Ubiquitous Computing and Communication Journal

ISSN 1992-8424

Does Familiarity within the Distributed Team Improve Performance ?
Exploratory Study.
Affan Yasin1, Blekinge Tekniska Högskolan (BTH), Sweden
Atif Yasin2, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan.
affan.yasin@live.com 1
atifyasin2@gmail.com 2
ABSTRACT
The overall purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate the fact that
familiarization in distributed teams improve performance? The level of team
familiarity for example the average number of times each member has workedwith
every other member of the team, has a significant positive effect on performance
or not? Misunderstanding or a little communication can create hard feelings or
ambiguities which ultimately undermine the success of the team. Team
environment needs to be where each member communicate openly and effectively.
Keywords: Global Software Development(GSD), Global Software Engineering
(GSE), Co-ordination issues, Team familiarization, Informal/Formal
communication etc

1

1.2 Why to shift towards Global Software
Development?
Both from economic and educational perspective it
seems tempting to take advantage of the resources
and specialized knowledge that may exist in a larger
spatial domain by forming virtual teams, whose
members are physically located in different centers.
Clearly, a well-integrated software development
team, where members can easily share information
with each other, it is an important factor in the
success of any software engineering project. [3]

INTRODUCTION

1.1 What are Global Distributed Teams? OR
What exactly are Virtual or Distributed
Teams?
These instructions These instructions Technological
advances over the Internet and other fields of
communication give birth to the idea of cooperation
with other people who may be physically located in
different locations more feasible. Many benefits that
may result from a wider interaction, such as making
use of available expert resources that exist in
different parts of the world - for example emerging
IT centers in India and China. Integrated teams
consisting of a group of cultures have greater ability
to respond to the demands associated with
heterogeneous markets. However, there are some
challenges to get these different groups to work
together effectively. [3]
Global competition, the redesigned product life
cycles, mass customization, and the increased need
to respond quickly to customer needs are some
powerful trends driving organizational change.
Successful organizations are those that form a
dynamic network of information technology (IT), to
adapt to rapidly changing competitive landscape and
customer needs. One of the cornerstones of a
successful organization is a virtual team.
Technological support for virtual teams and codistributed environments is profitable as a result,
more and more organizations are shifting, or plan to
implement it in the near future, and its use is
expected to grow. Although virtual teams offer a
wide range of potential benefits for organizations but
implementation is at risk if organizations do not care
for the challenges. [1][2]

Volume 8, Issue 1

1.3 Difference between Team and Group?
Traditionally, both the terms "team" and "group"
used to describe small collections of people. While
the two terms are often used as alternative between
traditional and virtual team. Several authors suggest
that the term "Team" should be reserved for those
groups who shows high levels of interdependence
and integration among its members "A team is a
collection of people who are interdependent in their
tasks, shared responsibility for outcomes, who see
themselves and seen by others as an intact social
entity embedded in one or more larger social systems
and who handle their relationships across
organizational boundaries". Virtual teams are often
assembled in response to specific needs and are often
short-term. This is not a function of the virtual team,
but rather a byproduct of specialized function they
serve often. [1] [2]
2

1343

RESEARCH QUESTION
 Does Familiarity within the Distributed
Team Improve Performance?

www.ubicc.org

Ubiquitous Computing and Communication Journal

3

is assigned to that position who is very social and
friendly, almost daily he spent 2-3 hours in
discussion and information transfer. Everything was
normal even after the replacement of new resource.
After a few months as a resource A took study leave
and left organization, he was replaced by the
Employee B who was not very social. He was not
active in the informal communication that finally
creates a barrier. Testing build XYZ was
responsibility of the resource B and resources in the
U.S team. Few issues that resource B wanted to
convey was not conveyed properly and U.S team
didn't notice because of the many issues, the issue of
language, lack of confidence on new resource and
lack of informal communication or communication
barrier. On the day of deployment of the build XYZ,
build XYZ failed showing critical bugs making delay
for week. After that investigation took place finding
the reason why build failed. Management after
investigating came to know that Resource B send the
error report to the members in U.S with images
mentioning issues but the team in U.S didn't give
importance may be due to the reason they don't trust
the new team members or may be communication
barrier, causing failure of deployment process.

INCLUSION / EXCLUSION

3.1 Inclusion criteria
This review includes every article returned by the
protocol that meets at least one of the following
criteria for inclusion. (IC means Inclusion)
• IC1- Published between 2003 and Dec 2011.
3.2 Exclusion criteria.
Publications that satisfy at least one of the following
EC were excluded: (EC means exclusion)
• EC1—Documents not written in English.
• EC2—Documents whose full text is not available.
• EC3—Documents clearly dealing with topics
irrelevant to the purpose of this review.
• EC4— if the same study has been published more
than once, the most relevant version (i.e., the one
explaining the study in greater detail) will be used
and the others will be excluded;
• EC5— Articles that do not match the inclusion
criteria will be excluded.
4 SEARCH TERM - STRATEGY
Major terms are formed from the research questions
by: Altering
the
spellings,
identifying
alternative terms and synonyms of major
search terms.
 By checking the keywords in some papers
we already have
 Boolean OR is used for incorporating
search terms of alternative spellings and
synonyms.
 Boolean AND is used to link the major
terms with other terms and for combing
different terms.

5.2 Supporting
With
Articles/Journals

5

DOES
TEAM
FAMILIARIZATION
INCREASE PERFORMANCE?
I begin my research on this fundamental question.
There may be two possible answers to this question
Yes or No. Let's try to find out.
5.1 Personal Experience
I have more than one year of professional experience
within the Distributed teams. Teams distributed
across the U.S, India and Pakistan. Information on
how the team was distributed explained below:For two modules development took place in Pakistan,
for one module development took place in India,
code/document inspections and management was
carried out from the U.S. office. Quality assurance
work was performed in cooperation between
Pakistan and U.S. teams. Everything went well one
day something happens and one member left the
company and management must had to replace
another resource to that position. Say an employee A

Volume 8, Issue 1

ISSN 1992-8424

1344

the

help

of

5.2.1 Is communication vital part in Virtual
teams?
The core part of the virtual team process is
communication. Practitioners discuss the importance
of the Communication with a focus on the need to
create a team good communicators and right
technology for the most effective communication.
Hulnick: "Technology is the basis for the virtual
business relationship and Communication is
Cement"[2]. Traditional research team emphasizes
that a successful co-located teams are able to
communicate effectively. The virtual environment
provides significant challenges for effective
communication, differences in appearance, Culture,
Language and interpretation of written text. In
addition nonverbal communication, an important part
of the team Communication is often lacking in
virtual teams. Because of its central role in virtual
teams, communication has been the focus of
extensive research. Because of the distributed nature
of the work, virtual team members are highly
dependent on information and Communications
Technology. [2]
Communication is always a key issue and is even
more important when the team members are not
collocated. To facilitate the smooth integrated virtual
team, an appropriate set of guidelines, processes and
a useful set of tools must be provided, which can
help to overcome communication difficulties that

www.ubicc.org

Ubiquitous Computing and Communication Journal

may be caused by a distributed set of group members.
[3]
5.2.2 Facilitating distributed team collaboration
has positive effect?
The results of exploratory study provide insight into
the differential impact of various collaborative
technologies on processes, team communication and
task performance. The teams work together face to
face or by voice had almost twice as many
communication exchanges as the team working on
instant messenger tend to express more requests for
confirmation. [4]
5.2.3 Any guess how much time developers in
Virtual teams spend in Coordination?
Informal communication plays an important role in
project collaboration. Informal communication is
almost absent in distributed sites, which results in
communication failure. [5] [6]
In contrast to the image of software developers as
relatively isolated, but in reality, spend much of their
time communicating. For example, in an empirical
study of time use by developers of a large software
engineering organization showed that "one of the
most prominent impressions conveyed by
observation was the large amount of time each
developer spent in informal communication.”The
developers in their study spent an average of 75
minutes every day in unplanned interpersonal
interaction." [5]

5.2.5 Is Training effective for resources involved
in
Virtual
teams?
(Overcoming
Communication Barriers)
Research done in this area shows that some of the
problems associated with these virtual teams are
social
rather
than
technical. Due
to
limited knowledge that team members have about
each other, it is more difficult to engage in
occasional interactions, and therefore have less
frequent information exchange on relevant issues
during the program development. According to those
previously published studies, this leads to the
problem of latency in information exchange,
resulting in problems which revealed very later in the
development cycle, and thus compounds problems.
[3] It turned out that teams that received adequate
training showed better understanding of the
interaction process over time, especially in the form
of trust, commitment sincerity and openness of
expression between members. [8]
6

COMPUTER MEDIATED
COMMUNICATION (CMC) VS FACE TO
FACE COMMUNICATION
Various studies examine the role of a computermediated communication (CMC) to facilitate
communication between members of virtual teams.
6.1

5.2.4 Is there any guideline(s) to be followed in
virtual meetings?
In virtual meetings we have to consider additional
factors the reason is everyone attending the meeting
is not present in the same room.
First factor is preparation. You will not be able to
hand out materials, so you must plan how you will
provide all participants with documentation. Fax or
e-mail might be available, but you still have to give
some time to send, receive and print documents.
Make sure in the beginning of the meeting all
participants have all the materials needed.
The second factor is communication. The most
common concern virtual meetings are that you lose
your non-verbal communication. Although you can
see the other participants in a video or computer
monitor, you may not be able to observe the fine
print in their body language. If you are in a chat
room, you cannot hear the tone in his voice. You
may not know that communication is received. You
may not have any indication that the others listen.
You cannot be sure how long to wait for a response.
These problems can be solved by actively discuss
them at the beginning of your virtual session. [7]

Volume 8, Issue 1

ISSN 1992-8424

Types of CMC tools
E-mail prevents both Para-verbal and
nonverbal signals.
 Conference calls allow the use of most
Para-verbal signals (but not non-verbal
ones).
 Video conferencing may extensive use of
both Para-verbal and verbal signals.

6.2 Barriers in CMC
 The conversation may seem to lack focus
when more group members are "talking" at
once.
 People write and read at different rates so
excessive use of Keyboard may be a barrier.
 Group members who type slowly or edit
more thoroughly may find that their
comments are no longer relevant when they
are ready to send them.
 In group IRC/Chatting everyone can
transmit their comments at the same time,
the team members have to treat a large
number of comments in a short time.
 Significant delay usually occurs between
the time a message is sent and its response
is received.
 Make it difficult to maintain a train of
thought or a theme for discussion.
In normal face to face conversation, there are few
interruptions or long pauses and the distribution of
participation is consistent, but shifted toward higher

1345

www.ubicc.org

Ubiquitous Computing and Communication Journal

status members. Virtual teams can not duplicate the
normal "give and take" of face to face discussion. [2]
Face to face meetings rarely occur in virtual teams,
one of the problems that affect the Distributed
Software Development (DSD) is the loss of team
spirit, which depends on how well they know each
other and
degree
of confidence
between
them. This lack of face to face communication
requires tools to improve communication and
building trust in virtual teams. For example, on line
social networks (WBSN), may be a good
Mechanism to
promote
interaction
between
individuals, and it can easily be applied to virtual
teams
a
way
of
sharing information
about individuals, but
use
of
public social
networks in the workplace can be problematic. [9]
The fundamental Global Software Engineering
(GSE) problem is that collocated projects make very
effective use of coordination mechanisms and
communication channels that are not available or
effective for distributed teams. The fact that these
mechanisms often operate so naturally and invisibly
within collocated projects making it harder for GSE.
Global software engineering projects often face
difficulty because of time and distance issues as in
most cases distributed team members must have to
work together on important artifacts such as the
system architecture description, Code reviews etc.[5],
[6]
6.3 How to make GSD efficient?
In text body, use a proportional typeface 10 point in
size, preferably a Times New Roman type face. All
text must be double-columned and single-spaced,
with an indent of 5mm for the first line of each
paragraph. Please take the following guidelines into
consideration strictly.
6.4
Minimize Inter-dependency between teams
Mutual tasks require some form of cooperation
mechanism, and possibly also an extensive exchange
of communication. Modularity plays an important
role in software, in general, and it is especially
important for the GSE.

ISSN 1992-8424

within the team. There is a statistically significant
relationship between team members and team
performance. We have worked in an organization,
and we have found that it was unusual to keep the
same team together longer than one year. Team
members come and go, driven by the needs of the
organization and their own career goals, and every
time members of a team changes, the team needs to
regroup and refocus.
8

REFERENCES

[1]

J. Lipnack and J. Stamps, Virtual teams: reaching across
space, time, and organizations with technology. Jeffrey
Stamps, 1997.
[2] A. Powell, G. Piccoli, and B. Ives, “Virtual teams,” ACM
SIGMIS Database, vol. 35, pp. 6-36, Feb. 2004.
[3] M. Purvis and M. Purvis, “Educational experiences from a
Global Software Engineering (GSE) project.” Proceeding
ACE
’04 Proceedings of the sixth conference on
Australasian computing education, vol. 30, p. 7.
[4] H. . . Cuevas, A. . . Costello, C. . . Bolstad, and M. . Endsley,
“Facilitating distributed team collaboration.,” Proceedings of
the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) 16th World
Congress on Ergonomics, Maastricht, The Netherlands, July
10-14, 2006.
[5] J. D. Herbsleb and A. Mockus, “An empirical study of speed
and communication in globally distributed software
development,” IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering,
vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 481- 494, Jun. 2003.
[6] D. E. Perry, N. A. Staudenmayer, and L. G. Votta, “People,
organizations, and process improvement,” IEEE Software,
vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 36-45, Jul. 1994.
[7] W. Geyer, H. Richter, L. Fuchs, T. Frauenhofer, S. Daijavad,
and S. Poltrock, “A team collaboration space supporting
capture and access of virtual meetings,” 2001, p. 188.
[8] M. Warkentin and P. M. Beranek, “Training to improve
virtual team communication,” Information Systems Journal,
vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 271-289, Oct. 1999.
[9] G. N. Aranda, A. Vizca no, R. R. Palacio, and A. L. Mor n,
“What Information Would You Like to Know about Your
Co-worker? A Case Study,” in 2010 5th IEEE International
Conference on Global Software Engineering (ICGSE), 2010,
pp. 135-144.
[10] D. J. Paulish, “Methods and Tools for Collaboration in GSE
Environments,” in International Conference on Global
Software Engineering, 2006. ICGSE ’06, 2006, pp. 233-233.

6.5

The importance of Un-planned and
informal Communication
Informal communication pays a big role in this
program. Because informal communication is almost
absent in distributed sites, complex software
development projects are likely to suffer from
communication-based misunderstanding. [10]
7 Conclusion / Analysis
Organizations depend on teams to implement their
strategies and make it possible for organizations to
be flexible and responsive in the competitive global
environment. Teams contribute to the organization
while the group members to develop relationships

Volume 8, Issue 1

1346

www.ubicc.org