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Learning and Performance Evolution of Immature Remote Teams in Large-ScaleSoftware Projects: An Industrial Case Study
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7220-9570
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering.
Ericsson, SWE.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0639-4234
(English)In: Information and Software Technology, ISSN 0950-5849, E-ISSN 1873-6025Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Context: Large-scale distributed software projects with long life cycles often involve a considerable amount ofcomplex legacy code. The combination of scale and distribution challenges, and the diculty to acquire knowledgeabout large amounts of complex legacy code may make the onboarding of new developers/teams problematic. Thismay lead to extended periods of low performance.Objective: The main objective of this paper is to analyze the learning processes and performance evolutions (teamproductivity and team autonomy) of remote software development teams added late to a large-scale legacy softwareproduct development, and to propose recommendations to support the learning of remote teams.Method: We conducted a case study in Ericsson, collecting data through archival research, semi-structured interviews,and workshops. We analyzed the collected data using descriptive, inferential and graphical statistics and softqualitative analysis.Results: The results show that the productivity and autonomy of immature remote teams are on average 3.67 and2.27 times lower than the ones of mature teams, respectively. Furthermore, their performance had a steady increaseduring almost the entire first year and dropped (productivity) or got stagnated (autonomy) for a great part of the secondyear. In addition to these results, we also identified four challenges that aected the learning process and performanceevolution of immature remote teams: complexity of the product and technology stack, distance to the main source ofproduct knowledge, lack of team stability, and training expectation misalignment.Conclusion: The results indicate that scale, distribution and complex legacy code may make learning more dicultand demand a long period to achieve high performance. To support the learning of remote teams, we put forward fiverecommendations. We believe that our quantitative analysis, as well as the identified factors and recommendationscan help other companies to onboard new remote teams in large-scale legacy product development projects.

National Category
Software Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-15194OAI: oai:DiVA.org:bth-15194DiVA, id: diva2:1143850
Funder
Knowledge FoundationAvailable from: 2017-09-22 Created: 2017-09-22 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Strategizing and Evaluating the Onboarding of Software Developers in Large-Scale Globally Distributed Legacy Projects
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Strategizing and Evaluating the Onboarding of Software Developers in Large-Scale Globally Distributed Legacy Projects
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: Recruitment and onboarding of software developers are essential steps in software development undertakings. The need for adding new people is often associated with large-scale long-living projects and globally distributed projects. The formers are challenging because they may contain large amounts of legacy (and often complex) code (legacy projects). The latters are challenging, because the inability to find sufficient resources in-house may lead to onboarding people at a distance, and often in many distinct sites. While onboarding is of great importance for companies, there is little research about the challenges and implications associated with onboarding software developers and teams in large-scale globally distributed projects with large amounts of legacy code. Furthermore, no study has proposed any systematic approaches to support the design of onboarding strategies and evaluation of onboarding results in the aforementioned context.

Objective: The aim of this thesis is two-fold: i) identify the challenges and implications associated with onboarding software developers and teams in large-scale globally distributed legacy projects; and ii) propose solutions to support the design of onboarding strategies and evaluation of onboarding results in large-scale globally distributed legacy projects.

Method: In this thesis, we employed literature review, case study, and business process modeling. The main case investigated in this thesis is the development of a legacy telecommunication software product in Ericsson.

Results: The results show that the performance (productivity, autonomy, and lead time) of new developers/teams onboarded in remote locations in large-scale distributed legacy projects is much lower than the performance of mature teams. This suggests that new teams have a considerable performance gap to overcome. Furthermore, we learned that onboarding problems can be amplified by the following challenges: the complexity of the product and technology stack, distance to the main source of product knowledge, lack of team stability, training expectation misalignment, and lack of formalism and control over onboarding strategies employed in different sites of globally distributed projects. To help companies addressing the challenges we identified in this thesis, we propose a process to support the design of onboarding strategies and the evaluation of onboarding results.

Conclusions: The results show that scale, distribution and complex legacy code may make onboarding more difficult and demand longer periods of time for new developers and teams to achieve high performance. This means that onboarding in large-scale globally distributed legacy projects must be planned well ahead and companies must be prepared to provide extended periods of mentoring by expensive and scarce resources, such as software architects. Failure to foresee and plan such resources may result in effort estimates on one hand, and unavailability of mentors on another, if not planned in advance. The process put forward herein can help companies to deal with the aforementioned problems through more systematic, effective and repeatable onboarding strategies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlskrona: Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, 2017
Series
Blekinge Institute of Technology Doctoral Dissertation Series, ISSN 1653-2090 ; 9
National Category
Software Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:bth-15197 (URN)978-91-7295-343-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-11-03, Karlskrona, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2017-09-25 Created: 2017-09-22 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved

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