Even before arriving in Hong Kong Gerry got a feeler about doing some consulting for ZTE, a maker of telecommunications equipment. ZTE is also known by its old name, Zhong Xing Telecom, which appears on its web site. It is a competitor of Lucent, where we used to work, but only about 1/5 the size. They are growing very rapidly, just like the entire China Telecoms market. They've gone from a development staff of a few hundred to 7000 in just four years.
ZTE management is concerned about their software development process and they had been looking for a consultant to help in this area. Gerry was recommended to their director of development by a mutual friend. After some email correspondence and a few phone calls Gerry made a visit to their headquarters in Shenzhen. (If we hadn't been so close in Hong Kong maybe nothing would have happened.) This was a "get to know you" visit for both sides. Gerry came away with a reasonable but incomplete idea of what was wanted. On the second visit Jan came along too. Additional emails and phone calls had by then clarified things and this visit was to nail down open areas. By noon we had reached final agreement on the terms of the consulting and went off to celebrate the closing of the deal with a very good lunch.
Our job is to investigate how ZTE Institutes are doing their software development and offer suggestions for improvement. ZTE makes almost the entire gamut of telecommunications products, from switches to trasmission systems to mobile phone systems. They have product development and manufacturing divisions ("branches" as they call them) in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Beijing. The product development, including hardware and design, for each branch is done by that branch's Institute. (In Lucent, product development is done by Bell Labs.)
Our contract ran February 22 - March 24. In three very intensive weeks we visited and interviewed people at Shenzhen, two Shanghai Insitutes, and one in Nanjing. Gerry gave a lecture at each place and informally presented his ideas for improving their software development process.
Our last two weeks, were spent in Shenzhen writing a formal report based on what we learned. Informal feedback has so far been very positive. They already want Gerry to sign on for another stint. We're now trying to figure out what to say.