Table of Content

 ICGSE 08 - Bangalore, India - August 17-20, 2008


Studying Work Practices in GSE

17 August 2008

Background and rationale

Software development is increasingly distributed across geographical, political, social, and cultural boundaries. Enterprises that wish to take advantage of globalization require innovative techniques, tools, and practices to overcome the various difficulties of organizing and managing globally distributed software development.
The field of Global Software Engineering (GSE) or Global Software Development (GSD), as it is sometimes called, has emerged as a transdisciplinary research arena bringing together software engineers as well as social scientists and organization theorists involved in examining various aspects of how globally distributed software teams function. However, while many experimental studies on problem-solving in teams have been performed, as well as interview studies with management referring to problems in distributed coordination and management, extensive participative field study material on actual workplace practices is relatively meagre. Thus, despite of occasional empirical studies of distributed software development activities over the years there is still a dearth of well-designed studies in Software Engineering and CSCW that provide good examples of field research in the area.
By bringing together researchers who are actively involved in such field studies of distributed software practices the workshop aims at contributing to a broader understanding of GSE.

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Goals and objective

The purpose of this workshop is to bring together researchers in the GSE field who wish to examine the strengths and limitations of empirical research methods being deployed in the field. Methods are not simply techniques to be chosen and deployed at will, but are constructed from particular conceptual worldviews, and entail theoretical commitments. Actual use of methods also requires training and a sensitivity to the local situation. These issues are often not adequately dealt with before the researcher enters the field.
In order to discuss this topic in a concrete fashion, we are soliciting workshop papers from researchers who are actively engaged in empirical studies of GSE. The workshop will collect empirical findings and relate them to the methods applied. It will consist of a discussion on the strengths and limitations of particular approaches, the variety of ways in which methods can be used in practice, grounded in a series of specific GSE case studies. We are particularly interested in field studies of actual in situ practices of software engineers.

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Workshop organization

The one-day workshop will bring together a maximum of 20 participants. The accepted papers will be made available to the participants in advance and discussants will be assigned to each paper. The morning session will include an introduction of the workshop objectives, followed by a working session where the discussions will be based on the material provided by the participants. In the afternoon, we will focus on the broad picture resulted, highlighting strengths and limitations of the material provided by the participants. At the end of the day, we will wrap up with a session dedicated to outlining a list of issues that need to be addressed in future research in the area.

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Submission details

Our intended audience is primarily researchers who are actively engaged in empirical studies of GSE. We will encourage a mix of graduate students, new faculty, and established researchers to participate.
Prospective participants are invited to submit short papers (4-6 pages) on their field study research, providing an account of the rationale for the choice of research method(s) being used, showing how it relates to the research questions being examined, the experiences of the authors in actually carrying out the fieldwork using this method, and interesting findings gained by this methods. The methods must be seen in action in particular cases, and both reports of research in progress and completed studies will be accepted. Papers simply outlining plans for future empirical research are not acceptable. Papers should conform to the two-column IEEE CS Press format and be submitted as PDF files. Submissions will be handled via EasyChair. Click here to submit your paper! 
Each paper will be reviewed by at least two reviewers. The selection will be based primarily on the ability of the papers to generate fruitful discussion of important issues and also to provide examples of practice-related, high quality case studies. At least one author of each accepted paper must attend the workshop.

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Important dates

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Outcomes and dissemination

The assessment of the submitted material by two independent reviewers, the discussants and the other participants will provide the authors with useful feedback regarding their own work. The workshop participants will also be involved in formulating a list of issues that need to be further addressed by the research community. Depending on the outcome of the Workshop discussions and on the interest of the participants, we may explore further publication outlets for the Workshop papers – e.g. a special issue on empirical research methods in Global Software Engineering in a journal such as Empirical Software Engineering, Journal of Computer Supported Cooperative Work, or Information and Software Technology.

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Organization Committee

Gabriela Avram is a research fellow at the Interaction Design Center, University of Limerick, currently working on a project focusing on cultural, organisational and social aspects of globally distributed software development. She is particularly studying collaborative work practices in this context, employing ethnographically-informed methods. Coming from a Knowledge Management background, Gabriela's area of expertise also includes social software, social networks and online facilitation.

Liam Bannon is Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems and Director of the Interaction Design Centre at the University of Limerick. His research interests include interaction design, human-computer interaction, computer-supported cooperative work, computer-supported collaborative learning, cognitive ergonomics, new media, and social dimensions of new technologies.

Alexander Boden is a Cultural Anthropologist and works as a research assistant at the Institute for Information Systems and New Media ( University of Siegen). Currently he is engaged at the Fraunhofer Institute of Applied Information Technology (FhG-FIT) within a shared research project. His areas of research are centered on the role of coordination and communication practices in the context of global software development (offshoring) as well as on the utilization of ethnographic methods.

Volker Wulf is Professor of Information Systems at the University of Siegen and a senior researcher at Fraunhofer Institute of Applied Information Technology (FhG-FIT). Moreover, he heads the International Institute for Socio-Informatics (IISI), Bonn . He studied computer science and business administration at the RWTH Aachen and the University of Paris VI, got a PhD at the University of Dortmund and a Habilitation Degree in computer science at the University of Hamburg. Right now he spends a sabbatical at the University of Michigan , Ann Arbor , and Stanford University , Palo Alto . He published more than 170 papers and 9 books. His research interests lie primarily in the areas of Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Information Systems, Human Computer Interaction, Participatory Design, Computer Supported Cooperative Learning, Knowledge Management, and Organizational Computing.

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Yvonne Dittrich, Doing empirical research on software development: finding a path between understanding, intervention, and method development, Social thinking: software practice, MIT Press, Cambridge , MA , 2002

Susan Elliott Sim, Janice Singer , Margaret-Anne Storey, Beg, Borrow, or Steal: Using Multidisciplinary Approaches in Empirical Software Engineering Research, Empirical Software Engineering, v.6 n.1, p.85-93, March 2001 

Janice Singer, Timothy Lethbridge , Norman Vinson , Nicolas Anquetil, An examination of software engineering work practices, Proceedings of the 1997 conference of the Centre for Advanced Studies on Collaborative research, p.21, November 10-13, 1997, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Studies of the work practices of software engineers, Advances in software engineering, Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., New York , NY , 2002

Hugh Robinson, Judith Segal , Helen Sharp, Ethnographically-informed empirical studies of software practice, Information and Software Technology, v.49 n.6, p.540-551, June, 2007

Yvonne Dittrich, Michael John , Janice Singer , Bjornar Tessem, Editorial for the Special issue on Qualitative Software Engineering Research, Information and Software Technology, v.49 n.6, p.531-539, June, 2007

Boden, Alexander; Nett, Bernhard; Wulf, Volker, "Coordination Practices in Distributed Software Development of Small Enterprises," Global Software Engineering, 2007. ICGSE 2007. Second IEEE International Conference on , vol., no., pp.235-246, 27-30 Aug. 2007

Avram, Gabriela, "Of Deadlocks and Peopleware - Collaborative Work Practices in Global Software Development," Global Software Engineering, 2007. ICGSE 2007. Second IEEE International Conference on , vol., no., pp.91-102, 27-30 Aug. 2007

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Related workshops

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Accepted papers

1: Jonas Helming, Maximilian Kogel and Helmut Naughton, TU Munich - PAUSE: A Project Analyzer for a Unified Software Engineering Environment


Data collection is a central issue in empirical software engineering. This is especially true for independent techniques, which gather data automatically. The use and combination of data sources from different project domains is a prerequisite for the validation of many hypotheses. Capturing and combining data from heterogeneous and globally distributed sources is a non-trivial and time-consuming task. In this paper, we use a centralized and uniform repository as data source for empirical studies and provide a framework for data analysis. The repository contains artifacts from multiple domains thus reducing the effort of integration. For the analysis of artifact evolution we build on a software configuration management (SCM) system. In our approach we combine a uniform model repository with a change-based SCM and provide a highly configurable and extensible analyzer framework. We evaluate our approach by applying it to a set of scenarios with data from a case study. Download full paper

2: Mario Eberlein, TU Dresden - Culture as a Critical Success Factor for Successful Global Project Management in Multi-National IT Service Projects


This paper analyses whether considering cultural management as a core project management discipline positively impacts the success of globally delivered IT service projects and, thus, the business performance of project-based IT organizations. A qualitative research identifies cultural awareness and management of cultural differences as critical factors for international projects. These findings are contrasted against scholarly literature to validate findings from qualitative research. The analysis of empirical research data as well as findings from literature are used to develop a Project Management Cultural Framework. This framework accounts for different cultures in international project teams and identifies culture and communication as core issues framed by a project management methodology, organizational systems, processes and infrastructure as well as the external environment and stakeholders. Paper withdrawn

3: Jayakanth Srinivasan, Malardalen University, Sweden - Studying Customer-Supplier Relationships in Global Software Development


The preliminary argument used by most organizations that choose to source their software from other organizations is the perceived cost savings. The nature of the relationship between the customer and supplier has to necessarily evolve in order for it to remain mutually beneficial over the long run, i.e., the 'arms-length' relationship becomes one of strategic partnering. Studying this evolving relationship requires a set of methods that capture the context within which these organizations exist, make explicit the gap (if any) between the actual and articulated nature of the relationship between the two organizations, and can be used to create some useful constructs for managing/ evolving the relationship. This paper illustrates how the paradigm of engaged scholarship has been applied to studying the EuroTel-IndiaCo relationship. Download full paper

4: Allen Milewski(Monmouth University), Felix Kobler(TU Munich), Richard Egan(NJIT), Suling Zhang(Kean University) and Marilyn Tremaine(Rutgers University) - Methodological Diversity in Global Software Engineering


The study of globally-distributed software teams is a difficult endeavor and it is not easy to collect global software team data, analyze it and interpret it clearly. Our research strategy has been one of research diversity, i.e. researchers with diverse interests from varied locations studying a variety of issues of global teams in several contexts and using many different methodologies. We have found this pragmatic approach to be a useful one, especially the strategy of employing whatever methods are most appropriate and feasible in the context of field research. We outline examples of our use of ethnographic techniques, statistical modeling of survey results and gap analysis and show how they have worked together to provide solid insights about global software engineering. Download full paper

5: Anders Sigfridsson, Anne Sheehan and Gabriela Avram, University of Limerick, Ireland - Mixing research methods to unveil work practices of dispersed Open Source communities: lessons learned from the PyPy study


Open Source software development projects are based on collaboration within dispersed, multifaceted, and volunteer-based communities. Studying the work practices of such a community requires adherence to a plethora methodological approaches and employment of several different research methods. In this paper we present a study of an Open Source community called PyPy. The focus is the evolution of the study itself and how we’ve utilized several different research methods – including participant observation, virtual ethnography, and electronic questionnaires - to unveil the work practices of this community. We will conclude by discussing the issues we’ve experienced whilst doing this and relevant lessons learned regarding studying Open Source communities. Download full paper

6: Alexander Boden, Bernhard Nett and Volker Wulf, University of Siegen, Germany - Researching into Global Software Development. Experiences and Challenges from an Ethnographic Field Study on Distributed Work Practices


Researching into work practices in the context of Global Software Development projects entails multiple opportunities and challenges for the researcher. In our paper, we present several obstacles we had to deal with in conducting an ethnographic field study into offshoring in two German small to medium enterprises. These comprise getting initial access to the field, but also to observe global work practices from a local perspective and to deal with the high complexity of several inter-related media and artifacts. Building on our experiences concerning our role in the field we describe common interests between the researcher and the companies as a challenge and chance for studies on offshoring. Download full paper

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