Licentiate Thesis

Thesis title: Understanding Flexiblity of a Software Organization

Abstract: Context: Flexibility is an important capability for a software organization. Without flexibility a software organization risks losing its competitive advantage. To build software organization flexibility every constituent of the organization needs to be taken into account. Otherwise there are unforeseen trade-offs that could have negative impacts on the rest of the organization. Agile and Lean methodologies are known as approaches to build flexibility. However, currently Agile and Lean implementations are studied at project, and not at organization level. There is a need to understand how to build software organization flexibility.

Objective: The aim of this licentiate thesis to understand the challenges that a software organization faces with respect to flexibility. Particularly in understanding the approaches of building software organization flexibility and the associated trade-offs.

Method: A grounded theory study and a tertiary study were performed as part of this licentiate thesis. The grounded theory study was conducted to gain a better understanding of the challenges and processes in building software organization flexibility. The data were collected from an IT Department of a Fortune 500 financial institution. A tertiary study was performed to identify empirically evaluated Agile and Lean practices and their respective impacts. The findings from the tertiary study were synthesized using meta-study.

Results: The findings in this thesis uncovered a number of challenges that a software organization faces with respect to flexibility. They include budget cuts, overhead due to inconsistent development process, and regulatory changes. These challenges then caused uncertainties that impede the organization’s operational efficiency, cause delays, and inefficient use of resources. To cope with the uncertainty, a software organization would build its flexibility through modifications of its organization constituents. Processes and trade-offs associated with achieving flexibility were also identified. This thesis also identified 13 Agile and Lean practices and their associated impacts on scope, quality, budget, schedule, etc. A consolidated view of findings pertaining to impacts of Agile and Lean practices and their empirical support is also provided. Furthermore, this licentiate thesis also highlighted the importance of synthesis method in a secondary study. A secondary study with unclear synthesis method could yield different results from a secondary study with a clear synthesis method, e.g., vote counting, meta-analysis, or meta-ethnography.

Conclusion: With the challenges that a software organization faces, build-ing software organization flexibility is becoming more prevalent. To improve software organization flexibility different constituents of the organization need to be considered. Otherwise, the trade-offs associated to achieving flexibility cannot be thoroughly considered. Furthermore, Agile and Lean practices can have positive, negative, or no impacts on quality, budget, schedule, etc. The findings of this thesis can help practitioners identify flexibility needs, as well as improve their awareness of possible negative trade-offs when building software organization flexibility.

Keywords: Flexibility, Software Organizations, Agile, Lean.

Licentiate Seminar Time & DateMonday, June 15, at 10.00
Place
: J1650, Campus Gräsvik, Karlskrona

Examiner
: Prof. Jürgen Börstler, Blekinge Institute of Technology 
Supervisors:
 Prof. Jürgen Börstler and Dr. Samuel Fricker, Blekinge Institute of Technology 
Reviewer
: Dr. Gil Regev,  École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Complete Licentiate Thesis (PDF)

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