Placing U-ODD in European Society and Business     

Networked European Software & Services Initiative (NESSI) have identified the fact that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are playing a key role in driving the transformation of the European economy. Due to globalization and technology innovation an ever increasing pace of change puts higher requirements on flexibility for both businesses and the public Sector. Trends influencing ICT and their developments are: customized software solutions, do-it-all applications, and a change from product view to service view. Part of this trend can be seen in the market place and new "eco systems" where Open Source Software exists. In this system there is a new alignment towards: open standards, positioning software as public good, improving technological self-reliance, optimization of costs, increasing transparency, and minimizing of security risks. Such alignment has increased the amount of available options and competition for businesses and the public Sector. To this can be added that there has also taken place a broader uptake of ICT by end-users. New needs are identified such as ubiquitous access and trusted transactional capabilities between platforms; needs that have to reach a satisfactory level of personalization together with ease of use.

With the above description in mind it is obvious that companies developing software are forced to react upon this new rapidly changing societal and business-demand situation. One way to react upon the above scenario is through the application of flexible software development approaches with fast turn-around, including strategies of how to reach personalization and ease of use. U-ODD takes part in this change in the technical infrastructure through providing knowledge needed to adapt old, and develop new software development approaches that can match the new societal situation.

U-ODD has cooperated in research projects with both businesses and the public Sector, and has confronted challenges of how to customize software solutions, how to handle do-it-all applications, change from product view to service view, personalization needs of software and how to approach ease of use. Cooperation partners in previous and ongoing research are companies from the telecommunications branch and local municipalities involved in e-government. Viewpoints influencing studies performed by U-ODD are our application of social science qualitative research methodology, and tha application of an end-user's perspective.

  • We have performed a study at Ericsson AB on a worldwide distributed software project. The development project aimed at producing a graphical programming environment including tools and method support for developers handling code changes in telecommunication exchanges. Research results revealed which social efforts were necessary for the studied members to produce their own project understanding, i.e. how the studied members achieved and maintained collaborative theory building and mutual intelligibility of what was going on (Rönkkö, 2002; Rönkkö et al 2005).
  • Our ongoing research cooperation with Vodafone AB focuses on exploring how new designs can lead to adaptable and end-user tailorable business applications. Research results so far are the identification of what roles are necessary when considering flexible architecture (Eriksson, 2005), and demonstrations of the complexity that must be addressed when developing software for continuously changing business demands (Dittrich and Lindeberg, 2002; 2004).
  • In our ongoing research cooperation with UIQ Technology AB, a company whose product is an open User Interface platform, we have identified a promising method to visualize and represent end users, and tried to implement it. The method addressed the problem of relating do-it-all applications with mass market end-users through providing guidelines for how to represent end users, including personalization and ease of use. Research results so far are the identification of external contingencies within the telecommunication branch itself that actually hinder a too precise representation of end-users (Rönkkö et al, 2004). It was also revealed how internal socio political factors in the company did part of the job that the decided method was targeted to do (Rönkkö, pp. 237-259, 2005).
  • In the research cooperation within the frame of e-government two small IT companies were studied. Two different municipalities had identified these companies as especially successful software and service providers, and we wanted to know why. Research results revealed two "user driven" agile software development and service practices that allowed for tight cooperation with the municipalities, although the businesses themselves did not use the term agile or consider that conceptual apparatus (Hansson).       

An important finding demonstrated by our scientific results and experiences of research cooperations is the identification of how powerful the "social element" inherent in software practices is. Understanding the social element within its own complex setting has in our view become one of the most crucial elements to increase the success rate both of introducing new methods as well as successful cooperation with industry (Rönkkö, pp. 29-37, 39-46, 2005). This epistemological and methodological finding is captured in the articulation and implementation of Relevance Based Software Engineering and Cooperative Method Development. The former is the conceptual apparatus that constitutes U-ODD's view of what the major obstacles are for practitioners when they try to identify and apply academic results to own problem situations. The latter is a solution that has been developed and tested by us, that addresses the core of the previous challenge, and thereby helps to close the gap between industry and academy.

 

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