A Game-Theoretic Approach to Software Process Improvement

Gavidia-Calderon, Carlos (2020). A Game-Theoretic Approach to Software Process Improvement. PhD thesis University College London.

URL: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106595/


There is a plethora of software development practices. Practice adoption by a development team is a challenge by itself. This makes software process improvement very hard for organisations. I believe a key factor in successful practice adoption is proper incentives. Wrong incentives can lead a process improvement effort to failure. I propose to address this problem using game-theory. Game theory studies cooperation and conflict. I believe its use can speed the development of effective software processes. I surveyed game-theory applications to software engineering problems, showing the potential of this technique. By using game-theoretic models of software development practices, we can verify if the behaviour at equilibrium converges towards team cooperation. Modern software development is performed by large teams, working multi- ple iterations over long periods of time. Classic game representations do not scale well to model such scenarios, so abstraction is needed. In this thesis, I propose GTPI (game-theoretic process improvement), a software process improvement approach based on empirical game-theoretic analysis (EGTA) abstractions. EGTA enables the production of software process models of manageable size. I use GTPI to address technical debt, modelling developers that prefer quick and cheap solutions instead of high-quality time-consuming fixes. I have also approached bug prioritisation with GTPI, proposing the assessor-throttling prioritisation process, and developing a tool to support its adoption.

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