UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Blurring boundaries : towards the collective team grokking of software product requirements Fuller, Robert C.


As market expectations of software products continues to become more sophisticated and the competitive landscape for software products grows in intensity, the difference between successful and unsuccessful software products is rapidly becoming less a function of software development methods and more one of how deeply and collectively cross-functional software product development teams achieve a tacit understanding of the product domain, thus creating a context for the team to understand the product requirements and a valid context for the implicit and explicit decision-making that occurs throughout the product development life cycle. Although deep domain understanding cannot be obtained through prevailing requirements engineering methods the way they are usually practiced, many software product development teams do manage to achieve varying degrees of collective grokking of the product domain. However, little is known about what factors support or impede these teams in collectively achieving this deep understanding. Looking to identify factors that would explain why some teams collectively grok the product domain more deeply than others, I used the Constructivist Grounded Theory research method over a period of three years to study individuals and teams across seven software companies that create products for a diverse range of markets. I found that certain factors of the corporate organisational structure and the product planning process play a significant role in product development teams’ potential to collectively develop deep domain understanding. These factors also impact individual and development team dynamics. I identify two essential metaphorical dynamics of broadening the lens and blurring boundaries that successful cross-functional product teams employ to fully embrace product ownership, visioning, and planning toward achieving this rich context for understanding product requirements. This study concludes also that the highly specialised nature of many organisational models and development processes is contraindicated for cross-functional product development teams in achieving this deep collective understanding and calls for a revisiting of the mechanistic organisational and product planning practices for software product development. Further, it calls for a shift of emphasis in requirements engineering towards a greater focus on the human factors in requirements engineering, specifically the collective and tacit understanding of requirements and their context.

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