Living Boundary Objects to Support Agile Inter-Team Coordination at Scale
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
large-scale agile development