We sometimes get asked the question: "are Dutch companies difficult to work with?". We get asked probably because we have been working with companies in the Netherlands for more than a decade. There seems to be a perception (at least among software consultancies) that they are "difficult" and I think I know why that perception exist. I'm going to argue today that the qualities that create that perception are exactly the qualities that every outsourcing software project owner should have to make that project a success.
But first a disclaimer: it is always risky to generalize, and I'm no world expert on how the techies of a nation think (does that make me safe from some of those eggs and tomatoes ready to be thrown at me?).
Here are the qualities that I find common in Dutch software project leadership:
Persistent concern for the state of the project
The project managers or the owners have an almost palpable feeling of concern that the project might be going in the wrong direction. This keeps them pinging back for regular status checks, keeps tech teams on their toes and there is usually a lot of communication.
I think this is the single most important thing that EVERY software project owner should have, irrespective of the fact its an external team or an in-house team that is working on the project. If the team is external, and especially if the team is thousands of miles away this is probably the factor between a project that is failing and one that is successful. But note that this sometimes this might create an impression in the tech team that the leadership cannot fully trust their ability - so this has to managed well to keep the team productive.
No mincing of words- the directness
Dutch project leads don't shy away from saying negative things if they see it. Whereas in other cultures (including Bangladeshi, but most painfully in the English) there is a tendency to keep negative things unsaid. Not so with the Dutch, and this is just perfect in the context of software projects. You just cannot stay polite and hope that those bugs or those obvious missteps in the dev process will fix themselves.
At Kaz this is something we try to code into our genes (check out the article about this: killing the deadly PDI) - to be direct, to say the negatives without worrying about how your colleagues would feel because this is the only way to make great software. It's incredibly lucky that with the Dutch project this valuable trait comes automatically.
Although it is obvious that every project leadership should be conscious about the budget, you'd be surprised how many stories there are about projects eating up the complete budget because the stakeholders get carried away with features or they just don't plan things well. Software projects are prone to go off track - estimates tend to be wrong, features tends to bloat, owners love to get fixated about some use case that they must have yet no one uses.
Being budget conscious keeps the project on track. It lets everyone make informed decisions about where to compromise, what feature to prioritize and most importantly when to stop. So having this in project leadership makes projects successful.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say, and I can tell from Kaz Software's experience in working on Dutch software projects for the last eleven years that whatever it is, the Dutch certainly have a flair for successful software. We are proud to say that we've never had a project from the Netherlands that had failed!
We'll be in the Netherlands
22-26 November, 2016
If you are around and want us to meet you, to discuss a software project, please drop your email address below.
Update: One of our customers in the Netherlands recently did a video about our work with them. Thought this is a perfect place to share that.