To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others -Tony Robbins
What is Osmotic Communication?
Osmotic Communication is a term coined by Alistair Cockburn and the definition is: "Osmotic communication means that information flows into the background hearing of members of the team, so that they pick up relevant information as though by osmosis. This is normally accomplished by seating them in the same room. Then, when one person asks a question, others in the room can either tune in or tune out, contributing to the discussion or continuing with their work"
What is a NearShore Team?
A NearShore team provides services to the client from a country, which is having proximity in terms of time zone and geographic location to client's country. Its a virtual team providing quality services to the client by overlapping for more time with the client by working in similar time zone, collaborating in realtime.
How Osmotic Communication Works For NearShore Team?
In my earlier post Active Listening Is Key For A Successful Delivery, I had shared how in Agile, requirements and solutions evolve through communication and collaboration between self-organizing and cross-functional teams. Also in another post Everyone's Perspective Is Key In Retrospectives, I had shared how the best teamwork comes from the team members who are working independently but toward one goal in unison and working in an environment where everyone’s perspective is encouraged, heard and respected.
Looking at the above illustration, its understandable that NearShore team cannot have the benefits of a face-face white boarding or in person conversations, but now with robust communication mediums including tools available, the communication gaps are shortened. Below are examples of few collaboration tools, which bridges the communication gaps working with virtual teams.
Using the advantages of NearShore time zone proximity, virtual team works realtime with onsite team and using collaboration tools like Skype for communication. For instance, group chats in Skype provides the perfect opportunity for the onsite teams and virtual teams to have a real time discussion and Osmotic communication is possible with the inputs shared by random team members instead of relying on 1:1 communication. It does not work in all situations but group chats go a long way in facilitating Osmotic communication in which a Scrum Master or a Product Owner operating from onsite could be seeking an answer from a remote developer but the remote QA member could chip in, if the person has same or better understanding. In another example, say a remote developer has a question on specific feature and posts the question to PO or stakeholder in group chat. Response of which could not only benefit the developer but also the remote QA, who in turn use the information in creating more specific test scenarios or automation scripts. Another major advantage of tool group chat is archiving of the communication for future reference, which is something that is not possible for a collocated team when having in person communication instead.
Osmotic communication keeps the cost of communications low while keeping the feedback rate high. This in turn, helps keep the overall cost of quality low as while working with NearShore team, its evident for the client that the requirements are disseminated faster and errors are corrected quickly. With strong delivery management best practices, frequent face time with client, NearShore virtual teams can take the advantages of Osmotic communication.