A Theory of Distances in Software Engineering

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A Theory of Distances in Software Engineering. / Bjarnason, Elizabeth; Smolander, Kari; Engström, Emelie; Runeson, Per.

In: Information and Software Technology, Vol. 70, 2016, p. 204-219.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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TY - JOUR

T1 - A Theory of Distances in Software Engineering

AU - Bjarnason, Elizabeth

AU - Smolander, Kari

AU - Engström, Emelie

AU - Runeson, Per

PY - 2016

Y1 - 2016

N2 - [Context] Coordinating a software project across distances is challenging. Even without geographical and time zone distances, other distances within a project can cause communication gaps. For example, organisational and cognitive distances between product owners and development-near roles such as developers and testers can lead to differences in understanding and interpretation of the business requirements. Applying good software development practices, known to enhance alignment and coordination within development projects, can alleviate these challenges. [Objective] The aim of our research is to identify and describe underlying factors which can explain why certain practices support aligning and coordinating software development projects. [Method] We have inductively generated a theory analysing empirical data consisting of 15 interviews from 5 different companies. The systematic and iterative analysis was based on an initial hypothesis that distances affect development, and on results from previous research. [Results] We present a theory of distances that explains how practices improve the communication within a project by impacting distances between people, activities and artefacts. We also present a theoretical model of how specific alignment practices affect different types of distances. [Conclusions] The results provide a basis for further research and can be used by software organisations to improve on software practice.

AB - [Context] Coordinating a software project across distances is challenging. Even without geographical and time zone distances, other distances within a project can cause communication gaps. For example, organisational and cognitive distances between product owners and development-near roles such as developers and testers can lead to differences in understanding and interpretation of the business requirements. Applying good software development practices, known to enhance alignment and coordination within development projects, can alleviate these challenges. [Objective] The aim of our research is to identify and describe underlying factors which can explain why certain practices support aligning and coordinating software development projects. [Method] We have inductively generated a theory analysing empirical data consisting of 15 interviews from 5 different companies. The systematic and iterative analysis was based on an initial hypothesis that distances affect development, and on results from previous research. [Results] We present a theory of distances that explains how practices improve the communication within a project by impacting distances between people, activities and artefacts. We also present a theoretical model of how specific alignment practices affect different types of distances. [Conclusions] The results provide a basis for further research and can be used by software organisations to improve on software practice.

KW - distances

KW - human factors

KW - verification

KW - requirements engineering

KW - empirical software engineering

KW - theory

U2 - 10.1016/j.infsof.2015.05.004

DO - 10.1016/j.infsof.2015.05.004

M3 - Article

VL - 70

SP - 204

EP - 219

JO - Data Processing

T2 - Data Processing

JF - Data Processing

SN - 0950-5849

ER -