Fri 21 - Thu 27 October 2011 Portland, Oregon, United States

Global software development - which is characterized by teams separated by physical distance and/or time-zone differences - has traditionally posed significant communication challenges. Often these have caused delays in completing tasks, or created misalignment across sites leading to re-work. In recent years, however, a new breed of development environments with rich collaboration features have emerged to facilitate cross-site work in distributed projects. In this paper we revisit the question “does distance matter?” in the context of IBM Jazz Platform – a state-of-the-art collaborative development environment. We study the ecosystem of a large distributed team of around 300 members across 35 physical locations, which uses the Jazz platform for agile development. Our results indicate that while there is a delay in communication due to geographic separation, teams try to reduce the impact of delays by having a large percentage of work distributed within same/few time zones and working beyond regular office hours to interact with distributed teams. We observe different communication patterns depending on the roles of the team members, with component leads and project managers having a significantly higher overhead than development team members. We discuss the practical implications of our findings in terms of some best practices that can help lessen the impact of distance.