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Advances in global network connectivity over the past 10 years have significantly reduced the effects that physical separation has on geographically distributed development teams. It is increasingly clear that time zones, rather than physical distances, are becoming the most significant factor which separates potential collaborators. Collaboration across time zones often involves modifications to the typical work day, with remote team members collaborating either very late at night or extremely early in the morning. Though this presents obvious problems, a natural question is whether it is possible to exploit this diversity as a competitive differentiator, instead of treating time zones as an impediment to productivity. In two case studies, we examine whether it is possible to create a development environment in which tasks can “follow the sun,” allowing teams to work during extended local business hours and assign or hand off tasks at the end of their day to teams that are just starting their day, effectively yielding a 24-hour development clock. We examine the factors that influenced the success or failure of the respective projects and conclude with a discussion of best practices for using this approach successfully.
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