Enterprise 2.0 helps to manage, but managers should lead by example!

April 14, 2008 — 3 Comments

On any day I have contacts with team members from at least 3 different nationalities, Dutch, Indian and Ukrainian. And if I’m lucky enough I get the pleasure to also get in touch with some Polish and Romanian team members. These kind of contacts are one of the main sources of the joy I get in my daily work. I think any people manager would envy me for the the energy I get from the e-mails, skype-chats and phone-talks from young professionals who are dedicated to learn, improve and to help our clients. Of course sometimes I also, like any other offshoring manager, curse and scream because of some incidents that were caused by some miscommunication between teams. But more often I remember the situations where I could call my team members in the late nights and weekends to help me support a customer. Guys like Roman, Yaroslav and Andy really gave me a deep sense of appreciation for the pride that people in developing countries can have by helping customers through plain hard work.

I can’t even start to imagine how ‘closed-minded’ I would be now if I would not have defied my parents, who wanted me to have a normal job during the internet-bubble. Probably I would have been a senior consultant somewhere doing some quick advise work for huge companies. Yep, it’s true; I was a standard career oriented asian student, instructed well by the original thoughts and values of the Vietnamese (old) culture. During my third year at ‘De Vrije Universiteit‘ I was fascinated by consulting firms like Boston Consulting Group or Andersen Consulting. I think the main reasons for my fascination were hard work, helping big clients and a lot of travel opportunities. Well, I think I just found a nicer and better way to Rome :). Thnx Tycho, the co-founder of Componence who taught me internet and offshoring. And believe me that in those days offshoring wasn’t even on the horizon for the Dutch market, in 2000 we couldn’t even openly tell our customers we were using Ukrainian developers. But time has proven that Tycho’s eye for recruiting offshore teams has delivered critical value for Componence. Currently he’s again looking to new countries like Albania and Indonesia.

The existence of the Componence offshoring network makes me very proud as I can see how many young, average age is between 24-27, people over the world are working together. And we don’t just work together, but we provide Enterprise Products and Enterprise Services to great international Enterprises. If you’re thinking that Componence must have had some very strong managers with years and years of offshoring experience, then you’re wrong! Probably the opposite is more true, as the lack of strong managers in the early years allowed some leading team members (like myself) from the different units to stand up and to co-operate with each other. The drive to continuously improve our collaboration in order to help our clients has become a real core value of our company culture. Even this week I have the joy to see Abhay, Naren (India), Igor (Poland), Yonathan, Coen , Bart and Jeroen (the Netherlands) join up together in our office in Nieuwegein to further structurize and improve our Product Support. And Slava is here to help me with the specifications for our new Componence.com portal.

Off course at Componence we also face the same (communication) issues like others who have experience with offshore development in Ukraine and India and all Componence team members will recognize in the top 10 tips to manage offshore projects. But when the drive for collective success and continuous improvement is there, the life of an offshoring manager becomes a lot easier. By now we know the strengths of the different cultures:

  • Ukrainians tell what is on their mind and show the problems but often are unrealistic about their ‘seniority’;
  • Indians are very humble and like to improve their work but almost always think that ‘yes, no problem’ is the right answer;
  • Dutch can be very creative and communicative, but tend to be closed minded when it comes to offshoring;

To fight the problems of offshore development at Componence we try to make problems digitally visible. At Componence the core systems are Jira and Confluence and can be considered as ‘Enterprise 2.0 tools‘. Through these systems knowledge, work, discussions, results, fun etc. become transparent within the organization. Though some moderation and workflow is enforced on operational level, the tools provide an abundance of flexibility to stimulate online collaboration. Currently approximately 60-70% of all work is visible in Jira as tasks, estimations, planning and hour registration is handled through it. And in Confluence every working day at 20-30 new pages / news / blogs / comments are created. The activity and facts in these systems make personal performance very well visible; communication, development jobs, plannings, deliveries, research, answers, statements, conclusions, …

And when activity and results become visible, performance and quality can be checked and evaluated. Everyone everyone can evaluate themselves before their managers need to do it. Normally we humans often try to hide our weaknesses as we fear possible negative consequences. Even when people say they understand their faults and they need to improve, it usually takes a lot of time before they really show change and improvement. This imho is one of the main weakness of a professional, the lack of real drive to adopt change to enforce personal improvement. I mean there are so many advisors, consultants, marketeers who talk about communities, enterprise 2.0 etc, but do they do it themselves?

Personally I know and understand that my continuous open mindset for criticism, eagerness to learn, ability to work hard and the drive to improve myself got me to where I am today. So every day I try to lead by example, because that is the way how I believe Componence will continuously grow and have more success across the world. So this means that in the current phase of Componence I must do Enterprise 2.0 and not just talk about it, so don’t be surprised if you will find more on more specific initiatives like Naymz or DZone. I’ve even used LinkedIn for some technical management issues about ‘Spring-MVC/Wicket – what is the better framework for offshoring‘ and ‘What is a good web development framework for Portlet development‘. It even helped me to get Eelco Hillenius, a Wicket expert, into my LinkedIn network.

So Enterprise, if the man or women who is leading your Enterprise 2.0 strategy doesn’t blog, only uses LinkedIn for his or her profile/connections and doesn’t have a profile on Facebook (or any local community), then it’s time to reconsider the position 😉


3 responses to Enterprise 2.0 helps to manage, but managers should lead by example!


    The company that I work for regularly uses offshoring as well. Sometimes because it is cheaper, but just as often because talent isn’t restricted by borders, and the right person for the job happened to live elsewhere.

    Did you ever investigate offshoring to East Asia (like Vietnam or Thailand)? I’m married to a Thai woman, who is a software architect by trade, and though we are quiet happy living in the US, we regularly day dream about possibilities of setting up off shoring in Thailand. Due to various circumstances, things will probably never progress beyond dreaming, but I’d be interested to learn if you ever investigated that yourself.

    And my take about Dutch culture when it comes to IT:
    * Good: assertive, creative and fun loving.
    * Bad: risk avoiding and obsessed with youth. Americans appreciate experience much better. In the US you can have a life long career as a techie (and get paid well for it), whereas in the Netherlands you’ll be branded being a looser if you don’t switch to management before you’re in your 30ties. And really, how many middle managers does a company need to get the job done?

    And then there is the US:
    * Good: practical, not afraid to try out new things and seniority is appreciated. Basically, whereas the Dutch typically want to hire personnel to ‘grow into’ the company so that they adjust to the company culture and will stick around for a long time, Americans seem to just want find the right man/ woman for the job at hand.
    * Bad: Distant. In Holland, when you arrive at a new job, start taking judo classes or music lessons, people will start with some chit-chat to get comfortable with each other. Americans (here in the NW at least) like to cut the crap and get right to business. I still have to get used to that.

    Of course, all 100% my personal opinion/ experience which is admittedly limited 🙂


    Eelco, thnx for your continuous availability to share experiences and knowledge. This is how Web 2.0 should be used. I just talked internally about my ‘online encounter’ with one of the Wicket specialists and here you are responding to my blog.

    About your thoughts, did you read mine somewhere 😉 . My personal wish, that I should not easily put in front of my professional judgement, is to setup a unit in Vietnam. Thailand sounds also great, I like Thai food 🙂 . As my partner Tycho is better in scouting than me, my attempts to find a group of technical / Java entrepreneurs in Vietnam has not yet lead to success. If you btw have a concrete team / entrepreneur in Thailand, then please let me know. Currently we are scouting the new unit in East Asia and/or South America’s to train. I expect that in 2-3 years from now Componence will be also be selling in India and then we need the next ‘cheaper’ unit. Please don’t get me wrong, we take good care of our people. I just don’t like the 1 or 2 owners that normall run off with 40-50% of profit every year.

    And as for the America’s, if you once have the urge to startup something, let me know 🙂 With our new Portletsuite plans Componence will also eventually need representation in the US.

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