Softtware Process Improvements in a Small Organisation: an Ethnography

Software process improvements are required to increase the productivity of software companies. Generally, it is the aim to increase the quality of the produced software and to keep budget and time. Quality models for software process improvements were developed in context of large organisations and multinational companies. In this study I investigated how software process improvements are done in a small software company. Ethnography was used as research method. It was the aim of this study to build up an understanding of how software process improvements are done and enabled in a small organisation.
Fieldnotes were taken and later analysed using template analysis. Ethnography as the chosen research strategy proved to be applicable and feasible in software engineering research. The qualitative research strategy resulted in a detailed description of how one software company did software process improvements from a bottom-up perspective. Despite the learning potential of “how real world contingencies and possibilities interact and shape software process improvement efforts”, such descriptions are rare in software engineering literature.Based on the field experiences and the analysed fieldnotes, the following results were identified: In the studied small software organisation, software process improvement efforts were pushed by the initiative of single employees. The studied company did not have enough resources to implement a complete quality model. In addition, management was heavily involved in daily work and therefore had not enough time to initiate and lead software process improvement efforts. For small software companies in a similar situation, the following guidelines can be given: First, a bottom-up approach with delegating responsibility from management to selected employees is needed. Second, management must ensure to be available if decisions must be taken. Third, improvements must be visible and feedback must be provided contemporary to gain momentum in the whole improvement effort. In some cases it might be important to create awareness of possible improvements. Here, employees should create internal lobbies by involving and convincing other employees of the improvement’s importance. A joined effort will help to create enough pressure for change, so that improvement efforts get started.

Author: Sebastian Stein

Source: Blekinge Institute of Technology

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1 Introduction
1.1 Outline of this Thesis
1.2 The First Day
2 Company and Study Context
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The Company’s History
2.3 Formal Organisation
2.4 Market and Products
2.4.1 Production Planning and Control System (PPS)
2.4.2 Supply Chain Management (SCM)
2.4.3 Demand Planning Software (RETAIL)
2.5 Informal Organisation
2.6 And still Two Companies
2.7 Project Leader Day Meetings
2.8 The International Part
2.9 My Previous Five Months Practical
2.10 Locating Myself
3 Ethnography
3.1 Ethnography in General
3.1.1 Elements of Ethnography
3.2 Quantitative and Qualitative Research
3.3 Ethnography in Software Engineering and Related Fields
3.4 Related Ethnographic Studies
3.5 Doing Ethnography in the Own Domain
3.6 Own Influence
3.7 Writing Ethnography
3.8 Ethnography Applied
3.8.1 Ethnographic Question
3.8.2 Accessing the Field
3.8.3 The Fieldwork
3.8.4 Collecting Fieldnotes
3.8.5 Data Analysis
3.8.6 Self Reflection
4 Software Process Improvements
4.1 Theory
4.2 Continuous Improvements
4.3 Quality Models
4.3.1 ISO 9000:2000 and TickIT
iii4.3.2 Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI)
4.4 Improvement Strategies
4.5 Success Factors
4.6 Summary
5 Software Process Improvements Applied
5.1 Top-down Approach and Careful Analysis
5.1.1 Specification Improvement Effort Revisited
5.2 Improvement Pushed by a Single Employee
5.2.1 Enterprise Resource Planning System Introduction Revisited
5.3 Bottom-Up Approach
5.3.1 Improving Knowledge Sharing Revisited
5.4 Lobbying and Bottom-Up Approach
5.4.1 Document Management System Introduction Revisited
5.5 Getting Out
6 Conclusions
6.1 Improvement Strategy
6.2 Success Factors
6.3 Ethnography in Software Engineering Research
List of Figures
List of Abbrevations

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