Coordination Breakdowns and Their Impact on Development Productivity and Software Failures


The success of software development projects depends on carefully coordinating the effort of many individuals across the multiple stages of the development process. In software engineering, modularization is the traditional technique intended to reduce the interdependencies among modules that constitute a system. Reducing technical dependencies, the theory argues, results in a reduction of work dependencies between teams developing interdependent modules. Although that research stream has been quite influential, it considers a static view of the problem of coordination in engineering activities. Building on a dynamic view of coordination, we studied the relationship between socio-technical congruence and software quality and development productivity. In order to investigate the generality of our findings, our analyses were performed on two large-scale projects from two companies with distinct characteristics in terms of product and process maturity. Our results revealed that the gaps between coordination requirements and the actual coordination activities carried out by the developers significantly increased software failures. Our analyses also showed that higher levels of congruence are associated with improved development productivity. Finally, our results showed the congruence between dependencies and coordinative actions is critical both in mature development settings as well as in novel and dynamic development contexts.