Virtual Teams

Lessons from Silicon Valley – Issue 2

Having recently visited Silicon Valley, Kevan Hall, CEO of Global Integration shares his experiences.

Building real estate does not make you global

I was struck by the race for expensive real estate in the Bay area as fast growing organizations try to create space for their burgeoning workforces and then to bring them together in ever more impressive campuses. Its a development trend we have seen before in earlier tech booms.

It also reminded me of the Yahoo story where Marissa Mayer “banned” remote working temporarily, apparently to improve productivity. It seems strange that technology companies have such a strong preference for putting people in the same location.

Companies like Apple and Google are spending hundreds of millions of dollars constructing campuses to pull people together in the same location. These companies, steeped in technology are learning that building community and developing a common culture and way of working when operating remotely are significant challenges.

However, bringing people into the same location clearly cannot be a long-term solution as these organizations grow and become more global it is a significant trap to have all of your thinking in one market.

Sales and marketing operations tend to globalise early as it is hard to give world class support to customers around the world from one time zone and one cultural mind set.

However, technology (and other more traditional) organizations seem to struggle more with distributed R&D. They are, of course, building technical organizations from Dublin to Bangalore but they also invest heavily in bringing engineers and technology people together in one location where they can.

The driver for this seems to be particularly to preserve innovation and the serendipity that comes from spontaneous conversations around the coffee machine or office slide.

But again, this cannot be the long-term solution for a company that aspires to be global. When most or all development is done in one location whether it be India, California or China then we will inevitably bring a cultural and market bias towards our products and services.

We need to have the ability to develop and capture ideas globally and collaborate remotely on the development and introduction of new products and services.

As well as spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campuses to encourage co-location these organizations also need to invest significantly in creating the capability to collaborate and develop things globally, virtually and remotely, otherwise they will only ever be organizations that export their solutions.

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