Towards Genuine Virtual Collaboration: Designing the Use of Mobile Remote Presence in Offshore-Outsourced Projects
Proceedings of the 50th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (2017)
Informal communication between work team members is critical for collaborative tasks, building relationships and coordinating group activities. Achieving informal communication and collaboration is particularly challenging in in offshore outsourced projects. Supporting informal communication is difficult for most collaboration technologies. One approach is the adoption of mobile remote presence technologies (MRP). Such systems comprise a video conferencing system mounted on a user-controlled,
... user-controlled, mobile robotic base. This paper seeks to design the deployment of an MRP system in an offshore-outsourced software development team (located between Germany and India). The design process involved observing the use a MRP system in a distributed team in Germany. We observed the influence of the mobile remote presence system on types and frequency of team interaction over a 12-month period. It supported a wide range of collaborative interaction, including planned and unplanned meetings and social interactions. After an adjustment period of several weeks, local and remote users worked almost as if they were co-located. The paper concludes with plans for deploying the mobile remote presence system in an offshore outsourced team, which include an extended adjustment period and daily scheduled meetings to ensure usage and enable a range of interaction types. The challenge of offshore outsourcing For complex offshore projects such as software development, integrating teams effectively and forming relationships between people are essential for effective teamwork [16, 17] . Software development is a complex, collaborative process that relies on unstructured information flow [1, 18] . If partners do not have a personal, trusting relationship, they will be less inclined to communicate openly, thus impeding collaboration  . In offshore outsourcing, a combination of factors makes forming and maintaining teams challenging. It is distinctive in a number of ways, including its geographical distribution, organizational boundaries, and cultural and language differences between teams     . The development of relationships between partners is associated with the amount and quality of communication  . In offshore-outsourced projects, there is commonly less communication and less effective communication and collaboration than in collocated scenarios [5, 8] . Offshore teams often struggle to develop the kind of trust and relationships needed for effective collaboration  . It is believed that the lack of physical presence or visual cues associated with computer-mediated communication hinders the development and maintenance of personal relationships. This tends to make remote work teams less collaborative than collocated teams  .