On the understanding of requirements-driven collaboration: a framework and an empirical field investigation

Date

2011-02-22T00:02:59Z

Authors

Marczak, Sabrina

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Abstract

Requirements engineering is at the heart of software engineering, and as such, it involves collaboration among many project team members. This collaboration is driven by coordination needs and relies on communication and knowledge that members have of their colleagues and related activities. Ineffective coordination with those who work on requirements dependencies may result in project failure. To study the coordination of those who need to coordinate work due to interdependencies in requirements, this dissertation introduces the concept of requirements-driven collaboration as collaboration that occurs during the elicitation, definition, specification, implementation, testing, and management of requirements. The first contribution of this research is a framework to study requirements-driven collaboration. This framework is based on social network theory and provides techniques to study communication and fleeting knowledge that underlying collaboration driven by requirements. This framework was incrementally developed throughout the research, first informed by literature review and then empirically-informed through its application in case studies of requirements-driven collaboration. The initial, literature-informed version of the framework was used to guide the design of empirical investigation of requirements-driven collaboration in two globally-distributed software development projects. The framework was then revised based on the insights obtained from its application in the two projects. The empirical evidence about requirements-driven collaboration in these projects represent the second major contribution of this dissertation. Among others, I identified that for both projects the membership of the requirements-driven social networks are dynamic and include important cross-site and cross-team interactions, that the power of distributing knowledge is not in the hands of few team members, and that there are members brokering information between two otherwise unconnected colleagues. The research in this dissertation brings implications for requirements engineering and for the study of collaboration is software projects. By providing researchers and practitioners with a set of techniques to study and evidence about communication and fleeting knowledge in requirements-driven collaboration, the framework offers a mechanism to examine fine-grained details in software projects. The insights obtained can be used to reason about how tools and processes can be improved to better support collaboration throughout the development life-cycle.

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Keywords

requirements-driven collaboration, software engineering, communication, cross-functional teams, case study

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