Past Meetup

Coordination Breakdowns & their Impact on Development Productivity & Failures

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For our next lunchtime informal paper discussion, we'll talk about the paper "Coordination Breakdowns & their Impact on Development Productivity & Failures (http://reports-archive.adm.cs.cmu.edu/anon/isr2010/CMU-ISR-10-104.pdf)," by Marcelo Cataldo and James D. Herbsleb.

The paper uses empirical review of two large scale software projects to analyze a proposition that changing the way that teams are organized can have a positive effect on overall project productivity by reducing friction due to dependencies, and finds evidence in the affirmative.

Here's part of the abstract.

"The success of software development projects depends on carefully and effectively coordinating the effort of many individuals across the multiple stages of the development process. In software engineering, modularization is the traditional technique intended to reduce the interdependencies among modules that constitute a system. Reducing technical dependencies, the theory argues, results in a reduction of work dependencies between teams developing interdependent modules. Organizational researchers have proposed similar theoretical arguments. Although such research streams have been quite influential, they have taken a coarse-grain and static view of the problem of coordination in engineering activities. This paper proposes a new perspective on coordination where fine-grain and evolving dependencies are front and central."

The paper is on the longish side at 40 pages. Don't feel obligated to read the entire thing if it's more than you want to take on. We'll talk about the entire paper, but if you don't care to read all 40 pages I'd recommend reading the first few sections, which introduce the theory and the experimental methodology, and section X (the last few pages), which summarizes their results. Feel free to skip the middle if you want to reduce the overall read time.