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Onboarding Software Developers and Teams in Three Globally Distributed Legacy Projects: A Multi-Case Study
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7220-9570
SINTEF Digital, NOR.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering.
2018 (English)In: Journal of Software: Evolution and Process, ISSN 2047-7473, E-ISSN 2047-7481, Vol. 30, no 4, article id e1921Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Onboarding is the process of supporting new employees regarding their social and performance adjustment to their new job. Software companies have faced challenges with recruitment and onboarding of new team members and there is no study that investigates it in a holistic way. In this paper, we conducted a multi-case study to investigate the onboarding of software developers/teams, associated challenges, and areas for further improvement in three globally distributed legacy projects. We employed Bauer's model for onboarding to identify the current state of the onboarding strategies employed in each case. We learned that the employed strategies are semi-formalized. Besides, in projects with multiple sites, some functions are executed locally and the onboarding outcomes may be hard to control. We also learned that onboarding in legacy projects is especially challenging and that decisions to distribute such projects across multiple locations shall be approached carefully. In our cases, the challenges to learn legacy code were further amplified by the project scale and the distance to the original sources of knowledge. Finally, we identified practices that can be used by companies to increase the chances of being successful when onboarding software developers and teams in globally distributed legacy projects.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2018. Vol. 30, no 4, article id e1921
Keywords [en]
Global software development, Global software engineering, Legacy, Onboarding
National Category
Software Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-15195DOI: 10.1002/smr.1921ISI: 000430299400004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:bth-15195DiVA, id: diva2:1143859
Funder
Knowledge FoundationAvailable from: 2017-09-22 Created: 2017-09-22 Last updated: 2018-05-04Bibliographically 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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Britto, RicardoŠmite, DarjaŠāblis, Aivars

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