Explaining Developer Attitude Toward Using Formalized Commercial Methodologies: Decomposing Perceived Usefulness

Explaining Developer Attitude Toward Using Formalized Commercial Methodologies: Decomposing Perceived Usefulness

Dave Hendersen (College of Charleston, USA), Steven D. Sheetz (Virginia Tech, USA) and France Bélanger (Virginia Tech, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/irmj.2012010101
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Although software development methodologies can improve software quality, developers typically have a negative attitude toward using them. To encourage a positive attitude, organizations must convince developers of the usefulness of methodologies. However, the traditional conceptualization of perceived usefulness (PU) may not be detailed enough to explain and engender positive developer attitudes toward methodologies. To determine the ways in which a methodology is useful, in this paper, the authors propose and test a multidimensional conceptualization of PU. A survey of software developers suggests that in the context of methodologies, PU is multidimensional, helping developers achieve a variety of objectives.
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Siau and Tan (2005) define a formalized information systems development methodology as: “A systematic approach to conducting at least one complete phase of information systems development, consisting of a recommended collection of phases, techniques, procedures, tools and documentation aids” (p. 863). Although methodology use generally leads to fewer software defects and reductions in development time (Harter, Krishnan, & Slaughter, 2000; Herbsleb, Carleton, Rozum, Siegel, & Zubrow, 1994), developers often have a negative attitude toward using a methodology (Leonard-Barton, 1988; Raghavan & Chand, 1989; Huisman & IIvari, 2006). While it may be feasible to force developers to use a methodology, their attitude toward using the methodology can significantly affect the implementation process. Developers with a negative developer attitude may impede organizational attempts to implement a methodology (Kozar, 1989) or they may use the methodology unfaithfully or unenthusiastically (Leonard-Barton, 1988; Zuboff, 1988). Thus, encouraging a positive attitude toward using a methodology is paramount, especially because methodologies substantively affect how developers perceive the development process (Beath & Orlikowski, 1994; Markus & Bjorn-Andersen, 1987; Robey & Markus, 1984). In order to engender a positive attitude, organizations need to convince developers that a methodology is useful. Persuading developers of a methodology’s usefulness necessitates a thorough understanding of how a methodology can be useful.

The perceived usefulness (PU) construct used in traditional adoption theories, however, may not provide sufficient detail about the specific ways in which a methodology can be useful to engender positive developer attitudes toward methodology use. In the context of a methodology, PU is traditionally defined as the degree to which a developer perceives that a methodology improves his or her job performance. For example, a methodology may improve software quality or improve a developer’s productivity. As reflected in the definition of PU, this conceptualization takes a high-level and unidimensional orientation that focuses on how a methodology can improve an individual developer’s job performance (Davis, 1989; Hardgrave, Davis, & Riemenschneider, 2003). This approach has limited practical utility because it favors parsimony over completeness and does not illustrate how beliefs about PU are formed or which specific beliefs about usefulness are most important. Furthermore, the focus of the traditional PU construct on improving job performance may not fully capture the ways a methodology can be useful because a methodology may provide benefits beyond improving job performance, such as increasing career opportunities for developers.

Motivated by the purported benefits of methodology usage, yet resistance to its use, we seek to understand the ways in which a methodology can be useful. We uncover the dimensions of PU of methodologies and establish the nomological validity of a multidimensional and formative conceptualization of PU in an empirical test. From a theoretical perspective, our study opens the “black box” (Benbasat & Barki, 2007) of PU and explores the dimensions of PU in the context of methodologies. Although prior research has emphasized the importance of PU, few studies have investigated what makes a technology useful (Benbasat & Barki, 2007; Straub & Burton-Jones, 2007). By decomposing PU into its referent dimensions, our study shows how beliefs about PU are constructed, highlights which beliefs about usefulness are most important, and affords a better understanding of the structure and detail of PU (Petter, Straub, & Rai, 2007).

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