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Vol. 2: Problems with Offshoring to Indonesia (or Outsourcing to Indonesia)

Keith Tan
August 19, 2017

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Vol. 2: Problems with Offshoring to Indonesia (or Outsourcing to Indonesia)

Even as Indonesia is fast becoming a red-hot offshoring or outsourcing destination for software development, there are some challenges that foreign companies (particularly Western companies) face when offshoring or outsourcing to Indonesia.

The management team at Wonderlabs has been doing software development in Indonesia (Jakarta initially, and now in Jogjakarta (of Yogyakarta) for over 8 years now. Here is one problem we faced

Problem #2: "Time is a circle"

Vol. 2: Problems with Offshoring to Indonesia (or Outsourcing to Indonesia)

I'm borrowing this line from Ali Kurtz, who is the General Manager of Wonderlabs Bandung. A German, and having lived in London, he has this to say about time in Indonesia: "Time is relative in Indonesia. While Indonesians view time based on a cyclic interpretation, Western cultures view time based on a linear interpretation".

This linear interpretation means that it is important to have a defined start, a result and work steps to reach the result. A defined time of completion is also important in a linear interpretation. (i.e. "Time is money). This may not be the perspective that an average Indonesian takes.

Vol. 2: Problems with Offshoring to Indonesia (or Outsourcing to Indonesia)

ADVICE #1: The way to get something "done on time", is not to be pushy. Indonesians mostly become confused and even frightened by such behavior because it contradicts the local culture. Westerners are well advised to keep calm if things seem not to go ahead. Try to find out the reason and even if they do not seem logical for you try to accept it.

ADVICE #2: What we've done with good success is to explain the reasons behind the need or impetus for something to be completed by a certain date. Often, these are undergirded by contracts and promises which you may have made to other parties. Your offshore team should understand that your promise means a lot to you, and therefore, they will push forward to help you keep your promise, and thus maintain harmony for you. This actually becomes a huge asset when building an offshore software development team in Indonesia. Once trust is built between you and your team, then great things can be achieved as a harmonious team (one of the tenets of Indonesian culture).

ADVICE #3: Remember to always try and reach a consensus. Indonesia has a consensus based discussion culture. In fact, one of the constitutional principles is to make decisions based on consultation and consensus (“musyawarah dan mufakat“). This principle extends to business and work culture. Decisions are made based on long lasting discussions and consultations. And this is different from a "competition of ideas and ferocious debate" that might characterise a western-styled discussion, which can be combative and bruising.

Building a consensus will require time and effort. While this may sometimes exhausting and might seem counterproductive, keep in mind the "collective principle" where everyone needs to agree in order to have a working solution. Once a consensus is reached, then your offshore software development team can proceed with force and purpose.

Last Word: One of the things we do at Wonderlabs is to also educate our Wondernauts (our software developers and technical talents) about how to deal with non-Indonesian clients.

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images sources: Freepik

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