, and leverage them to coordination and collaboration during different phases of software development lifecycle. Our assertion about the critical role of appropriate social structures for easing collaboration and coordination challenges is irrespective of software development model (e.g., waterfall or agile) being used.

We have coined the term Collaborative Social Networks (CSN) which are expected to help managers and software development teams to overcome many of the most commonly known challenges of GSD. Our model of CSN will enable organizations, teams, and people to assess the appropriateness of their social structures and pinpoint the areas which need improvements for seeking optimal results. We will also develop a set of requirements for guiding the manager to choose or build appropriate tools for building and leverage CSN for supporting GSD teams.