The Organization and Architecture of Innovation: Managing the Flow of Technology

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The release project management process was plan-driven, feature development process was continuous and implementation management process was agile. The perceived benefits included reduced development lead time, increased flexibility, increased planning efficiency, increased developer motivation and improved communication effectiveness. The recognized problems included difficulties in balancing planning effort, overcommitment, insufficient understanding of the development team autonomy, defining the product owner role, balancing team specialization, organizing system-level work and growing technical debt.

The study indicates that agile development methods can be successfully employed in organizations where the higher level planning processes are not agile.


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Combining agile methods with a flexible feature development process can bring many benefits, but large-scale software development seems to require specialist roles and significant coordination effort. The traditional, plan-driven product and project management models are not well suited for agile development organizations where scoping decisions must be made frequently and requirements engineering is performed concurrently with implementation Jantunen et al. If the requirements management processes do not support the agile development organization, it is difficult for the development organization to work efficiently towards the high level goals of the company.

Due to the short history of agile methods use in large organizations, reports on the best practices of agile development in large organizations are lacking and many large organizations are struggling to implement efficient requirements processes Laanti et al. Although there is an increasing number of empirical studies of large-scale agile development e.

Subsequently, more research is warranted in order to identify the contextual factors that affect the success or failure of specific ways of requirements management in large organizations that employ agile development methods. Moreover, requirements engineering activities are complex and intertwined with other development and management processes in the organization Damian and Chisan , equally affected by human, organizational and political aspects that surround them Maiden Furthermore, detailed information on requirements engineering practice in large organizations, in general, is scarce Maiden Our goal is to describe the requirements processes on the release and implementation management levels, and the interactions between the levels in a large organization that develops telecommunications network software and uses agile practices in its software development.

We aim to reach this goal by studying the case organization and answering the following research questions:. The main contribution of this research is the in-depth description of these management processes in the case organization. To the best of our knowledge, our work is among the first to uncover requirements engineering practices as embedded through the feature development as well as the release project management and implementation management processes of a large-scale agile development organization.

Those aspects of large-scale agile development that are not directly related to requirements management are out of the scope of our research. These include, but are not limited to, communication tools, coaching, continuous improvement, agile culture and agile contracts. This paper considerably expands that publication both by scope and by depth and also contains data from four additional interviews. The scope of this paper is expanded to include the interfaces between the different management levels, and it focuses on the requirements engineering practices that are embedded within these levels.

We provide an in-depth description of the actors, artifacts and processes involved in the management of requirements and release projects, and analyze both new and previously identified problems and benefits in more detail than in our previous publication. Paasivaara et al. The focus and goals of this paper are considerably different from these previous publications. In this section, we review related work in order to position our research in the field of requirements management and software engineering research.

We also present background information that is beneficial for understanding our case study and its relation to previous research. First, we summarize two recent secondary studies on agile requirements engineering. Second, we discuss research on organizing and managing large-scale agile development.

Third, we review three models proposed for scaling agile development in order to provide a point of comparison to our case. Secondary studies on agile requirements engineering have been recently conducted by Inayat et al. Their findings are summarized below. Inayat et al. Agile RE is claimed to decrease process overheads 1 due to the smaller amount of required requirements and system documentation. The frequent requirements and system validation by the customer s and the frequent face-to-face communication are claimed to improve the understanding about requirements and prevent communication gaps.

Agile RE practices are claimed to reduce overallocation of development resources.

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Finally, agile RE is claimed to improve customer relationships. Agile RE relies on the availability of the customers, but due to cost, time and trust issues the access to the customers or customer representatives is often limited. The reliance on the simple user story format for requirements documentation is problematic when requirements need to be communicated to off-site stakeholders and the user story format may be insufficient for complex, large-scale systems development. Since most requirements knowledge is tacit in agile RE, personnel turnover is problematic.

Non-functional requirements and system improvements may be understated due to the customer value emphasis of agile RE. The de-emphasis of planning and the short planning time horizon in agile RE may result in an inappropriate architecture and technical debt. Precise budget and schedule estimation required by development contracts is difficult without extensive planning, but due to the volatility of agile RE, extensive planning is not considered worthwhile.

Typically, the proposed solutions are based on the re-introduction of traditional RE practices, roles or artifacts. One way to scale an agile development organization is to employ multiple small teams that collaborate and share a common goal Leffingwell ; Schwaber ; Augustine In a such organization, the product roadmaps are agnostic towards the development methodology Lehtola et al.

However, the release planning process must support the agile development teams by providing goals and direction on what should be constructed Rautiainen et al.

On the other hand, the release management process must take into account the realized development progress and communicate it to the strategic management in order to give a realistic picture of the status of the software development. There is some evidence that adoptions to agile development life-cycle models must be made in order to make them work well in a large-scale, multi-team development organization.


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Cao et al. The system architecture was planned six-months up-front, instead of expecting the architecture to emerge during the development and the developers employed a limited number of predefined design patterns, instead of designing and developing everything from scratch. In consumer market software product development, the success of the product is tied to the completion of the right set of requirements by the time of the public release Svahnberg et al.

Managing the Flow of Technology

Software releases in telecommunications network software development have traditionally been sparser due to the high fixed cost often associated with version updates, and due to a risk averse attitude that follows from the mission critical nature of lots of the software. However, the ability to respond to customer requests for new or improved functionality in a timely fashion creates a competitive advantage also in the telecommunications network software development context.

Furthermore, the recent rise of software-defined telecommunications networks emphasizes the importance of the software side of the networks development Batista et al. There is a notable lack of empirical research on requirements management in large-scale agile organizations that develop large, complex and hardware dependent software systems such as telecommunications network software. In contrast to consumer market applications, telecommunications software controls devices and mostly communicates with other devices or software systems instead of a human user Taramaa et al.

The software development organization in such an environment is often an internal producer for the more extensive systems development organization and the software is only one part of the system or service that is provided for the customers.

Unlike in consumer market software product development, the requirements for the telecommunications network software stem from a wide variety of sources in the encompassing systems development organization. These aspects make telecommunications network software development inherently different from consumer market application development. Schwaber suggests organizing development using a tree structure of multiple levels of integration Scrum teams in the branch nodes and development Scrum teams in the leaf nodes.

The integration Scrum teams do not develop functional software, but instead integrate, build and test the software implemented by the development Scrum teams. Both kinds of Scrum teams have a dedicated product owner. All requirements are listed in a product backlog as user stories. The branch node product owners are responsible for assigning sections of the product backlog to the lower level teams.

Release planning is performed by the root node product owner by selecting a subset of the product backlog as the release product backlog. Larman and Vodde propose a two-layer model for scaling a large-scale development organization. The further elaborations and extensions of this model have been commercialized in the Large-Scale Scrum LeSS framework.

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Development teams are arranged as feature teams that work on a single feature at a time and the team composition persists over time. Feature teams are grouped into technical product areas. Each product area is managed by an area product owner, who in turn are managed by a product owner. The product owner manages the product backlog and assigns backlog items to the product areas. Features are large backlog items that describe functionality that is valuable for the customer. Features are split into smaller backlog items which can be implemented during a single sprint.

Only the dates of the external releases are planned, and the content of the release is defined by what is ready at the time of the release. Leffingwell suggests a three-layer model of the agile enterprise.

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The three layers are the portfolio, the program and the team layer. Epics are split into features which are planned on the program layer and stored in the feature backlog. Features are descriptions of system behavior that can be developed in a single release project. Product management is responsible for managing the program backlog which contains the Features.

Features are split into stories which can be implemented in a single development Iteration. The developers are organized in independent teams that each have a dedicated product owner. Release planning is performed in release planning events where all stakeholders of the product assemble to plan the next release together.

Although these models are purportedly based on experiences in real software development organizations, the empirical validation of the models is weak. As Fig. Clearly more empirical research on planning, organizing development and managing requirements is required to evaluate the benefits and problems of different agile scaling models, as well as to study to what kind of circumstances each is best suitable.

This study employed the case study method Yin , which is the most appropriate when a contemporary phenomenon is studied in its real-life context Yin , as was the case in our study.

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Data was collected with interviews. Below, we first describe our data collection in detail. Second, we describe how the data was analyzed. Ericsson was purposefully selected as the subject of our case study, as it provided an opportunity to perform an information rich study Patton ; Yin in a large organization with a long history of developing a complex software system.