KM and Global Software Engineering (GSE)

KM and Global Software Engineering (GSE)

Sameer Abufardeh (North Dakota State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4229-4.ch002
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In the last decade, we have witnessed a dramatic transformation of software development processes. Outsourcing and offshore development has become the norm in current software development because of the many benefits organizations and people can have by adapting such strategy. Benefits include reduced cost, reduced time to market, availability of skilled people, proximity to market and customers in various locals, etc. Furthermore, the transformation from single-site, mostly English-based into a multi-site, multilingual, multicultural, and globally distributed endeavor has marked the birth of Global Software Engineering (GSE). This transformation increases the complexity of GSE when compared to traditional co-located Software development. GSE involves knowledge intensive activities, different people, different teams, and globally dispersed software organization. While there are many benefits in adapting GSE, the new strategy created several challenges/issues for the organization, practitioners, and researchers. Challenges include language and culture, communication, coordination and collaboration, team building, etc. Knowledge Management (KM) is considered fundamental and an essential asset of an organization because it enables organizations to efficiently create, store, and share knowledge, and it helps in resolving many of the current GSE issues. KM tools and techniques has been successfully used in effective management of who knows what, which helps in learning, problem solving, and innovation. This chapter discusses in general the challenges of culture in Global Software Engineering (GSE). However, the main focus of the discussion in this chapter is on the challenges of culture in global software application. For many years, KM literature has focused on the cultural issues of teams, processes, types of knowledge, etc. This chapter’s goal is to stimulate and encourage more research on how KM tools and practices can help in overcoming these challenges. Furthermore, it emphasizes the issues of language, which are mostly marginalized.
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Global Software Engineering (GSE) or Global Software Development (GSD) is a software development that involves teams from multiple geographic locations. The team’s locations are commonly referred to as sites or development sites. In general, both traditional and GSE software development are complex, knowledge intensive and rapidly changing activities. However, in a traditional, co-located project, coordination between teams is considered a trivial issue since people working together naturally built up a number of ways to coordinating their work (Herbsleb, 2007). They plan ahead how the work will proceed and usually they follow a defined process adapted by the organization. Furthermore, development team members have a clear idea of who has what sort of expertise and how responsibilities are allocated. While this view is somewhat accepted by many researchers, we can argue that, even in a co-located project, culture is not truly homogenous because individuals working in the same organizations mostly come from different cultures and have different backgrounds.

In today’s global economy, the majority of the software development companies have already made the shift towards Global Software Engineering (GSE). It has been reported that more than 80% of software projects are being globally distributed and distributed development continues to grow (Forrester, 2010).The major benefits of this shift include, involving skilled people from different locals, increased customer satisfaction, reduced development process cost and time to market, increased productivity, and quality (Herbsleb, 2001, Conchúir, 2006) . However, despite the benefits it provides, it has also brought many challenges to the GSE such as, physical distance, trust, culture and language differences, loss of communication, time-zone differences, and so on (Damian et al., 2003).

From the literature, and many published case studies we find strong evidence to the fact that KM practices and tools can be used to mitigate the problems of complexity in global software development. Furthermore, KM literature in the last decade focuses on two perspectives of the field – taxonomic and process (Orlikowski, 2002). Taxonomists have proposed various classifications of organizational knowledge. The process perspective of KM literature focuses on organizational knowledge flows. Research in this stream identifies a dynamic set of activities, called KM processes, which improve firm’s knowledge flows. In addition, KM literature continues to focused on the issues of explicit knowledge and very little discusses the issues of tacit knowledge especially those directly related to culture. Furthermore, most of the research we reviewed was focused on the cultural issues of the teams and/or the organization, and occasionally included the software development processes. However, very few were concerned with issues of culture in the software product itself (Noll et al., 2010). Furthermore, there are many solutions introduced in KM literature to overcome the cultural challenges in GSE. The proposed solutions emphasized that GSE involve the exchange and transfer of huge amounts of knowledge between all software stakeholders and the success of GSE is dependent on proper and timely decimations and sharing of knowledge. However, these solutions did not address or provide techniques and strategies to overcome many of the cultural challenges in the software product itself. Furthermore, many of the techniques and tools proposed and used were designed to work for co-located individuals.

This chapter is structured as follows. The first section discusses the concept of Global Software Engineering (GSE) and the unique challenges present in GSE. The second section discusses the types of Knowledge in GSE. In the third section discusses the cultural aspects of global software. The fourth section discusses how Km help GSE benefit from culture diversity. The fifth chapter discusses the proposed solution and recommendations which are the focus of this chapter. The sixth section discusses future research directions, and the last section discusses conclusions and final remarks.

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