, the intercultural perspective could sensitize all the analyst working with user can specify systemsdiverse communities involved in the requirement requirements reasonably, completely and consistently.”gathering process to cross-cultural concerns. This . On the contrary now, the development of largeapproach might lead to reduce misunderstandings, systems that integrate all functions of a corporation, isambiguities, and conflicts. always a great challenge. At the very beginning of the Following Canen and Canen , “the idea is to tackle SDLC, the requirements gathering depends on a goodcultural plurality with either technical or human definition of all stakeholders, irrespective of who they arecompetencies in order to: create a cultural tolerant and wherever they are located. It is imperative these daysenvironment in the organization, try to minimize that an IT analyst has good communication skills with alldisruptions and mismanagements due to cultural diversity kind of individuals regardless of their origins, backgroundignorance; and optimize market profits, by offering an and previous experience.organizational image fitted to consumers’ culturally According to the International Institute of Businessdiverse profiles”. This paper has two basic objectives, Analysis (IIBA) , the Business Analyst (BA) is thefirst to present why cross-cultural sensitivity is important professional in charge of eliciting, analyzing,in the IS projects and to discuss multicultural communicating and validating requirements for changescompetencies in the technical staff, non-management to business processes, policies and information systems.level and other stakeholders in IS developing teams. For simplicity, the term BA will be used in this paper toSecondly, it proposes the basis for a practical approach to identify the professional that performs the activities ofenhance intercultural communication to reduce requirements gathering in IS initiatives, although othercommunication problems in the requirements gathering definitions can be found in the IT industry. Here, the rolephase. Differently from other studies, this work intends to of this professional will be studied focusing thesuggest an approach to improve intercultural communication issues related to the context of IScompetencies in contexts where there are several cultures development.dealing one with each other at the same time. Indeed, the BA has to deal with a large variety of The present paper is structured in four main sections: sources of information, including the distinct businessfirstly, the main communication issues of the areas within the organization, partners, suppliers, andrequirements gathering and elicitation in IT projects are clients. After a BA identifies all sources of information,discussed. In the next section, it presents the multicultural he has to initiate the eliciting, sorting and conflictconcepts, competencies , and theoretical resolution tasks. The ability of dealing with completelyframeworks to assess cross-cultural communication, distinct groups make this activity very difficult and theparticularly focusing on Hofstede’s  dimensions for BA’s task success depends on how he is able tonational and organizational cultures. This will be communicate with distinct professional profiles,followed by a proposal of a basic multicultural education backgrounds and communications patterns. Some usersapproach to be applied in IT projects in order to improve either have difficulty or are not willing to describethe multicultural sensibility within the project team. As a minutely how they perform a task or deliver an outcomeconceptual exploratory study, the main purpose is to in the work process. BA’s sensibility should go furtherbroaden the understanding of how multiculturalism than the requirement gathering itself and include theinfluences system development within culturally diverse awareness of the interlocutor’s ability of communicationteams and to bring to discussion the best possible and his desire to cooperate. Communication andapproach to develop intercultural communication perception sensibility seems to be very important to theconsciousness in technologic-driven specialists in the IS BA role however, it is not usually required as the other ITindustry. The final section will raise some possible technical skills.directions for further studies. Additionally, the IS development team usually give a lower emphasis on requirements gathering than on theThe main issues of requirements gathering in technical IS activities. We agree with Morgan  that ISIT projects industry put much more emphasis on the software programming and cleverness of the coders than in the Requirements gathering and elicitation in IT projects communication process required to understand deeply theare presented as key steps for the success of support needs of a client when he is demanding an informationsystems projects these days. In the past, IS initiatives did system solution. When insufficient attention is paid tonot have the crucial role for corporations that they have requirements, the experience has shown that the pricenow. Some years ago, the IS have had a delimited scope paid could be very high and systems, once ready couldjust to support local activities within the business units. In neither customer needs, nor be delivered on time and bethose small and local projects “requirements analysis and over budget . Although all phases of a systemdevelopment are relatively unproblematic, an individual development are important, this work focuses its analysis
in the initial phase usually called Software Requirements to develop the ability and flexibility to deal with distinct. cultures and the natural tension that might emerge from In general, the IS industry has developed its own way this interaction . In the previous topic, we argued thatto enhance the communication efficiency amongst the the activity of requirements gathering relies basically on astakeholders and systems developing team. Several good communication skill, sensibility, and openness tocommunication models were structured trying to promote deal with distinct domains of knowledge and, ina standard tool that would be understood by everyone in multicultural environments, with different cultures too.the team. Most of the models represent graphically the We tend to say that the project team diversity caninformation architecture and business processes as the negatively influence the results of the softwareData Flow Diagram – DFD, Entity-Relationship Model – requirements phase and would require an extraERM, more recently Unified Modelling Language – UML communication effort.and others. These models are an analogy of the natural These days the cultural diversity is very high due thelanguage and are used to help the visualization of how the multinational workforce presence in all kinds of industrysystem will work. It shows the interfaces of a system to that uses IS and even inside IS industry. The culturalall external entities (users and other systems), functions diversity is present when an IT specialist deals with athat will be performed, data transformations, relationships user, a client, and a colleague. Diversity, in a generalthat will be established among information, system perspective, defined as “a mixture of people withbehaviour and users (Brackett in ). Although these different group identities within the same social system”models are very well-structured and known within IT  and includes several dimensions of culture as gender,specialists, they are still very confusing in the users’ point nationality, profession, religion, economic class, ethnicof view. Thus the efficiency of these models depends on a group, educational background and etc.. The importancegood translation, usually done by the BA acting as a of management of cultural context among IT workers andrequirements translator, from the natural language of the workplaces is related to the interactions among groups ofusers to the graphical language of the IT models. people with different worldviews . It seems that a At this point, we can assume that a good IS multicultural competence is much more than the ability torequirement is a direct consequence of a good deal with foreigners. We also support the idea, raised bycommunication process involving managers, users, Canen & Canen , that every organization isBusiness Analysts and the whole system developing team. multicultural per se and, because of this, should developThe BA should interpret business requirements from competences to deal with people that have differentseveral sources of information to prepare formal writing perceptions of the world. That being so, the developmentdocuments based in IT standard models. This writing of abilities of communication, understanding anddocuments will drive all IS development activities from interpretation of the culture of one person that isthis phase up to the system implementation. The describing a system requirement can lead to a system thattranslation of needs and the process of writing down the is better aligned with the customer’s needs and desires.requirements are, consequently, very critical and can be a Distinct domains of knowledge and cultural identitiessource of misunderstandings . Therefore, we support within an IT project should develop what Hofstede Davis et al  when they stated that the “effective call as “collective programming of the mind whichrequirements elicitation depends upon the ability of user distinguishes one group or category of people fromand analyst to understand and appreciate one another’s another”. Each organizational or project group is able toworld”. Even considering a homogeneous cultural develop its own culture that should be perceived andenvironment, the activity of requirements gathering, interpreted correctly by the IT developing team. Theelucidation, and communication should be performed authors agree with Hofstede statement that culture shouldwith sensibility and openness to the other points of view be understood as a construct that cannot be evaluated by abesides one’s own beliefs and background. simple observation but inferred indirectly over verbal statements and other behaviours. An assessment of one’sMulticultural concepts and competencies culture can be very useful to predict a person’s behaviour or reaction under certain circumstances or if a certain Sensibility, openness, and multiculturalism, what event occurs. We defend the idea that the concepts ofcould these concepts bring to IT projects? culture and diversity are very important to anyone withinMulticulturalism is taken here as cultural pluralism the IS initiative.relating to or constituting several cultural or ethnic groups Several approaches were described to bring the. Bringing this concept to an IT project environment; multicultural concepts to and develop interculturalif distinct cultures are present it means that the abilities in professional environments. Higgs  hasindividuals should interact with other individuals of pointed out three areas that should be considered in orderdifferent cultural identities. Hence, every project team has to get an effective management of international teams: (1)
identify the nature and implications of national cultural which the individual grew up and collected the lifedifferences within the team, (2) establish a basis for experiences. The usage of a classification based in thebuilding understanding and awareness of cultural nationality made the cultural identities evaluation feasibledifferences and how they may be managed, (3) formulate however, it is important to say, that it should be used witha framework for developing a high performing team, care because even within a country there could have beenwhich takes into account cultural differences and several cultural identities. The differences among nationalleverages the diversity present. Canen & Canen  have cultures could be assessed over five bipolar-dimensions:suggested a three-level framework to multicultural large versus small power distance, individualism versuscompetence: cultural identity, workforce cultural diversity collectivism, masculinity versus femininity, strong versusand potential customers’ and suppliers cultural diversity. weak uncertainty avoidance and long-term versus short-These frameworks highlight the necessity of an term orientation. Hofstede also has a framework to assesseducational process that “would necessarily imply not differences organizational cultures that are “located in theonly a knowledge of and sensitivity to cultural diversity, mental programmes of all members of the organization”but also the deconstruction and challenging of stereotypes  and that sub-cultures could be found within anand assumptions associated with cultural plurality” . organization . To identify cultural differences amongThe intercultural communication learning, according to organizations or “business units”, he proposed six bipolarHofstede , could be developed through three phases: dimensions: process oriented versus results oriented,(1) building awareness, (2) developing knowledge, (3) employee oriented versus job oriented, parochial versusbuilding skills. In the first phase, Hofstede suggests, professional, open system versus closed system, loosebesides the traditional study of culture characteristics and versus tight control and normative versus pragmatic.language, a general learning of the cultural differences to Although dimensions are a partial interpretation and adevelop an awareness of the own culture and the relative simplification of the real cultural identity, thesedifference to the other cultures. This should be followed frameworks could facilitate the development of aby the development of the knowledge of how cultural cognizance of the distinct identities within a professionaldifferences can work together and, in the last phase, workgroup.reshape ones´ own behaviour to achieve effective resultsworking with people from other cultures. All these three How can multicultural perceptions beapproaches seem to have common educational principles developed in system development initiatives?that highlight the importance of ones own cultural self-understanding and the knowledge of the others cultural The IS industry has developed a distinct “productionidentities, and how they could interact one with another. way” from traditional businesses. In IT projects, It is noteworthy that the timing is a very worthy asset outsourcing and partnership with several and smallin IT projects and the time available to develop a cross- organizations, or even “personal outsourcing” is verycultural program might be very concise. In IS industry, common. Therefore, the size, characteristics, and types ofmost members of the project team are technologic-driven stakeholders are very diverse and can be changed fromand have never studied theories and concepts about one stage to another in the project life cycle. The basis ofculture. The use of some standard and practical cultural a multicultural education approach in a IS developingassessment framework could be very useful to facilitate context should consider the network organization model.the understanding of the concepts of cultural identity, as The network model is a form of organization “consistingwell as establish a common base of analysis and promote of large numbers of functionally specialized firms tiedthe exchange of perceptions among the group. Some together in cooperative exchange relationships” . Inacademics have developed bipolar dimensional the IS industry, several activities are developed inframeworks that simplified the study of cultural identities temporary project teams with formal organizationalthat make it possible to develop multicultural educational employees and individuals employed on temporaryand training programs outside the academic circle. contracts .Besides other outstanding studies, Hofstede’s  works In this type of organization, each individual orseem to be adequate to the main proposition of this study. teamwork can possess their own cultural identity andThis framework has been tested and discussed extensively have to deal, at same time, with several other individualsamong scholars of several areas and, up to now, has and groups that may have a distinct cultural identity. Inshowed a strong consistence. Hofstede has two this context, the interactions are similar to the many-to-dimensional frameworks, one to assess national culture many communication mode among individuals withand other related to organizational culture. different cultural identities that the authors are proposing According to Hofstede , the cultural identity is to define here as “many-to-many interculturalrelated to fundamental values developed in each person interaction”. The “many-to-many” context is quitesince their childhood, within the social environment in different of the most usual situation of “one-to-another
interaction”, in which an expatriate worker would face a bipolar dimension and try to locate their own profiledistinct culture in a foreign country. In a “one-to-another between the two extremes. This activity is not intended asintercultural interaction”, the interlocutor’s profile is well a precise assessment tool but rather create a perceptiondefined and, in most of the cases, well known. In a many- that ones can have different values from others, withoutto-many interaction, there are several distinct any consideration of right or wrong. It is about justinterlocutors that should be identified, mapped and showing a different view on how common problemsassessed to improve the intercultural communication in IS should be handled. Here, Hofstede’s standard frameworkinitiatives. The basis for a multicultural educational is used to support the self-assessment and to make theapproach proposed here has three main stages: the first exchanging of experiences among the project team easierone aims to improve the consciousness that the cultural in the next phase. After this second step, it is suppose thatdiversity can influence negatively the project outcomes, the members of the project team are conscientious aboutthe second is to develop a cultural assessment among the the existence of intercultural issues and how to positionIT staff and project stakeholder, and the third to evaluate themselves in a multicultural work context.the cultural differences among the IT project team and the The second step is to assess the stakeholders of thekey stakeholders. project. Several studies were developed looking for o In order to simplify the understanding of the strategy good way to identify and evaluate all people and groupsproposed here to improve the cultural sensitivity, the that impact or are impacted by the information systemsauthors suggest activities focusing separately on the IT . A project stakeholder can be defined astechnical staff and the project stakeholders. To improve someone who has either something to gain or loose inthe cultural sensitivity within the IT technical staff, the financial terms, status or any other benefit regarding thefollowing steps are suggested: (a) develop an awareness result of the project . It is also useful to bring someof the importance of dealing with the cultural diversity in concepts from strategic studies, in which a stakeholder isthe project, (b) create a consciousness of each member defined as an individual or group that depends on theown culture, (c) develop an understanding of the cultural “organization to fulfil their own goals and on whom thediversity of IT developing team and (d) develop strategies organization depends” . In other words, a stakeholderto reduce communication problems among the team is much more than the user of the future system. Inmembers. To deal with the distinct cultural identities of addition, in a real and large IT project, it would be almostthe project stakeholders, the following activities can be impossible to perform a multicultural assessment of 100%developed: (e) assess stakeholders influence and power, of the stakeholders; we would suggest that just the most(f) develop an awareness of the cultural diversity of the important ones should be evaluated. This step aims tomain stakeholders and (g) develop strategies to deal with identify the key interlocutors that are taking part in thethe cultural differences of the major stakeholders. In the project should be assessed in cultural terms. Withoutfollowing paragraphs, the main points of these activities knowing the key individuals that an IT specialist isare discussed. dealing with during the project, it would be impossible to Firstly, the multicultural educational approach within develop any multicultural improvement initiative.the IT staff aims to provide an awareness of one’s own Several methods to evaluate the stakeholder’scultural identity , or, as Hofstede  denominates importance and influence have been developed.“building awareness of own culture”. Two activities can Woolridge et al  presented a method based on threebe developed in order to create an intercultural sensitivity: relationship attributes: power, legitimacy and urgency.firstly a workshop as presented by Canen and Canen  Another useful method, the power & interest matrix wascan be developed, and second a qualitative self- proposed by Johnson and Scholes  that consisted ofassessment based on Hofstede’s dimensions could be the evaluation of two basic issues: the first one is relateddone. Canen and Canen  have developed a nine to the interest of the stakeholder group to impose itssituation questionnaire that drives the workshop expectations on the organization’s choices and, theparticipants to develop a consciousness about usual second relates to the power of the stakeholder groups tomulticultural issues faced within organizations. In each influence the decision over the possible choices. In thisactivity, the participant is asked about their evaluation or method, the relation of stakeholders’ power and the extenthow they would act in a certain situation. This kind of to which they are likely to show interest is disposedwork can create a real perception that intercultural graphically in two segments and four quadrants. Takingproblems happen everywhere and almost everyday at Johnson and Scholes’s  issues and translating them towork. The second activity can be developed using the IS developing initiatives, we can assume that in ISHofstede’s  bipolar-dimensional framework for projects, stakeholder’s importance can be assessed by:national and organizational cultures. It would be a • How interested each stakeholder group is toqualitative assessment that intends to be very personal, determine the systems requirements choice based on itsthe individuals are asked to read the concepts of each own expectation.
• How powerful is a stakeholder able to influence Key question Developing toolthe system requirements definitions. the project team? cultural diversity in the IS It is also necessary to understand what power really developing team based onmeans. A powerful stakeholder could impose his own Hofstede’s dimensions culture characteristic over the whole project team in a The IT staff knows Identifying the majorpositive way or with negative consequences. According who the major stakeholders, Power &to Johnson and Scholes , the power of a stakeholder stakeholders in the Interest assessment usinggroup could be evaluated using four indicators: the status project are? method proposed by(hierarchy, job grades, reputation, etc.), amount of Johnson and Scholes resources assigned to the project, representation in Does the IT staff Workshop, qualitativepowerful positions (i.e. board level, etc.), and symbols of understand the cultural assessment of the culturalpower like physical and other cosmetic opulent symbols. diversity among the characteristic of the mainTherefore, by looking at all four indicators it might be project stakeholders? stakeholders based onpossible to assess the stakeholder group power. It is not Hofstede’s dimensions .too much to say, that power relations can be changedfrom one project to another and also from one phase to It is important to say that there is no right or wronganother in the same project. The most important message situation in activities described in this work because thehere is that any activity that depends on good main objective is to bring people to discusscommunication process in an IT project should be done multiculturalism, develop a consciousness and be able toafter the identification and broad assessment of all key improve their communication performance among peopleinterlocutors. We tend to say that an exercise of with a distinct cultural identity. It is clear that theobservation, identification and assessment of the exercises proposed here have focused much more inindividuals, with whom the analyst is dealing, is the project team awareness than to get a multiculturalbeginning of the development of a multicultural assessment academically precise.consciousness. Although this educational approach has not been tested The third step is a direct consequence of the previous yet, this paper intention was to bring to the technologic-two approaches and should have the objective to develop driven specialists in the IS industry the idea that ITstrategies to deal with the cultural differences within IS development initiatives can be improved also by a cross-developing team and the major stakeholders. Here, a cultural perspective besides all technologies, models andworkshop can be placed to discuss the better strategies to programming languages development.deal with the cultural differences. The bipolar dimensionsassessed in the previous steps can be put in to discussion, Conclusionspositioning the “perceived cultural profile” of the IT staffand main stakeholders. Strategies can be discussed to deal This work has started with two main objectives; itwith the differences and to improve the communication firstly argues about the crucial role of the communicationprocess. The table 1 summarizes the key questions and process and the cross-cultural sensitivity in thethe main tools proposed here to improve the intercultural Information Systems (IS) projects. Secondly, this papercommunication in the requirements gathering and brought to discussion a possible approach to developeliciting phases of an IS project. intercultural communication consciousness in such technologic-driven specialists of the IS industry.Table 1: The key questions and developing tools to In the first topic, this work has shown the importanceimprove intercultural communication in IS projects. of the requirements gathering and elicitation phase in IT Key question Developing tool projects. The challenge in this phase is to coordinate and Does the IT staff have Perceiving the most understand correctly a large variety of sources of the consciousness common multicultural issues information, including the distinct business areas within about the influence of within the organizations, the organization, partners, suppliers, and clients. This cultural diversity in the workshop proposed by work has argued that the activity of requirements projects outcomes? Canen and Canen . gathering, elucidation, and communication should be performed with sensibility and openness. The following Does the IT staff have Qualitative self-assessment topic has debated how the concepts of sensibility, the consciousness of based on Hofstede’s openness, and multiculturalism can be linked with a ones own cultural dimensions . successful IS initiative. identity? The next discussion was about how a multicultural Is the IT staff aware of Workshop to exchange educational practice could be applied to reduce the risk the cultural diversity of individual perceptions of the associated to multicultural misunderstanding in IT
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