Living Boundary Objects to Support Agile Inter-Team Coordination at Scale
Doctoral thesis, 2020

Context: In the last decades, large-scale agile development has received increasing attention, as also organizations with many stakeholders and large systems aim for higher development speed and focus on customer value. A recognized research challenge in large-scale agile development relates to inter-team coordination. To coordinate effectively, organizations need to identify what knowledge is required across team borders and how it can be managed over time. Knowledge is potentially manifested in boundary objects – artifacts that create a shared understanding between teams (e.g., requirements or architecture descriptions). Traceability between artifacts is a key necessity to manage change in agile contexts. Moreover, agile practitioners aim to reduce the documentation effort to absolutely crucial artifacts and trace links.
Objective: This thesis aims to improve how practitioners can manage knowledge for inter-team coordination in large-scale agile development. We focus especially on how knowledge can be made explicit in artifacts and trace links that are evolved over time.
Method: We empirically investigated problems and developed solutions using a research approach that was inspired by design science. Case studies, an in-depth design science study, a mixed methods study, and surveys were performed. Using this mix of research methods, we leveraged both qualitative and quantitative data.
Results: We coined the concept of living boundary objects to manage knowledge for inter-team coordination. Living boundary objects are boundary objects that are traced to other artifacts, kept up to date, and serve for inter-team coordination. They should be established early in the lifecycle to create a common understanding of the product to be developed. We scrutinized architecture descriptions, interfaces, and requirements and traceability information models as examples of concrete boundary objects. We recommend establishing alignment using a common high-level structure, but also supporting diverse knowledge management practices to fulfill the individual needs of agile teams.
Conclusions: Our contributions help to establish knowledge management practices that are considered beneficial by practitioners and focus on the crucial aspects to align agile teams on. We suggest concepts and requirements for knowledge management tools that take the distinct role of living boundary objects into consideration and can be adjusted as organizations' needs evolve.

empirical software engineering

traceability management

boundary objects

large-scale agile development

Opponent: Darja Šmite, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden

Author

Rebekka Wohlrab

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Software Engineering (Chalmers)

Boundary objects and their use in agile systems engineering

Journal of Software: Evolution and Process,; Vol. 31(2019)

Journal article

Improving the consistency and usefulness of architecture descriptions: Guidelines for architects

Proceedings - 2019 IEEE International Conference on Software Architecture, ICSA 2019,; (2019)p. 151-160

Paper in proceedings

On interfaces to support agile architecting in automotive: An exploratory case study

Proceedings - 2019 IEEE International Conference on Software Architecture, ICSA 2019,; (2019)p. 161-170

Paper in proceedings

Why and how to balance alignment and diversity of requirements engineering practices in automotive

Journal of Systems and Software,; Vol. 162(2020)

Journal article

Why and how your traceability should evolve: An automotive perspective (Journal publication)

In software-intense systems development, teams create and integrate parts of a final product. To increase agility, teams aim to deliver their parts often and respond quickly to change. However, it is challenging to efficiently coordinate between agile teams and share important knowledge across team borders.
The goal of this thesis is to improve how practitioners can manage knowledge to coordinate between teams in large-scale agile development. We performed empirical studies (for example, surveys or case studies) with more than 25 companies. In this thesis, we coin the concept of living boundary objects. Boundary objects are documents, models, or other pieces of information that create a common understanding between teams. Living boundary objects are strongly connected to other documents, kept up to date, and can be used for coordination.
As examples of boundary objects, we studied architecture descriptions, interfaces, and information models. We recommend establishing living boundary objects already during early development to coordinate and align teams on a high level, but also supporting diverse practices that fulfill the individual needs of teams.
Our findings help to establish knowledge management practices that are perceived as beneficial and focus on the important aspects that agile teams should coordinate around. We suggest solutions for knowledge management tools that consider the distinct role of living boundary objects and can be adjusted as organizations' needs evolve.

Subject Categories

Software Engineering

Information Science

Information Systemes, Social aspects

ISBN

978-91-7905-269-0

Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 4736

Technical report - Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology and Göteborg University: 183D

Publisher

Chalmers University of Technology

Online

Opponent: Darja Šmite, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden

More information

Latest update

4/28/2020