Software development performance in remote student teams in international computer science collaboration

Hause, Martha Lucia (2004). Software development performance in remote student teams in international computer science collaboration. PhD thesis The Open University.



Approximately two-thirds of software projects are late because project teams encounter challenges that threaten their success. In addition, many projects are developed using remote collaboration, due to pressure of time, distribution of expertise, and organisational constraints. In parallel, technology has developed that allows effective remote collaboration.

The purpose of this research was to investigate what characterises high performance in software development in remote student teams. The data was drawn from the Runestone Project, which involved Swedish and American computer science students in international collaboration on a substantial software development project. Runestone gave students the opportunity to use different technologies for collaboration across time and distance, as well the chance to develop problem-solving experience with different cultures in a team-based environment.

This research tracked the progress and changes in the entire electronic communication for 8 student teams identified as the 4 highest- and lowest- 4 performers in the 2000 presentation of Runestone. A set of categories was developed to characterise over 31,000 lines of communication, focusing on the amount and nature of communication for each team, and on decision-making patterns throughout the software development process. The research also looked at students' use of available communication technology.

Results indicate that both communication and the process and timing of specific actions are crucial to a team's success. Teams communicated differently, with high performing groups communicating less. High performing teams were more organised in the way they conducted their meetings and work. The management of the software development process as a whole was crucial, as was leadership style. An effective use of the software development process can also mean that key decisions are made during the times in the software process where they will be most effective. This research has implications for remote collaboration in both education and industry.

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