Problem

In a distributed setting, lack of trust means that distant sites do not see each other as one team with a unique, shared goal, but rather as separate teams, with different, conflicting goals. In particular, lack of trust causes team mates to be (a) more reluctant to share information with others, (b) less incline to find a common solution when problems arise, and (c) less charitable at interpreting others' behavior (e.g., actions, disagreements, objections).

Research Question

How do we build and maintain trust among members of distributed teams who have few or no chances to meet?

The idea

We argue that conveying social awareness collected from Social Networking Sites (SNS) into the developer’s workspace can help to build trust among members of global teams, consolidate organizational culture, and contribute to create a feeling of teamness, a virtual watercooler-like atmosphere among distant sites. In other words, such social information that we share on SNSs can work as a surrogate of the social awareness that we acquire during informal meetings in the same way that remote conferencing surrogates the meeting room for direct communication.

Building trust

Meeting F2F is the best solution to build trust. Unfortunately, the time for travelling is very limited and budget is spent early, during initial meetings.

The scenario
Sue is a senior software engineer involved in a global software development project, distributed over multiple sites. In particular, she is leading the UI team on site A in the U.S. Her team relies on functions contained in form of an API in a library provided by site B, located in Brazil.
For coordinating their development efforts, the teams are using TFS and Visual Studio as the collaborative development environment of choice. Today, after updating her local code repository in Visual Studio, she executes the test sets and then, she realizes that an UI component is not getting properly populated as before, due to an unexpected change of behavior in one library function.
Sue then browses on the TFS repository the latest commit history related to the library code. She finds out that the latest code updates have been performed by Tayana, a young developer who has joined the Brazilian team a few months ago. Hence, she opens a new issue with critical priority in the issue tracker repository for the project, describes the problems and assigns it to Tayana. She also adds a comment to underline that part of her team work might be hold back until a fix is applied.
Despite of some time-overlap between the two sites remaining since the notification of the bug, no fix is applied by the end of Sue's working day.
What happens when SocialTFS is not installed in Visual Studio
Sue has never met Tayana in person since at the kickoff meetings only managers and team lead were allowed to participate due to travel budget constraints. Frustrated with waiting, Sue directly emails Tayana to urge for a fix, only to get an automatic out-of-office notification, which informs her that her colleague won't be able to reply until the day after tomorrow.
She leaves and goes back home to see her baby, pondering how bad it is when other sites' issues slow down their own work...
What happens when SocialTFS is installed in Visual Studio (feature: Interactive Timeline)
Since Sue is using pieces of code that Tayana has modified, our SocialTFS plugin had already automatically added Tayana to the her dynamic awareness network, that is, Sue is following Tayana at this stage of the development process.
Therefore, while Sue is browsing through her commit history in the TFS code repository, the SocialTFS plugin has silently loaded Tayana's latest post in the interactive timeline sidebar view. Sue sees that Tayana has connected to SocialTFS her Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. From her latest tweets, she finds out that Tayana had to take two days off work because her baby is ill. She scrolls down the sidebar to fetch older posts. From the posted pictures, Sue also realizes that Tayana has recently become a parent like her.
She leaves and goes back home to see her baby, pondering how hard it is for a mother when babies are sick...

Maintaining trust

Maintaining trust from a distance is as hard as developing it.

The scenario
Carlo is an associate professor affiliated with an Italian University. He and his research group are taking part in project funded by EU to develop home automation solutions to help people with disabilities.
During the kickoff meeting held in London, UK, Carlo meets the representatives from the other parties involved in the project. During the meeting, one of the decisions taken is to use TFS and Visual Studio as the collaborative development environment of choice, and to organize the work as several projects within the same collection.
Before the start of the meeting and afterwards, during the social dinner, Carlo has spent some time talking to Luc, from the French research group and also an associate professor like him. In particular, they have shared with each other the worries and hardship of raising funds to support their research efforts. They finally exchange their business cards as a reminder to add each other as contacts on LinkedIn.
Later, as the project development goes on, Carlo is notified that the proposal he submitted to Microsoft Software Engineering Innovation Foundation Awards has been selected as one of the winners for the 2012 competition. He proudly tweets about that, happy to have gained more funds to support his research.
What happens when SocialTFS is not installed in Visual Studio
Carlo and Luc use Visual Studio and TFS team explorer to accomplish their management and development tasks. Later, when they meet at the next scheduled project meeting, Carlo tells Luc about the recent award he has received from Microsoft. Luc does not use Twitter, so he did not know about that. He congratulates Carlo on such an achievement and confesses that he has also tried to apply to a similar competition, but failed, complaining that he did not actually know how to properly write his proposal as no one in his group has had any similar experience to advise him.
What happens when SocialTFS is installed in Visual Studio (feature: Home Timeline)

Carlo and Luc use Visual Studio and TFS team explorer to accomplish their management and development tasks. Besides, Visual Studio has been extended with the SocialTFS plugin. Being both team leads, Carlo and Luc have been automatically suggested by SocialTFS plugin to add each other’s to their own awareness network, that is, to intentionally follow each other. Carlo, in particular, has connected his Twitter account to SocialTFS, so his tweet about winning the award is shown in Luc’s home timeline. Luc replies to the post, congratulating Carlo on such an achievement, and confesses that he is just trying to apply to a similar competition, but although is does not know how to properly write his proposal as no one in his group has had any similar experience to advice him. Thus, Carlo writes an email telling him how he did to make his proposal convincing.

Later, when they meet at the next scheduled project meeting, Carlo asks Luc about his competition. Luc tells Carlo that he did not win but also that his motivated to try again next year. Thus, Carlo decides to write an email to Luc, attaching his proposal and wishing him good luck for the next year competition.

Fluidity of the awareness network

People in your awareness network are fluid, that is, those to whom you should display your actions and those whose actions you should monitor change over time.

The scenario

Tim is the project manager for a home automation software. Bob is a software developer and is a member of the team responsible for the development of the Windows Phone client application for the project. Among the other duties, Bob is also taking of developing the component of the app for handling the home security system settings.

In order to coordinate their development efforts, the distributed teams are using TFS and Visual Studio as the collaborative development environment of choice. Today, after reviewing the first incremental release of the app, the customer have raised some concerns about the usability of the UI solutions currently adopted, in particular with the home security setting. Therefore, some of the new work items added to the issue tracker repository are assigned to Bob, due to code ownership.

However, Tim is concerned with the fact that most of the WP7 app team members are working for the first time with the new mobile SDK. Therefore, he decides to also involve Alice, one of the company’s usability experts for mobile and web applications. Therefore, Tim reassigns to Alice all the work items related to the usability issues that have been identified during the review meeting, including those on which Bob had already started to work. Then, Alice starts to work on the work items assigned to her, using use Visual Studio and TFS team explorer.

What happens when SocialTFS is not installed in Visual Studio

Afterwards, as they’re getting closer and closer to the milestone integration in the project lifecycle, Bobs takes a look at the comments in the change sets lately committed. He notices that the newcomer, Alice, who has been assigned some of the work items previously assigned to him, has repeatedly pointed out in her comments that “previous version made an inconsistent use of sliders widget and dropdown boxes” referring to the page views meant for handling the home security system settings that he initially coded.

So Bob takes a look at the UI views modified by Alice and thinks that there’s no big difference compared to the one he had created in the first place…

What happens when SocialTFS is installed in Visual Studio (feature: Iteration Timeline)

Besides, Visual Studio has been extended with the SocialTFS plugin. Therefore, the iteration timeline sidebar view is updated on a daily basis to incorporate the posts from the people who are or have previously been involved with the same work items (e.g., have reported or commented on an issue, were the former task owner, etc.). Thus, Alice can catch a glimpse of who the other WP7 team members are. Likewise, Alice posts begin to appear on Bob’s iteration timeline view. Alice has connected, among the other services, her LinkedIn to SocialTFS, so Bob also sees that the new member added to his group is an usability expert and that she’s very well known in the field of HCI. As they both shared their Twitter profiles, Alice tweets that she’s happy to have the chance to work with them on the new mobile platform. Then, Bob decides to reply to her with a “welcome on board” message. As they get more and more in touch, Bob also comes to know from her posts shown in the iteration timeline that Alice has been lately busy fixing the UI views for the home security system settings page views, which he had just coded in the first place.

Afterwards, as they’re getting closer and closer to the milestone integration in the project lifecycle, Bobs takes a look at the comments in the change sets lately committed. He notices that Alice who has repeatedly repeatedly pointed out in her comments that “previous version made an inconsistent use of sliders widget and dropdown boxes.”

So Bob takes a look at the UI views modified by Alice and realizes that she was right and that she’s really a very knowledgeable usability expert.

Last edited Feb 17, 2012 at 6:51 PM by fcalefato, version 86