Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Software Process Improvement through the Removal of Project-level Knowledge Flow Obstacles: The Perceptions of Software Engineers
by Mitchell, Susan Marie, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 2012, 202; 3516319
Abstract (Summary)

Uncontrollable costs, schedule overruns, and poor end product quality continue to plague the software engineering field. Innovations formulated with the expectation to minimize or eliminate cost, schedule, and quality problems have generally fallen into one of three categories: programming paradigms, software tools, and software process improvements. It is this last category of software process improvement (SPI) that is the concern of this research. Specifically, this research investigates SPI through the application of knowledge management (KM) at the software project level. KM is a technique that is used in many business domains as a means to capture, use, and build upon corporate knowledge assets. It can be viewed as complementary to SPI when used in a software development domain.

This research advances the use of KM in SPI by investigating the use and flow of knowledge from the present in the present . In particular, it examines the flow of knowledge within an individual software development project as it executes, looking for impediments to that flow. The implicit hypothesis within this approach is that the removal of obstacles to project-level knowledge flow (K-flow) will enhance SPI. In particular, this research provides support for the (1) application of KM at the individual project level for SPI, (2) location and mitigation or removal of project-level K-flow obstacles for SPI, (3) necessity for management of both explicit and tacit project-level knowledge, (4) significance of the role of software engineers in project-level KM efforts, and (5) value of a facilitation role in project-level KM.

The methodology used for this research was that of an exploratory case study of an industrial software development project. Data concerning project knowledge sources, sinks, flows, and context was gathered from professional software engineers and managers using semi-structured interviews. Using this data, a diagnostic project knowledge map (K-map) was constructed. The K-map was analyzed within a focus group of project software engineers for K-flow obstacles and potential solutions. Using these obstacles and solutions, questionnaires were formulated to probe software engineers' perceptions of the effect, if any, of the K-flow obstacle solutions on SPI. Findings reveal that software engineers perceive that the removal or mitigation of project-level K-flow obstacles generally reduces the time that it takes them to do their work, helps them to meet their deadlines, and improves their work quality, thus resulting in SPI.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Seaman, Carolyn B.
Commitee: Agresti, William, Lutters, Wayne, Sampath, Sreedevi, Yoon, Victoria
School: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Department: Information Systems
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-A 73/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Management, Information Technology, Information science, Computer science
Keywords: Knowledge management, Project-level Knowledge flow obstacles, Software development, Software engineering, Software process, Software process improvement, Software project
Publication Number: 3516319
ISBN: 9781267454836
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