A Multi-Methodological Approach to Study Systems Development in a Software Organization

A Multi-Methodological Approach to Study Systems Development in a Software Organization

Paivi Ovaska (South Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-040-0.ch009
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Abstract

Large-scale systems development is a complex activity involving number of dependencies that people working together face. Only a few studies concentrate on the coordination of development activities in their organizational context. This research study tries to fill at least part of this gap by studying how systems development process is coordinated in practice. The study uses a multimethodological approach to interpret coordination of systems development process in a contemporary software organization in Finland. The methodology is based on the empirical case-study approach in which the actions, conceptions, and artefacts of practitioners are analyzed using within-case and cross-case principles. In all the three phases of the study, namely multi-\site coordination, requirement understanding, and working with systems development methods, both the qualitative and quantitative methods were used to an understanding of coordination in systems development. The main contribution of this study is to demonstrate that contemporary systems development is much more complex and more driven by opportunity than is currently acknowledged by researchers. The most challenging part of the research process was the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, because of the lack of multimethodological work done in IS discipline.
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Introduction

Large-scale systems development is a complex activity involving number of dependencies that people working together face. Furthermore, in distributed and multiparty information systems projects, there is even a larger number of stakeholders involved, and a great number of dependencies. These dependencies create a need for coordination that requires continuous effort by developers. Broadly defined, coordination is management of interdependencies between activities (Malone & Crowston, 1994). This definition assumes that if there are no interdependencies, there is nothing to coordinate. The activities can be activities or objects; everything that has dependencies requires coordination (Malone & Crowston, 1994). Coordination is an inherent aspect of work in any organization and takes place in the form of meetings, scheduling, milestones, planning, and processes.

To systematize coordination, many methods and process models have been proposed over the years. These models mainly focus on the sequence of steps used by developers to develop information systems. The status of methods as a whole has been described as a “method jungle,” as “an unorganized collection of methods more or less similar to each other” (Jayaratna, 1994). Though these methods and process models have helped companies to gain certification and attain global standards, they do not take into account interpersonal interactions and various other social aspects of development organizations. The development of new methods has tended to be more technology driven, often being influenced by the introduction of improved techniques and software tools (Nandhakumar & Avison, 1999).

Only a few studies concentrate on the process of systems development and coordination of development activities in their organizational context. Kraut and Streeter (1995) found that coordination becomes much more difficult as project size and complexity increases. Apparently, complexity increases when the project is located in multiples sites. Communication is a salient part of coordination, and it has been observed (e.g., Allen, 1977) that distance affects the frequency of communication. Communication delays and breakdowns taking place in software development projects are discussed in several studies (Curtis, Krasner, & Iscoe, 1988; Kraut & Streeter, 1995; Herbsleb et al., 2000).

Systematic surveys of the existing literature in both Information Systems (Wynekoop & Russo, 1997) and Software Engineering (Glass, Vessey, & Ramesh, 2002) fields revealed that most of the research papers in these fields consist of normative research in which concept development is not based on empirical grounding or theoretical analysis, but merely upon the author’s opinions. Because of that, many researchers (e.g., Curtis et al., 1988; Orlikowski, 1993) call for more empirical studies in order to understand how information systems are developed in today’s organizations and how development work is coordinated in various types of organizations before development of new methods.

This research study tries to fill at least part of this gap by further clarifying how systems development process is coordinated in practice. This objective is reached by conducting a series of empirical studies of two systems development projects in a contemporary organization that competes in the information technology business. We study the early systems development, which we consider to be most important phases in development process: requirement elicitation and architecture design. In this study, the actions, conceptions, and artefacts of practitioners are interpreted and analyzed using multimethodological approach. By multimethodological approach is meant research approach that uses different research methods structured as a set of guidelines or activities to assist in generating valid and reliable research results (Mingers, 2001). The objective for this research is twofold: (1) to understand how practitioners coordinate the systems development process and (2) to make a contribution to the theory and practice of systems development.

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Table of Contents
Foreword
Richard Baskerville
Preface
Aileen Cater-Steel, Latif Al-Hakim
Acknowledgment
Chapter 1
Panagiotis Kanellis, Thanos Papadopoulos
This chapter offers a journey through the spectrum of epistemological and ontological perspectives in IS (IS), offering the necessary background to... Sample PDF
Conducting Research in Information Systems: An Epistemological Journey
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Chapter 2
Francis Chia Cua, Tony C. Garrett
This chapter introduces ontological and epistemological elements in information systems research. It argues that ontology, epistemology, and... Sample PDF
Understanding Ontology and Epistemology in Information Systems Research
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Chapter 3
John Loonam, Joe McDonagh
Enterprise systems (ES) promise to integrate all information flowing across the organisation. They claim to lay redundant many of the integration... Sample PDF
A Grounded Theory Study of Enterprise Systems Implementation: Lessons Learned from the Irish Health Services
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Chapter 4
Khalid Al-Mabrouk
This chapter reviews some of the existing Information Technology Transfer (ITT) literature and suggests that it has fallen victim to the well-known... Sample PDF
A Critical Theory Approach to Information Technology Transfer to the Developing World and a Critique of Maintained Assumptions in the Literature
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Chapter 5
João Porto de Albuquerque, Edouard J. Simon, Jan-Hendrik Wahoff, Arno Rolf
Research in the Information Systems (IS) field has been characterised by the use of a variety of methods and theoretical underpinnings. This fact... Sample PDF
The Challenge of Transdisciplinarity in Information Systems Research: Towards an Integrative Platform
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Chapter 6
Paul D. Witman
This chapter provides a set of guidelines to assist information systems researchers in creating, negotiating, and reviewing nondisclosure... Sample PDF
A Guide to Non-Disclosure Agreements for Researchers Using Public and Private Sector Sources
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Chapter 7
Slinger Jansen
Even though information systems is a maturing research area, information systems case study reports generally lack extensive method descriptions... Sample PDF
Applied Multi-Case Research in a Mixed-Method Research Project: Customer Configuration Updating Improvement
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Chapter 8
Erja Mustonen-Ollila, Jukka Heikkonen
This chapter gives important methodological, theoretical, and practical guidelines to the information system (IS) researchers to carry out a... Sample PDF
Historical Research in Information System Field: From Data Collection to Theory Creation
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Chapter 9
Paivi Ovaska
Large-scale systems development is a complex activity involving number of dependencies that people working together face. Only a few studies... Sample PDF
A Multi-Methodological Approach to Study Systems Development in a Software Organization
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Chapter 10
Judith Symonds
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Chapter 11
Ivan Ka-Wai Lai, Joseph M. Mula
Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) has been employed to increase the effectiveness of organizational requirement analysis in Information Systems (IS)... Sample PDF
An Analysis-Form of Soft Systems Methodology for Information Systems Maintenance
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Chapter 12
Raul Valverde, Mark Toleman, Aileen Cater-Steel
Recently, many organisations have become aware of the limitations of their legacy systems to adapt to new technical requirements. Trends towards... Sample PDF
Design Science: A Case Study in Information Systems Re-Engineering
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Chapter 13
Shaligram Pokharel
Information and communication technology (ICT) refer to a family of technologies that facilitate information capturing, storing, processing... Sample PDF
Analyzing the Use of Information Systems in Logistics Industry
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Chapter 14
William Yeoh
Engineering asset management organisations (EAMOs) are increasingly motivated to implement business intelligence (BI) systems in response to... Sample PDF
Empirical Investigation of Critical Success Factors for Implementing Business Intelligence Systems in Multiple Engineering Asset Management Organisations
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Chapter 15
Ping Li, Joseph M. Mula
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Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Adoption: A Study of SMEs in Singapore
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Chapter 16
Hatem F. Halaoui
Using geographical information systems (GIS) has been of great interest lately. A lot of GIS applications are being introduced to regular and... Sample PDF
Towards Google Earth: A History of Earth Geography
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Chapter 17
Sergio Di Martino, Filomena Ferrucci, Carmine Gravino
Web technologies are being even more adopted for the development of public and private applications, due to the many intrinsic advantages. Due to... Sample PDF
Empirical Studies for Web Effort Estimation
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Chapter 18
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Kazuhiro Takeyasu
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Chapter 19
Ross A. Malaga
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About the Contributors