Doctoral thesis

Change-centric improvement of team collaboration


227 p

Thèse de doctorat: Università della Svizzera italiana, 2012

English In software development, teamwork is essential to the successful delivery of a final product. The software industry has historically built software utilizing development teams that share the workplace. Process models, tools, and methodologies have been enhanced to support the development of software in a collocated setting. However, since the dawn of the 21st century, this scenario has begun to change: an increasing number of software companies are adopting global software development to cut costs and speed up the development process. Global software development introduces several challenges for the creation of quality software, from the adaptation of current methods, tools, techniques, etc., to new challenges imposed by the distributed setting, including physical and cultural distance between teams, communication problems, and coordination breakdowns. A particular challenge for distributed teams is the maintenance of a level of collaboration naturally present in collocated teams. Collaboration in this situation naturally d r ops due to low awareness of the activity of the team. Awareness is intrinsic to a collocated team, being obtained through human interaction such as informal conversation or meetings. For a distributed team, however, geographical distance and a subsequent lack of human interaction negatively impact this awareness. This dissertation focuses on the improvement of collaboration, especially within geographically dispersed teams. Our thesis is that by modeling the evolution of a software system in terms of fine-grained changes, we can produce a detailed history that may be leveraged to help developers collaborate. To validate this claim, we first c r eate a model to accurately represent the evolution of a system as sequences of fine- grained changes. We proceed to build a tool infrastructure able to capture and store fine-grained changes for both immediate and later use. Upon this foundation, we devise and evaluate a number of applications for our work with two distinct goals: 1. To assist developers with real-time information about the activity of the team. These applications aim to improve developers’ awareness of team member activity that can impact their work. We propose visualizations to notify developers of ongoing change activity, as well as a new technique for detecting and informing developers about potential emerging conflicts. 2. To help developers satisfy their needs for information related to the evolution of the software system. These applications aim to exploit the detailed change history generated by our approach in order to help developers find answers to questions arising during their work. To this end, we present two new measurements of code expertise, and a novel approach to replaying past changes according to user-defined criteria. We evaluate the approach and applications by adopting appropriate empirical methods for each case. A total of two case studies – one controlled experiment, and one qualitative user study – are reported. The results provide evidence that applications leveraging a fine-grained change history of a software system can effectively help developers collaborate in a distributed setting.
  • English
Computer science and technology
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