When a software product company and an outsourcing company decide to partner and create the win-win situation which I talked about in my previous blog, we need to align teams and cultures. We are in a sense traveling companions, crossing borders together to reach the ultimate destination: end-customer satisfaction. And this within the scope, timeframe and budget as mutually agreed with the software product company. I will touch more upon customer satisfaction in future posts, yet it is the crucial end goal.
Having said this, what are the best ways to align cross-cultural teams? I will give some practical examples that have a great impact on the teams’ alignment. And no, it’s not as easy as just sharing documents and writing emails.
There is a difference between Romanian and other cultures just as there is a difference between for example the Dutch and German culture. Each culture has unique strengths as well as generalized blind spots.
Here, the key is meeting in person. Personal meetings give each team better insights into the nuances that different nationalities or cultures bring. And once people understand each other, it’s much easier to help one another. It means that it may require a little push to get accurate feedback at certain times, or at other times it may need a little downplay so that all teams get the right message.
But there are also cultural differences between each vertical, even within the same country. And a personal understanding of the vertical and its way of working and thinking helps to reach the best possible customer satisfaction.
When both parties decide to team up as partners, the first meeting(s) where we discuss the objectives of the engagement is paramount. We like to invite our customer to Romania to sit with our team and go over the goals together so that all parties are aligned. Recently during the first meeting with one of our customers, our CTO joined when we gathered for a two-day session with their management team on site. The CEO of the company realized the importance of setting the goals right and involving the partner in consulting them, not just executing their strategy. So it was worth spending 2 days to align to maximize the results of the project.
Clearly defined responsibilities for each of the members are essential in creating a good partnership and for avoiding future misunderstandings or miss-aligned expectations. Although reviewing the responsibilities is an ongoing process, defining them clearly upfront creates clarity and provides good risk management.
Discussing them face to face gives a better understanding and commitment from both partners. Because after all, we’re in the service business, and there are so many nuances on how we deliver the product together.
The best alignment and partnership arise if we meet with our clients on a regular basis. Of course, there are the daily standup meetings via video conferencing, monthly steering committee meetings, etc., but nothing replaces personal meetings at the customer or having the clients visit us in Romania. These do not need to occur on a monthly basis, yet a few times a year helps tremendously to pick up on all the nuances and be a team.
Currently, one of our teams is presenting the results at a municipality: at the end customer together with our direct client. The end-customer visit gives our team more insights into the culture and needs of the particular vertical. The end customer shows us how they work with the product on a daily basis, and shares his needs and wishes. This valuable insight enables our team to truly help the client to increase its effectiveness in the market.
During the year, Yonder organizes several types of knowledge sharing events. These vary from dinner sessions to our annual Yonder TSS/CSI Y Community event. The sessions bring together customers and Yonder team members with the objective to have clients share best practices, ideas, and visions and meet with Yonder colleagues to network outside of the regular day-to-day workplace. All to continue and strengthen interpersonal relationships between both partners.
When partnering with another company and becoming an actual team, you need to make sure that people meet face to face. We humans need these occasional personal interactions to bond, become a real team, and to understand the nuances in different (vertical) cultures. Plus, discussing goals and responsibilities in personal meetings creates a deeper and better understanding than when we just email them to each other. It means we are all on board, two partners, one objective. We are all on the same journey to reach customer satisfaction.