Enhancing Collaboration in Ethnically Diverse Software Development Teams

By Jules Congalton, Keri Logan and Barbara Crump.

Published by Organizational Cultures: An International Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Software teams are increasingly ethnically diverse due to the growth in distributed software development and a globally mobile labour force. As ethnicity reflects critical aspects of an individual’s values, beliefs and behaviours, ethnic diversity has been found to affect team collaboration and therefore influence team performance. However research is mixed in determining whether ethnic diversity improves or hinders team performance. Previous research indicates that task related aspects can be enhanced through a variety of perspectives but relationship related aspects can be hindered through challenges with team communication and conflict. In this paper interview responses from managers of 16 software projects have been analysed to consider how the project manager can influence the effects of ethnic team diversity. The findings indicate that project managers who recognised that ethnic diversity affected team productivity were more likely to take actions to maximise the positive effects of ethnic diversity. Using socio-technical system theory, the duality of software development as both social and technical is highlighted, along with the critical independencies between these two components. This helps to understand and explain the effect of ethnically diverse software teams and the role of project managers’ attitudes and actions on team collaboration.

Keywords: Software Development, Team Diversity, Productivity, Ethnicity, Collaboration, Team Performance

Organizational Cultures: An International Journal, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp.29-43. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 525.292KB).

Jules Congalton

Tutor, School of Management, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Jules began his PhD in information system in 2010 at Massey University in Wellington. He has now finished collecting data and is writing up his findings. Prior to beginning his PhD in 2010, he worked in the software development industry for over 20 years, with the last ten years being in management roles. Combining his industry experience and academic work over the last 20 years, he sees valuable opportunities to lift the performance of the software development industry and at the same time improve the participation rates of marginalised sectors of the workforce. Such opportunities exist within New Zealand and globally across both the public and private sectors, but with different approaches required to match the unique characteristics of these sectors.

Dr. Keri Logan

Senior Lecturer, Business Information Systems, Department of Management, College of Business, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Keri has worked as a senior lecturer at Massey University in Wellington since 2000. She has been researching women in information and communication technology and their work environment for more than a decade, and has collaborated on this with interested academics from Selford University in Manchester. She is also interested in community informatics and has been involved in the evaluation of a number of community ICY projects over a similar period of time.

Dr. Barbara Crump

Senior Lecturer, School of Management, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Barbara’s research addresses the overarching question of how ICT impacts social and organisational environments. Over the past decade, she has evaluated community computing digital divide projects and researched gender inequity in the computing workplace. Collaborative cross-country research has also been a feature, namely Malaysia, Japan and the UK. Barbara is a senior lecturer in the School of Management, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand and has taught subjects in the information systems major that include project management, social media for business, requirements engineering and management information systems.