J. Software Engineering & Applications, 2011, 4, 590-595
doi:10.4236/jsea.2011.410069 Published Online October 2011 (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/jsea)
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
Issues in Global Software Development:
A Critical Review
Sami ul Haq1*, Mushtaq Raza2, Asraf Zia2, M. Naeem Ahmed Khan1
1Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST), Islamabad, Pakistan; 2Abdul Wali Khan University,
Mardan, Pakistan.
Email: *uomiansame007@gmail.com
Received August 11th, 2011; revised September 5th, 2011; accepted September 27th, 2011.
A number of companies have employed Global Software Development (GSD) methodology as a useful tool for their
software development practices. GSD is a contractual relationship between client and vendor organizations in which a
client outsources all or some part of its software development activities to a vendor. The vendor in return provides the
agreed services in lieu of certain amount of remuneration. The main reasons to select the GSD technique include re-
duc ed co st, faster development and access to skilled manpower. Though GSD is emerging as an effective technique, but
it suffers from many challenges like poor communication, lack of trust and coordination. These challenges pose serious
risk to the smooth execution of the GSD projects. In this paper, we present a comparative study on GSD to highlight its
merits and demerits. Our findings reveal that much of the research in this area has been focused on addressing issues
faced by client organizations, however, vendor side in the GSD relationship is much ignored due to which this area is
still immature; and, hence, further research work is required to be undertaken to address the issues faced by the vendor
Keywords: Communication, Co-Ordination and Trust, Global Software Development (GSD), Distributed Software
Development (DSD)
1. Introduction
Global Software Development, also known as Distributed
Software Development, is originally an outsourcing tech-
nique in which the development teams hailing from di-
verse cultural backgrounds and located at distant remote
locations participate in the software development efforts
and provide their services thro ugh a tightly-coupled com-
puter networks like Internet. The sole reason for choosing
this technique is due to its cost effectiv eness as outsourc-
ing organizations usually outsource their contracts to the
country where the labor cost is comparatively low). De-
spite the fact that GSD is widely being used, however,
the project managers dealing the GSD projects face many
challenges in planning, managing and execution of such
types of projects. The major challenges include commu-
nication, coordination and trust with the key stakeholders.
Besides, cost and time estimation for GSD are also the
prime issue that GSD project managers occasionally face.
A lot of work has been carried out to address th ese issues
like Sangwan and Ros [1] have highlighted that the role
of architect and Korkala et al. [2] stressed that customers
should never be ignored. These issues have resulted in
emergence of agile methodology for GSD. The commu-
nication and coordination among developers and testers
matters a lot [3]. Though Rammasubbu and Balan [4]
have presented research directions in GSD project plan-
ning, execution and reflection phases, but an ideal solu-
tion to these prob lems still lacks.
This paper is organized into six sections. The next sec-
tion provided a brief background of the GSD problems.
Literature review is summarized in the third section fol-
lowed by critical review of the major GSD techniques in
the preceding section. The fifth section discusses the
prospective future work and finally we conclude in the
last section.
2. Background
Outsourcing is a state of affairs in which a company im-
ports all or some parts of their product from another
vendor [5]. Outsourcing has different subtypes e.g., on-
shore or domestic outsourcing (in which both clients and
vendors are from same country but different locations),
near-shore outsourcing (in which the teams are from
Issues in Global Software Development: A Critical Review591
neighbor countries) and Off-shore outsourcing (in which
teams are from the far-flung regions/countries) [5].
Global Software Development, Distributed Software
Development and outsourcing are primarily different names
for a unique software development technique through
which the clients get services from an outside organiza-
tion known as vendors. This technique is of the interest to
the clients due to lower labor cost, faster delivery and
access to skilled human resources. Despite the supple-
mentary benefits, this technique suffers from some limi-
tations like: teams involved in the software development
activities usually have different cultural backgrounds;
face to face meetings are difficult due to their remote
locations; time zones and working hours of the clients
and vendors do not match; there are language barriers
among both the parties which lead to communication and
coordination issues; and trust between both the parties
always remain a major concern.
3. Literature Review
A number of researchers have tried to address different
issues of GSD. A detailed account of the issues/problems
being faced by GSD and their solutions proposed by dif-
ferent researchers is provided in this section.
Sangwan and Ros [1] stress that the communication,
coordination and control mechanisms are major issues in
GSD. Therefore, the role of an architect is very important
to share the common context of the system for all the
involved teams in GSD. The research emphasizes on ad-
aptation of Architectural Description Languages (ADL),
but this approach suffers a major limitation as conflict
among teams may occur in the understanding of ADL
due to availability of a number of ADLs.
Korkala et al. [2] applied traditional and agile methods
in GSD. The findings of the study show that agile meth-
ods provide better results in GSD. However, the study
suffers from the limitation that the data was collected
from only one group and other teams were ignored. Agile
methods have their own limitations like due to too many
meetings with the customers, they may lose their interest.
This technique is beneficial in large projects where rapid
application is required. But in case of small projects, the
project managers may not feel comfortable to maintain a
team on customer site for communication and coordina-
tion due to budget constraints. The framework for the
communication channels proposed by Korkala et al. [2] is
shown in Figure 1.
Grechanik et al. [3] discussed communication and co-
ordination challenges among developers and testers and
their impacts on the overall project. The research identi-
fies many issues that can arise due to poor communica-
tion and coordination between testers and developers as
well as highlighting their impact on project. However, a
fitting framework or model is required for the communi-
cation and coordination between deve lopers and testers to
resolve these issues.
Rammasubbu and Balan [4] point out certain research
directions to enhance the governance scheme for Distrib-
uted Software Development projects. The findings in-
clude the identification of major issues in project plan-
ning, execution and reflection phases.
Khan et al. [5] identify various barriers that can have
negative impacts on the software outsourcing clients in
the selection process of offshore software development
outsourcing vendors. The study identifies sixteen such
factors including commun ication gap, country instability,
delays in delivery, hidden costs, incompatibility with cli-
ent, lack of Project Management practices, lack of pro-
tection for intellectual property rights, lack of technical
capability, language and cultural barriers, lack of control
over project, poor quality of service and system/process,
opportunistic behavior, poor contract management, poor
infrastructure, poor relationship management and strate-
gic inflexibility. The study does not, however, throw light
how to tackle or avoid these barriers.
Jalote and Gupta [6] assert that the use of global pairs
can reduce the development time provided that the global
pairs are created by following the sun phenomenon. The
assertion is mainly made on the basis of work nature of
the developer and tester. The global pairs can reduce
software development time especially when developers
and testers are from different time zones. However, the
technique is applicable in the development and testing
areas. Other phases of overall software development ac-
tivities also need to be examined in the context of global
Figure 1. The communication channels and their usage in the
case projects [2].
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
Issues in Global Software Development: A Critical Review
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
Ju [7] describes the efforts made by China to secure a
market place in software development in general and IT
industry in particular through its unique strategies and
Casey [8] emphasizes the importance of imparting
GSD education to students and stresses th e importance of
bringing about the GSD culture. The study highlights that
there is a lack of awareness about GSD among the IT
students. The framework for impact of distance in GSD
environment as proposed by Casey [8] is exhibited in
Figure 2.
Nguyen et al. [9] state that the establishment and
maintenance of trust is a major issue in GSD. The study
is based upon the analysis of data collected from eight
companies. For establishing trust, most of the companies
recommend to bring about cultural understanding, cred-
itability, capabilities, pilot project performance, personal
visits and investments in the field of GSD. The study also
suggests cultural understanding, capabilities, contract con-
formance, quality, timely delivery, development proc-
esses, managing expectations, personal relationships and
performance as the key factors for maintenance of trust in
communication,. The study needs further investigation
and to enlarge its canvas as the current data is collected
only from a single location.
Wiredu [10] present a framework for the analysis of
coordination in GSD. The framework provides good un-
derstanding of the analysis of coordination issues in GSD,
but the framework needs experimental validation in the
real environment.
Carmel and Abbott [11] perform a systematic literature
review to find out to what extent the distances matter in
GSD efforts. The study also provides detailed informa-
tion about near-shoring concept. The study also focuses
on the advantages of near-shoring over far-shoring. The
study reveals that the distances between the client and
vendor locations do matter a lot.
Ramingwong and Ramingwong [12] discuss advan-
tages and disadvantages of outsourcing in terms of cost,
unemployment, quality, skills, 24/7 working operations,
culture and language. The study is much informative to
understand the advantages and disadvantages of GSD in
the global scenario. A comparative analysis of benefits
and risks associated with GSD with respect to different
parameters as identified by Ramingwong and Raming-
wong [12] is replicated in Figure 3.
Hazzan and Dubinsky [13] claim that diversity in dis-
tributed development system can be enhanced by em-
ploying agile software development methodology. The
study discusses three diversity issues namely gender di-
versity, management diversity and opinion diversity from
Agile software development perspective. The study
tresses that the role chart is a useful technique for man-
agement diversity. The study, however, does not address
other diversity issues in GSD like cultural diversity, lan-
guage diversity, time zone diversity etc.
Conchuir et al. [14] use a survey based approach to
identify the benefits of GSD. The reports six main influ-
encing benefits of GSD which are 1) reduced develop-
ment cost; 2) time zone effectiveness; 3) cross site
modularization of work; 4) access to large skilled labor
pool; 5) innovation and shared best practices; and 6)
closer proximity to market and customer. However, the
study does not account for the implementation method-
ology to address/implement these factors.
Setamanit et al. [15] propose a simulation model which
on the whole is an automated tool that assists the project
managers. By using this tool, the project manager can
monitor the project from different dimensions and pa-
rameters. It also facilitates the project managers in taking
critical decisions e.g., relating different sites to different
tasks and evaluating their suitability. The model can eas-
ily identify both pos itive and neg ativ e aspe cts of each site
as well asserting the specialty of each site. However, to
check the performance, efficiency and productivity of the
tool, it needs to be applied in large GSD projects.
Figure 2. The impact of distance in GSD environment [8].
Benefits Risks
Costs Low labour costs Additional and hidden
Unemployment Increasing needs of
global talents Unemployment in major
Skills Infinite pool of
workforce Insufficient level of
required skills
24/7 OperationAround-the-clock
operation Lack of instantaneous
Quality Possibility of
Satisfactory products Possibility of inadequate
Culture Broader perspectives
and opportunities Problems from cultural
Language Encouraging
localization Problems from language
Figure 3. Benefits and risks of GSD [12].
Issues in Global Software Development: A Critical Review593
Table 1. Critical analysis of GSD literature.
Ref# Research Theme Key Features Key Considerations
[1] Good quality architectural leadership
and management are required in GSD. The role of architect is highlighted Selection of a ADL language would be a
critical decision due to availability of many
ADL languages.
[2] Blending traditional and agile
approaches for GSD. The combination of agile and traditional approaches is
beneficial for GSD. Agile methods have their own limitations.
[3] Gauge the efficacy of communication
and coordination among testers and
developers in GSD environment.
Highlights issues that arise due to poor commu nication
and coordination among testers and developers; and
determines their negative impacts on the project.
Proper framework is required to be
formulated for communication and
coordination between tester and developer.
[4] Discussion on research directions in
governance scheme for Distributed
Software Development projects.
Issues related to project planning, execution and
reflection phases for DSD projects are iden t i fied . Solution for the issues highlighted in the
research needs to be sought.
[5] Identification of barriers in the
selection of offshore vendors. Study spotlights sixteen factors that act as barriers in the
selection of an offshore vendor. These factors are:
communication gap, country instability, delays in
delivery, hidden costs, incompatibility with client, lack
of Project Management practices, lack of protection for
intellectual property rights , lack of technical capabilit y,
language and cultural barriers, lack of control over
project, poor quality of servi c e a n d system/ p r o ce s s ,
opportunistic behavior, poor contract management, poor
infrastructure, poor relationship management and
strategic inflexibility.
The best practices for the avoidance of
barriers needs to be identified.
[6] Usage of global pairs in GSD Reduced software development time and cost. Ideally,
developers and testers are based on locations with
different time zones.
In addition to development and testing,
other phases of software development
activities need to be included in the
context of global pairs.
[7] Outline guidelines and policies for
capturing IT and software market. Exploration of efforts made by China towards GSD. Primarily, a marketing approach for IT and
software industry.
[8] Importance of GSD education for the
students Research shows that there is lack of GSD education in
the students and this problem needs to be addressed.
[9] How to establish and maintain trust in
GSD. Some parameters for the establishment and main t enance
of trust in the GSD environment are proposed. Parameters are extracted from the data
collected from a single location and more
data needs to be gathered to determine
further parameters.
[10] Analysis of coordination in GSD. A framework is provided for better understanding and
analysis of coordination issues in GSD. Framework needs experimentation valida-
tion to evaluate its effectiveness.
[11] A comparative analysis of off-shore
vs. near-shore outsourcing. Study shows that the distances matters a lot in GSD.
[12] Merits and demerits of outsourcing. Advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing are
discussed in terms of cost, unemployment, quality,
skills, and 24/7 working operations, culture and
[13] Enhancement of diversity in GSD
through agile software development. The study reveals that agile software development can
address the issues of gender, management and opinion
diversity in GSD.
Other diversity issues in GSD like cultural,
language, etc. also need to be explored.
[14] Identification of key benefits of GSD. Six success factors in GSD are pointed out which are:
reduced development cost; time zone effectivene ss;
cross site modularization of work; access to larg e skilled
labor pool; innovation and shared best practices; and
closer proximity to market and customer.
The study does not account for the
implementation methodology to
address/implement these factors.
[15] Need for creation of an automated tool
to assist project managers. Tool can identify both positive and negative aspects of
each development site for outsourcing purposes, thus
helps project managers in making critical decisions.
Tool needs to be applied in large GSD
project to check its performance, efficiency
and proclivity.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
Issues in Global Software Development: A Critical Review
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA
4. Critical Review
In this section we summarize critical review (Table 1) of
the different issues, methodologies, tools and techniques
of GSD that have been observed during the course of
literature survey of this study. The different aspects of
GSD that have been accounted for in this analysis include:
architectural management, employing fast software de-
velopment methodologies, addressing communication
issues and maintaining trust in GSD projects. The analy-
sis also accounts for the need for developing and pro-
moting GSD tools to exploit true benefits of outsourcing
by following defined set of guidelines and policies that
exclusively target the GSD projects.
5. Future Work
In this study, we have discovered that most of the re-
searchers have worked on the key issues of GSD that the
clients or outsourcing organizations face but hardly any-
one has focused on the problems faced by vendors or
suppliers while undertaking GSD projects. In this con-
nection, we intend to address this issue in our future re-
search. Our prospective future work will be based on the
following two research questions.
RQ.1: What are the challenges faced by the vendors at
the planning phase of the GSD projects?
RQ.2: What are the best practices to address the chal-
lenges faced by suppliers/vendors in handling the out-
source projects?
To find answers for the aforementioned research ques-
tion, we plan to conduct a systematic literature review to
identify the key challenges in this area as well as to dis-
cover the best practices being followed within the indus-
try in this regard. We intend to conduct a detailed survey
and interviews with the industry practitioners to better
understand the current state of the affairs on this issue.
6. Conclusions
Outsourcing is becoming more and more popular due to
availability of cheap labor costs in certain parts of the
world. All the subtypes or paradigms of outsourcing like
offshore outsourcing, far-shore outsourcing, offshore soft-
ware development outsourcing (OSDO), near-shore out-
sourcing and on- shore outsourcing are widely being used
by the global software industry. Though outsourcing is a
cost effective technique, but it also suffers from key
challenges on both the client and the vendor sides. The
issues of communication, coordination and establishment
of trust are of prime concerns for both the parties. The
differences in time zone at the locations of clients and
vendors of the outsourcing projects make the direct
communication more difficult which at time leads to se-
rious misunderstanding. Differences in culture and lan-
guages of the outsourcing and outsourced country also
poses serious challenges for both the vendor and the cli-
ent. India and China are at the top of the recipient of the
offshore western outsourced projects as they have em-
erged as a champion of the software industry. This study
conducted a critical analysis of the existing outsourcing
techniques and the key challenges faced by the compa-
nies in this regard. The study finds out that there is need
for extensive research to be conducted in this area to find
solution of the problems faced by the vendors and clients
of the outsourced pro jects to facilitate the core con cept of
global software development.
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Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JSEA