Knowledge Management in Software Process Improvement: A Case Study of Very Small Entities

Knowledge Management in Software Process Improvement: A Case Study of Very Small Entities

Shuib Bin Basri (Lero, Dublin City University, Ireland & Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, Malaysia) and Rory V. O’Connor (Lero, Dublin City University, Ireland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-509-4.ch015
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Abstract

This chapter discusses knowledge management (KM) aspects of how software process and software process improvement (SPI) is practiced within very small entities (VSEs) in the context of Irish software development industry. In particular, this study is concerned with the process of software development knowledge management in supporting the SPI. In order to understand the support process, the authors of this chapter have studied how KM processes are practiced within VSEs which includes communication, learning, sharing, and documentation process. This study also focuses in detail on the issues of the knowledge atrophy problem in VSEs. The findings explain how KM has been practiced and influenced the software development process and process improvement in VSEs. This result indicates that KM processes in VSEs are being undertaken in a very informal manner and also in indirect way. This is due to a small team size, autonomous working and macro-management style and caused VSEs to be more informal in their KM processes specifically and SPI generally. In addition, the results have indicated that the informal environment and culture helped VSEs to easily create and share knowledge between staff members and also assisted VSEs to mitigate the knowledge atrophy problem in their organization.
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Background

Software Process and SPI

The software process is all the stages and activities that are followed by organization to develop a software product (Zahran, 1998). The software process has four distinct roles; (i) to present a guidance as the guideline of the activities to be undertaken; (ii) to specify the artefact that should be developed and when; (iii) to direct the task of the development team; and (iv) to offer ways of monitoring and measuring a project progress and output (Kruchten, 2000). Moreover based on the first role, (Sommerville, 2004) has claimed that development process must be update, improve and maintain in order to meet current business and customer requirement. In addition, the issues SPI has gained increasing importance in software engineering area. The main aims of SPI are to understand the software process used in the organization and to guide the implementation of changes of that process in order to achieve specific goals such as to improve software development time, on budget and with the desired functionality. According to several authors, SPI has a close link between the quality of the development process and the quality of the product developed using the process (Kruchten, 2000; Olsen et al, 1989). In regards to small companies, improving software process is like improving a business process and both are related (Sanders, 1998; Ward & Aurum, 2004). In addition 4 categories; economic, people, organization and implementation; are believed as SPI influencing factors in an organization (Hall et al, 2002).

Moreover, SPI also goes through a lifecycle as exist in software development process (Cook & Wolf, 1998). The SPI lifecycle is constantly changing software processes and it consists of two phases; (i) analysing process phase and (ii) changing process phase (Stelzer & Mellis, 1998) and this process will be continuously as depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

SPI change process

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