Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Computer and Security Science

Faculty

Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Mike Johnstone

Second Advisor

Dr Trish Williams

Abstract

As software becomes increasingly important to all aspects of industry, developers should be encouraged to adopt best practice and hence improve the quality of the processes used, and achieve targets relating to time, budget and quality. In the software industry, several software methodologies have been used to address software development problems; however some of these processes may be too bureaucratic. The Agile Alliance formed in 2001, sought to address this problem; accordingly, they developed a manifesto and twelve principles, to which all agile software methods adhere. The purpose of the manifesto and its principles is to uncover better ways of developing software.

Agile software development methods seem to address the software development industry’s need for more agile processes that are responsive to changes during software development. Agile values and principles require a major cultural change for software managers, e.g. collective team responsibility and self-organisation, especially in large organisations with a strong culture of planning and centralised power. In large global organisations, this issue is likely to be exacerbated by cultural diversity. The objective of this thesis is to analyse the possibility, of using agile methods or practices in different cultures, and study what changes are required, to adapt agile approaches to different global application development issues. The study found that certain agile practices can be useful in different cultures and some practices required major cultural adaptation. A study of suitable practices for different cultures such as Australia, India and the United Kingdom and the associated suggested changes required are the main areas of study.

Human factors have been identified by researchers and practitioners to impact on software development projects. Similarly, cultural differences may also be influential in a global market. The principles of agile software development focus on iterative adaptation and improvement of the activities of individual software development teams to increase effectiveness. This research programme focused specifically on national culture based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, Hall’s cultural dimensions and the relationships between different aspects of national culture and the implementation of agile methods. To investigate this aspect of software development, a set of cultural dimensions and consolidated cultural agile attributes were developed, that are considered necessary for implementing agile methods. Based on relevancy, cultural dimensions such as Individualism/Collectivism, Power distance index, Uncertainty avoidance index, Time and Context were selected and studied. Some of cultural agile attributes studied include Transparency, Dedicated team, Decision making, Tolerance for change, Time keeping and Authoritative. This set was identified from a literature review on culture for agile methods, a detailed analysis of relevant commonly used agile methods and from feedback from agile experts. This thesis involves qualitative interviews conducted in Australia, India, and the UK using an interpretive paradigm and aims to identify cultural dimensions to implement agile methods in the software engineering community.

The results of this research programme provide an analytical comparative framework for implementing agile methods in different cultures, and insight into how cultural differences may affect a software project and how these challenges can be addressed through agile principles.

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