Software Project Management in a Changing World

pp 247-273


Motivating Software Engineers Working in Virtual Teams Across the Globe

  • Sarah BeechamAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science and Information Systems, Lero – The Irish Software Engineering Centre, University of Limerick Email author 

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The motivation of software engineers affects the quality of the software they produce. Motivation can be viewed in terms of needs. The key need for a software engineer is to ‘identify with their task’ which requires being given a task that is challenging and understanding the purpose and significance of the task in relation to the complete system being developed. Software engineers’ needs are complex – they also require regular feedback, trust, appreciation, rewards, a career path, and sustainable working hours. Furthermore, amongst other fixed environmental factors, these motivators require sensitive tuning in line with a software engineer’s personality and career stage. Creating this personality-job fit is not easy in a co-located environment, so how can project managers motivate teams of individuals distributed across the globe?

This chapter reflects on some of the motivational issues that managers of virtual teams may encounter. Some background theory is presented for a deeper understanding of how to manage team motivation. Recommendations are drawn from a case study where issues raised by practitioners working in virtual teams serve to highlight and magnify known motivational issues. Project managers play an important part in software engineer motivation. If they can create a working environment that motivates individuals in the team, they will find that team members are more likely to turn up to work, are less likely to look elsewhere for employment, will work harder to meet deadlines, will take more pride in their work, and will share their knowledge, concerns, and ideas for innovation.