Every day more and more BA’s I speak with are faced with the challenge of working with team members and business stakeholders that are geographically dispersed. For today’s post I wanted to share an excerpt from Barbara Carkenord’s book, Seven Steps to Mastering Business Analysis. Below are two topics, time zone differences and nationality and cultural differences, she covers in the Know Your Audience chapter where she provides great tips for working with dispersed/virtual teams.
Time Zone Differences
When stakeholders work in different time zones, scheduling phone calls and conference calls is challenging. Project team members may be asked to work different hours from those which they are normally accustomed. The PM and BA need to balance the needs of the project with the needs of the team members. Different requirements elicitation techniques may be used even though they are not the ideal. For example, if your developers are in India and your business stakeholders are in California a teleconference will require someone to work in the middle of the night. Instead of talking with them all together, the BA may instead meet with each group separately relaying the communications back and forth. Remember to plan extra time for this work (and for your sleep!). When the BA relays messages she is often required to go “back and forth” between the two groups several times before all questions are answered and resolved.
When you schedule group meetings try to alternate meeting times to equally inconvenience all stakeholders. Although your development team may be contractors they are still your stakeholders and being an excellent business analyst means assisting with communications and supporting all stakeholders.
When you are assigned to a team with members in a different country or from a different cultural background, do some research to learn about communication differences. As businesses become more global, there is universal recognition that working with people from other cultures presents unique challenges. There are many resources to help a BA get familiar with the basic cultural differences. Read web sites, take a class, learn the basics about the country where your stakeholder resides. Find out when national or religious holidays occur. These may affect stakeholder availability. Find out about working hours norms (i.e. do people put in overtime after work or on weekends, is working on a Sunday completely unacceptable?).
If you are able to travel to your stakeholders’ country, read travel books to learn as much as you can about the history and current issues of the country. Be prepared to meet people with the customary local greeting (i.e. handshake, bow). The more that you know about the customs and habits of your stakeholders the faster you will build relationships and establish lines of communication. Offer to explain your customs and history also. Working with people from other cultures is a great opportunity for learning so allow your natural curiosity to facilitate project success while also enriching your personal experiences.
What are some of the challenges you face? Please share any tips you have for working with virtual teams.