Asynchronous Collaboration: Bridging the Cognitive Distance in Global Software Development Projects

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Research problem: The role that physical, temporal, and cultural distances play in global software development projects has been well researched. Culturally diverse teams separated by physical distances across multiple time zones face significant challenges in collaborating effectively with each other. This article examines a fourth dimension - cognitive distance - that relates to the problem-solving style of teams that can also have an impact on their ability to collaborate successfully. Research questions: 1. Does cognitive distance affect communication among global software development teams collaborating with each other? 2. How does cognitive distance affect the sentiment/emotion of global software development teams collaborating with each other? Literature review: Prior research shows that collaboration among teams on global software development projects is impacted by practices to manage collaboration; appropriate use of collaboration technologies; collaboration readiness that relates to individual characteristics such as personality traits, motivation, and trust; and shared understanding in group problem-solving. While shared understanding has looked at the effectiveness of the use of common language and knowledge sharing, it has not examined how differences in problem-solving styles of geographically dispersed teams impact their ability to collaborate successfully. Methodology: We examined project artifacts and email communication among geographically dispersed teams within a global software development project. From the project artifacts, we examined tasks allocated to different teams. From the emails, we established the communication network and volume of communication, and performed a sentiment analysis on email content. This analysis allowed us to observe not only the quality of communication among the teams but also the sentiment/emotion that reflected how well they were working together. Results and discussion: Managing teams that vastly differ in problem-solving styles and tasks requires that project managers be aware of these differences and introduce liaisons that reach across the teams to help bridge the cognitive divide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9247281
Pages (from-to)361-371
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Professional Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Industrial relations
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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