On Friday at 6pm ghosts appear in Singapore
International IT projects always have a cultural background
As part of a larger IT outsourcing project in Singapore, Tamara Wagner, IT Outsourcing Consultant at noventum,
visited the Asian computer centre of its German client. From an IT point of view, this client represents the German
company in Asia on the Germany-Singapore-USA axis.
novum: Ms. Wagner, the IT business is international, and so are the global corporate structures of some companies. How synchronised and perfect are the structures and processes, if one looks at them specifically and on-site?
Tamara Wagner: In the international IT business, most things are standardised and can be transferred 1-on-1. IT specialists speak the same language, mostly English; using internationally accepted codes such ITIL, a common understanding is quickly created in the area of the intersection of business requirements and IT implementation. However, humans are - of course - time and again totally central to the structures and processes in which they are working. And people do not like being pressed into systems that render them all alike..
novum: How does that manifest itself specifically?
Tamara Wagner: Let‘s take the culture of meetings and communicating. We, in Germany, are used to get to the point rather directly even with partners who are not known to us personally. Clear statements, not afraid to expose problems or criticism, everything is very factual.
novum: And your experience in Singapore?
Tamara Wagner: Our Asian hosts received us with a completely different attitude. Before we could get down to the facts in any shape or form they gave a lot of room to the personal approach and meeting. They showed us their working environment, they attached a great deal of importance to spending time with us. We had the impression that initially the point was to establish a personal contact.
novum: The purpose of your visit, was it a critical one?
Tamara Wagner: The subject of our 10 day workshop was to assess the current and future tasks of the computer centre in Singapore, after the parent company had outsourced the operative areas of its global IT to a provider in India. Not an easy question to be posed, as the employees in the Asiatic computer centre did not know how exactly it would turn out for them.
novum: A difficult situation?
Tamara Wagner: At its core, no. The location is not up for discussion, it was only about new tasks. For the entire Asiatic share of the group of companies, Singapore will continue to ensure the corporate communications. And the control of the provider as well, seen from the viewpoint of the Asiatic region, will have to be taken care of from Singapore. However, any change does initially cause psychological insecurity. And on this level, the colleagues in Singapore probably wanted to initially provide some interpersonal reassurance.
novum: Were there any other insights?
Tamara Wagner: Another insight was how important an intense mutual understanding is also on the professional level. With increasing geographic distance, the flow of information is truncated more and more also within a group of companies.
novum: Do you have a concrete example?
Tamara Wagner: The employees in Singapore were about to purchase expensive software licenses for five workstations, which they could have obtained for free within the framework of a corporate flat rate. Corporate headquarters did not know anything about the need in Singapore, and Singapore had no knowledge of the flat rate. That is a typical example for how a decentralised structure uses up resources unnecessarily. This can be avoided only by lots of targeted communication.
novum: Is that a problem?
Tamara Wagner: The time-delayed working hours, for example, make a 1-on-1 communication between Europe-Asia-America challenging. Someone will have to get up at night. And when you then learn that, in Singapore, „ghosts" haunt the workplaces starting Fridays at 6:00 p.m., then you realise, how every reality of life is very concrete, in the end.
novum: Well, that then is rather surprising, isn‘t it?
Tamara Wagner: So as not to react with surprise, one probably has to put on an Asiatic pair of glasses once in a while in order to see that cultural diversity is always mutual. We, too, are „different"! What helps are curiosity and patience. And those again are very human traits, worldwide.
novum: Thank you very much for the interview!