Volunteers Advance Management Skills of Vietnamese Software Companies
Thirteen Vietnamese software companies located in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi benefited from intensive, hands-on training provided by four Geek Corps volunteers over the period of April-September 2004. This focused technical assistance has been extended to the wider ICT sector in Vietnam.
Two-step Approach to Building Capacity
With funding from USAID/ANE this two pronged approach-introducing the concepts of CMM (Capability Maturity Model) in a workshop, and then providing training to selected software companies- improve the product quality and advance the business practices of Vietnamese software companies. Most of the 13 thirteen companies participating in the second round of training had also taken part in the CMM workshop (see a previous article for details of this workshop and an explanation of CMM).
The four volunteers, Mr. Lawrence Kaaria, Mr. Jesse Chen, Ms. Catherine Adams, and Mr. Michael Chapman, are all highly qualified experts familiar with the process of CMM certification and software development. Each volunteer worked with at least three companies during an average stay of 3 to 3.5 months. This allowed the volunteers to work closely with each company and tackle those specific areas where assistance was most needed. The companies each made a real financial contribution to the volunteers stay in Vietnam, providing local costs such as housing and transportation.
An early decision was to focus on improvement of business and engineering practices instead of specifically preparing a company for CMM certification. Common issues identified and advised by the consultants included: Organizational structure. Requirements Management, Proposals, Project Scoping, Project Management, Product Management, Quality Assurance Testing and Software Design. Quality Assurance (QA) Testing was recognized by the companies as having the most immediate benefits.
Results Achieved through the Volunteers
All companies report tangible improvements as a result of the volunteers work on an operational and organizational level.
Specifically, the companies gained:
Advice on management structure, especially the role of different divisions and key staffAll the companies report that the volunteers are continuing to provide informal consultation.
Specific training on topics such as project management, software design, requirement management, testing/quality assurance
New or improved knowledge of software engineering techniques and associated technologies
Templates and tools to support project management and software development processes
Key to the success of the volunteers was their connection to the USAID/Vietnam funded Vietnamese Competitiveness Initiative (VNCI), implemented by DAI, Inc..
Knowledge gained from work with the 13 companies was shared among the four volunteers. VNCI supported sharing this information within the wider ICT community by helping arrange three open trainings by the GeekCorps volunteers as outreach events (two in Hanoi and one in Ho Chi Minh City. The 150 participants in these open trainings included key software developers/QA, team leaders, project managers and several executives from software and telecommunications companies.
VNCI organized each volunteers stay in Vietnam and provided advice and logistical support The volunteers extended VNCIs outreach to new companies, improved understanding of the operational culture of the software companies, and helped refine training plans to better meet the needs of the software industry. VNCI is actively building on the detailed work that the volunteers were able to achieve.
Materials developed by GeekCorps volunteers are posted on a public server so other companies can use these resources. Several professional networks (the Vietnam Software Cluster, and VietRose a Vietnamese software designer and manager network) have further utilized these resources in trainings held for technical staff among their members.
Beyond the specific gains for each company and the sector as a whole, valuable lessons were learned on efficient utilization of volunteers. The basic model of a CMM conceptual workshop followed by intensive hand-on training was on target. In the future, consultations with the companies to identifying roles and responsibilities should occur with the volunteers before the work commences. As well, it would be better to have the volunteers work on one or two topics with fewer companies.
Internews was awarded the "Using ICT for Development Across the ASEAN Region" on August 27, 2003. The project lasts for 24 months (Associate Cooperative Agreement No. RAN-A-00-03-000050-00 under the dot-GOV Leader Award No. GDG-A-00-01-00009-00).