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Software engineering in start-up companies: An analysis of 88 experience reports
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Computing, Department of Software Engineering.
2019 (English)In: Journal of Empirical Software Engineering, ISSN 1382-3256, E-ISSN 1573-7616, Vol. 24, no 1, p. 68-102Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Context: Start-up companies have become an important supplier of innovation and software-intensive products. The flexibility and reactiveness of start-ups enables fast development and launch of innovative products. However, a majority of software start-up companies fail before achieving any success. Among other factors, poor software engineering could be a significant contributor to the challenges experienced by start-ups. However, the state-of-practice of software engineering in start-ups, as well as the utilization of state-of-the-art is largely an unexplored area. Objective: In this study we investigate how software engineering is applied in start-up context with a focus to identify key knowledge areas and opportunities for further research. Method: We perform a multi-vocal exploratory study of 88 start-up experience reports. We develop a custom taxonomy to categorize the reported software engineering practices and their interrelation with business aspects, and apply qualitative data analysis to explore influences and dependencies between the knowledge areas. Results: We identify the most frequently reported software engineering (requirements engineering, software design and quality) and business aspect (vision and strategy development) knowledge areas, and illustrate their relationships. We also present a summary of how relevant software engineering knowledge areas are implemented in start-ups and identify potentially useful practices for adoption in start-ups. Conclusions: The results enable a more focused research on engineering practices in start-ups. We conclude that most engineering challenges in start-ups stem from inadequacies in requirements engineering. Many promising practices to address specific engineering challenges exists, however more research on adaptation of established practices, and validation of new start-up specific practices is needed. © 2018 The Author(s)

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer New York LLC , 2019. Vol. 24, no 1, p. 68-102
Keywords [en]
Experience reports, Software engineering practices, Software start-up, Requirements engineering, Engineering challenges, Engineering knowledge, Engineering practices, Experience report, Exploratory studies, Qualitative data analysis, Strategy development, Software design
National Category
Software Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-16246DOI: 10.1007/s10664-018-9620-yISI: 000458634400003Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85047198507OAI: oai:DiVA.org:bth-16246DiVA, id: diva2:1211652
Available from: 2018-05-31 Created: 2018-05-31 Last updated: 2019-09-26Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Software Engineering in Start-up Companies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Software Engineering in Start-up Companies
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Start-up companies have emerged as suppliers of innovation and software-intensive products. Small teams, lack of legacy products, experimental nature, and absence of any organizational processes enable start-ups to develop and market new products and services quickly. However, most start-ups fail before delivering any value. Start-up failures can be attributed to market factors, shortcomings in business models, lack of motivation, or self-destruction, among other reasons. However, inadequacies in product engineering precede any market or business-related challenges and could be a significant contributing factor to start-up failures. At the same time, state-of-the-art software engineering (SE) practices are often neglected by start-ups as inadequate. At the beginning of this work, SE in start-ups had attracted very little attention from researchers. Thus, there was no coherent view of SE state-of-practice in start-ups and no starting point for a focused investigation.

 

In this thesis, we explore how start-ups practice SE, what specific SE challenges should be addressed, and what new SE practices are needed to support the engineering of innovative software-intensive products and services.

 

A substantial part of this work is exploratory and aimed to explore SE state-of-practice in start-ups. Our initial findings suggest that start-ups overlook the best SE practices. Teams of a few people working on relatively experimental and straightforward software see no upside of following the best practices. However, late start-ups face substantial challenges as their teams grow, and products become more complex. The key difficulties concern installing adequate SE practices supporting collaboration, coordination of work, and management of accumulated technical debt. To support the evolution of engineering practices in start-ups, we propose the start-up progression model outlining engineering goals, common challenges, and useful practices with regards to the start-up life-cycle phases. Further findings suggest inadequate support for market-driven requirements engineering (MDRE). Specifically, on how to aggregate needs and wishes of a large and loosely defined set of stakeholders who may not be able to articulate their needs and expectations. To address this challenge, we propose a method for the identification and prioritization of data sources and stakeholders in MDRE. Analyzing SE context in start-ups and other organizations developing innovative and market-driven products, we have found many similarities. While start-ups have challenges, they do not appear to be unique. Thus, most start-up challenges can be addressed by transferring the best practices from other engineering contexts.

 

We conclude that there is a little need for start-up specific engineering practices. Best software engineering practices are relevant to address challenges in start-ups. The key engineering challenge in start-ups is the management of the evolution of SE practices to match the growing complexity of the product and the organization. Our work also highlights the need for better MDRE practices to support new market-driven product development in both start-ups and other types of organizations. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlskrona: Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, 2019
Series
Blekinge Institute of Technology Doctoral Dissertation Series, ISSN 1653-2090 ; 12
Keywords
start-ups, software engineering, practices, models
National Category
Software Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:bth-18694 (URN)978-91-7295-384-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-12-16, J1516, Campus Grasvik, Karlskrona, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-10-21 Created: 2019-09-26 Last updated: 2019-12-06Bibliographically approved

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Klotins, EriksUnterkalmsteiner, MichaelGorschek, Tony

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