Cultural Issues in distributed software development: India

Congratulations on the new office in India MaidSafe team! As a westerner with a fair bit of experience working with Indian developers (Bengaluru before and after dot com boom) and having lived there for a year or so, I have some advice. Some of the most talented and productive developers on projects I have been involved with have been Indians based in India. On the flipside some the worst large software project blunders, delays and abject throw it all away and start again failures have come simply from westerners not recognising or taking the differences in Indian culture seriously and proactively self-training and self-managing for them. Do not underestimate the impact this can have on the MaidSafe project, do not try and manage or deal with an Indian division without some heavy reading on the common cultural differences that cause pain for software projects and whatever you do, do not make the lazy mistake of thinking that culture does not apply, especially if the Indian developers your working with have decades of experience with and in western environments and assure you it is all under control. The problem will be at your end, not theirs. The first step is recognising that there are cultural differences that can impact the project…

The single biggest repeat mistake is that in general it is very hard to get any negative-ish statements such as “no”, “that will not work” or “I am unsure how to do that” kind of communication that western ears can interpret correctly. Do a search on “why software team in India won’t say no” or similar. Just this cultural difference alone can bring a project to it’s knees bit by bit over time and is the most cited problem, but hardly the only one. Fortunately there is plenty of material about on those cultural differences now to get up to speed - A Scottish<–>Indian communication channel corrected for cultural biases reduces project risk :smile:


Without trying to dimish your valuable advice, you do realise that some of the dev team are from India and work from there. Not al of the dev team are working in the Aye office

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Yes, of course. Please read my message again: starting from “…and whatever you do, do not make the lazy mistake of thinking…”"

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Point was they have not left their culture and learnt to interact with the UK office over the years which I believe gives them a head start along the lines of what you were advising

Also I was just making sure you knew and not trying to diminish your good advice.


Most development teams with a Indian division have Indians embedded in both sides of the communication channel, usually with decades of experience working with westerners. Thank you Neo I understand that you are just pointing this out and I am well aware Krishna is on the team based in India - but this in no way excuses the western part of the team of getting up to speed on the very real cultural differences, nor exempts the project from the fate of countless other projects that did not take the cultural differences seriously. In or out of the local Aye office communication must go on :slight_smile:


I hope SAFE gets the message, this is phenomenally important and for every culture the SAFE team has core partners in. I don’t think you can just rely on maturity, high EQ and intuition to wing it. And there is good lit on this. Not confident the SAFE team got the message you can’t just think you’re diverse or have core liasons. Organizations constantly fail over this issue constantly.

It has a positive side too, if the SAFE people are really good at this it will make them shine and really be a stand out that people want to work with beyond tech merit etc. Guessing people tend to think this begins and ends with learning a language and think thats a ceiling and cross it off their list. Think of how offended Westerners get over stuff like a limp handshake. Think of how hard it is to modify the Western mindset on that. Its unconscious granite. Rockstar status won’t negate this. Every plane flight can use study on this interface from experts that write on the exact interface in question.

Wondering if a spooky analogy will help convey this. Imagine that you get an essential contract in the deep tech field to help improve and maintain a mission critical system that countless lives depend on but critically you are fobidden from knowing or even attempting to find out about key aspects of the system. You can work with interfaces but somehow the OS is unknown- you suspect its ground up unique- its all hidden. Same for the hardware- ground up custom- you’re not even allowed to know where its located. Its like being married to a powerful ghost. Well you’re even more blind here if you don’t tend to these issues.

Warren do you mean working with an Indian is like getting married to a powerful ghost? :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

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Ha! No! Just agreeing that its vital to lean about the differences and not put it off.

From what I’ve seen, the MaidSafe team always blows me away by how well they work together in this regard, with such different vultures, who have become very close and seem to understand each other in a very balanced, friendly, but also an honestly blunt way, when needed in development / engineering discussions. It is good of you to post this, but from everything I’ve seen from them in my travels, there is nothing for anyone to worry themselves over :slight_smile: Also, isnt the new office in India mostly frontend anyway? Not to say that isnt as important, but that if any problems do arise, it’s nothing that could significantly set back the entire project.

Typo?.. :wink:


haha ‘cultures’

microsoft surface touch keyboard is a struggle at times. but I do like the idea of a tablet-pc :slight_smile: