Requirements Change Management in Global Software Development: A Multiple Case Study

Hussain, Waqar
Clear, Tony
Buchan, Jim
Damian, Daniela
MacDonell, Stephen
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis reports a comprehensive investigation of the challenges encountered in managing requirements change and investigates the associated role of collaborative technologies in Global Software Development (GSD) . Software has always been considered as malleable. Given this, changes to software requirements are inevitable during the development process. Despite many software engineering advances over several decades, Requirements Change Management (RCM) is a source of project risk that is especially important in GSD, particularly in today's context of rapidly evolving businesses and technologies. Although the effective management of requirements is a critical aspect of GSD, understanding of the challenges and practical approaches to their management are still a contemporary research issue. A key enabler of collaboration in GSD are the collaborative technologies available to geographically dispersed teams. It can be expected that these same technologies also address some of the challenges of RCM in a GSD context, but their role and efficacy is unclear. The repeated experience of dissatisfaction in managing requirements in global collaborations, in spite of the rich body of knowledge and available Collaborative Technologies (CTs) in place, have been the primary motivators for this work. Two GSD cases (one in New Zealand and the other in Pakistan) are explored in depth through a case study methodology that applies a fit-for-purpose research framework, to analyze the challenges of RCM in GSD and the associated role of CTs. A corpus of data based on participant interviews, change-related process and project artefacts as well as observations from the two selected cases is analyzed in depth in this study, through the application of a thematic content analysis technique. Thus a very rich and firmly grounded understanding of RCM processes in practice and the role of CTs is developed. This exploratory study has resulted in several initial conjectures that form the basis for novel theorizations. Conceptually, the results from this thesis are synthesized to represent the first known RCM process model that captures the practices of informal requirements change management - an under-theorized concept in literature. Substantively, the comparison and contrast of the two case studies have resulted in the identification of eight new challenges faced by those responsible for managing requirements change in globally distributed development environments. Through the research findings, the bridging roles of client liaisons and proxies in requirements change management are described in a manner distinct from present understandings in GSD literature. Furthermore, while the research findings confirm the adequacy of CTs in use and their supportive role for those carrying out RCM activities in GSD, several obstacles imposed by CTs are also identified.

GSD is defined as "development of a software artifact across more than one location" (Smite et al., 2014)

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