Software process improvement as emergent change: a structurational analysis
Allison, Ian K.
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This paper presents a framework that draws on structuration theory and dialectical hermeneutics to explicate the dynamics of software process improvement (SPI) in a packaged software organisation. Adding to the growing body of qualitative research, this approach overcomes some of the criticisms of interpretive studies, especially the need for the research to be reflexive in nature. Our longitudinal analysis of the case study shows SPI to be an emergent rather than a deterministic activity: the design and action of the change process are shown to be intertwined and shaped by their context. This understanding is based upon a structurational perspective that highlights how the unfolding/realisation of the process improvement (intent) are enabled and constrained by their context. The work builds on the recognition that the improvements can be understood from an organisational learning perspective. Fresh insights to the improvement process are developed by recognising the role of the individual to influence the improvement through facilitating or resisting the changes. The understanding gained here can be applied by organisations to enable them to improve the effectiveness of their SPI programmes, and so improve the quality of their software.