How a remote software organization builds a shared understanding of NFRs




Okpara, Laura Onyinyechi

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Building a shared understanding of non-functional requirements (NFRs) is a known but understudied challenge in requirements engineering, primarily in organizations that adopt continuous software engineering (CSE) practices. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many CSE organizations complied with working remotely due to the imposed health restrictions; some continued with remote work while implementing business processes to facilitate team communication and productivity. In remote CSE organizations, managing NFRs becomes more challenging due to the limitations to team communication coupled with the incentive to deliver products quickly. While previous research has identified the factors that lead to a lack of shared understanding of NFRs in CSE, we still have a significant gap in understanding how CSE organizations, particularly in remote work, build a shared understanding of NFRs in their software development. This thesis presents a study that explores how a remote CSE organization builds a shared understanding of NFRs. We conducted a six-month case study of a remote CSE organization using ethnography-informed methods and methods from grounded theory. Through thematic analysis of our qualitative data from interviews and observations, we identify some practices in building a shared understanding of NFRs, such as validating NFRs through feedback. In addition, we identified some of the impediments to building a shared understanding of NFRs in the organization, such as gaps in communication and the limited understanding of customer context. Furthermore, we conducted member-checking interviews to validate our findings for relevance and to gain additional insights on the shared understanding of NFRs within the organization. The collaborative workspace the organization uses for remote interaction is Gather, which simulates physical workspaces, and which our findings suggest allows for informal communications instrumental for building shared understanding. As actionable insights, we discuss our findings in light of proactive practices that represent opportunities for software organizations to invest in building a shared understanding of NFRs in their development.



requirements engineering, continuous software engineering, shared understanding, non-functional requirements, software engineering, remote