31 Jan 2018

Figuring Out the Polish Software Developer

A Non-Obvious Guide to Software Development Outsourcing

Every time someone considers offshore software development as a serious alternative, they take a look at possible destinations, waging factors such as rates, time zones or development quality against one another. It needs to be done. But there are many more factors adding to your next outsourced project’s success. Some of them are not easy to measure and are thus underestimated by decision makers. Let’s talk about cultural differences that impact software development from the perspective we know best – the Polish software developer.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty of what being a Polish software developer really means, we owe you an explanation.

On many occasions, we talked about the importance of determining the real value for money in software development. It is crucial to truly use software outsourcing to your advantage. But by focusing on this so much, we may have unintentionally turned your attention away from other, more subtle factors that may make or break your outsourcing project. Today, we want to make up for it by giving you some insight into cultural differences through the eyes of the Polish software developer – an entity that we, as a leading Polish software house, know quite well. We will draw on both our years of practical experience and theoretical knowledge.

Polish software developers – stereotypes vs reality

What comes to your mind when you think “Polish” (let alone “software developer”)? Whatever it is, it’s probably quite far from the truth, unless you actually met Polish people and visited the country. Unfair stereotypes negatively impact just about every nation and culture.

Of course, cultural differences do exist, but the purpose of learning them is not to put anyone down or find the best set of cultural qualities out there, but to make sure you can understand different perspectives and adjust your ways of communication to achieve the best results. In the case of software development outsourcing, the best result should be understood as a quality project delivered as efficiently as possible and creating a foundation for long-term cooperation with your partner.

Now that we know it, let’s try to figure out what the Polish software developer is like, by going step by step through scales especially relevant for software projects – from the initial contact to delivering results.

Stage 1 – Building trust… and losing it

Each outsourcing relationship starts with the seemingly informal task of building trust.

To understand what it’s like in Poland, it’s worth taking a look at Erin Meyer’s Culture Map[1]. According to her research, when it comes to trust, most of cultures can be divided into task-based and relationship-based ones. The representatives of the latter don’t really believe that much in their legal system to make sure that all deals are guaranteed. Therefore, they build trust in business through informal meetings. For individuals from highly task-based cultures, such us the U.S. or U.K., it’s often difficult to comprehend the need for this kind of bonding in business relationships.

Among typical outsourcing destinations, Poland is one of the most task-based cultures. As a result, it’s fairly similar to what you can expect from American, British, or German developers. In practice, what it means is that negotiating deals is pretty straightforward and there should be no hidden odds to beat.

Stage 2 – Communication is a two-way street

Those inexperienced in offshore outsourcing rarely realize just how much cultural differences can impact the quality of communication in distributed teams (and in turn, the end result of the project).  The popular cultural model by Richard Lewis[2] may be helpful to understand that. For example, cultures of the reactive type are often the source of confusion among companies that outsource software development to Asian countries. The typical lack of initiative and concealing feelings results in many misunderstandings that shape the project.

The typical Polish developer is more likely to ask questions on their own and come up with their own ways of solving problems. We found out that this quality of Polish developers proved especially effective in Agile-driven software projects we have participated in. Of course, this tendency is also influenced by other factors, such as the extent to which the developer feels comfortable speaking English[3].

Stage 3 – Managing – in other words, is there a leader in the house?

As part of our efforts to prepare our developers for outsourced projects, we use the 5D Model by ITIM International[4]. It’s a fairly straightforward way of understanding the basic principles that typically govern the behavior of professionals from various countries. Polish developers seem to display of a mix of high individualism as well as fairly high power distance. In practice, it means that their propensity for speaking their mind and believing in themselves may sometimes be overshadowed by being intimidated by their superior.

It’s one of the few significant differences between us and American or British developers. In order to make up for it, it’s worth pointing out clearly and right from the start that any valuable contributions and suggestions are welcome. A light kickoff meeting, in which everybody gets a chance to speak, might be a good way to break the ice and lessen the impact of hierarchy on their creativity.

Stage 4 – Arguing, brainstorming… and other thunders

Polish software developers do tend to be confrontational. And it’s going to have an impact on your outsourcing projects. Don’t worry, though – it’s a good thing. As Erin Meyer argues, the propensity to argue is not determined by aggression, but by willingness to help and contribute to the success of the project, as well as a high sense of individuality.

At times, what might be considered a quarrel by some is nothing more than a creative and passionate discussion. Most of the time, it’s highly desirable in software projects as it usually results in revealing all the aspects in which all team members are still not on the same page.

Stage 5 – Scheduling and deadlining

One of the classic outsourcing-gone-wrong stories is the tale of a “yes-man” – an obedient software developer, who says “yes” to any question and doesn’t make requests on their own. Eventually, the deadline arrives, and the client, to their dismay, realizes that hardly anything is done and whatever is completed is not what they expected.

To avoid such scenarios, you need to consider two important factors when scheduling and setting deadlines: your developer’s punctuality and tendency to avoid saying the entire truth. In this regard, Polish developers tend to be quite precise (typical for linear cultures) and quite straightforward in expressing their doubts about being able to meet your deadlines. This makes them relatively similar to developers from countries typically interested in outsourcing services, such as Germany, the U.K. or U.S. However, make sure that overly relying on strict deadlines won’t affect your flexibility. Polish developers are quite adaptable to the both approaches, but might make their decision on how to act based on their initial impression of you. In an Agile project, make sure to clearly communicate to what extent the scope is expected to change over time and how much responsibility each individual team member gets.

Software Mind is a top-of-the-line Polish software house specializing in various forms of outsourcing. Our approach is to hire the best local talents and equip them with all the knowledge they need to succeed in outsourcing projects. We truly believe that by polishing our knowledge of cultural differences, we can close some of the last barriers that stand in the way of making outsourced projects go just as smoothly as anything done in-house. If you want to learn more about our approach, contact us today.


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