Looking for a cheaper, better and faster way to develop software

By making their software development processes agile, companies can improve the quality of products while reducing production costs and time. Associate professor Maria Paasivaara explores how to take global software engineering into the future by challenging the traditional company hierarchy.

ResearchMaria PaasivaaraComputer Science Departmentsoftwaremanagement

What is your current research about ?

Basically, I’m studying how companies organise software engineering activities. My focus is on agile software development in large companies. In many companies, you will find a group of employees who writes the requirements and design software systems while another group develops the software and yet another group tests it. It’s a slow and expensive process. It can take years before you have a product and you risk that it’s outdated before it’s launched – and it might not fit the users’ needs.

In agile software development, small pieces of software are developed very fast. Sometimes a prototype can be ready within a few weeks. That gives the companies the opportunity to get feedback from the users in order to find out if they really want the product. Basically, what you do is that you develop the most important features first and then you find out what else is needed. 

What have you discovered so far?

When large companies are doing agile software development it often requires organisational changes. For example, on a big project with, say, 400 people, we will split them into groups with approximately seven persons in each. Each group is responsible for making a small piece of the software from start to finish, and each little piece has to fit with all the other pieces developed by the other groups. The agile way of working challenges the traditional top down management approach. In agile software development, there’s no manager who tells you what to do. Your group needs to coordinate with the other groups, the involved people’s mindset needs to change, and new collaborative environments need to be established.

What do you find most exciting about your field?

It’s very interesting for me to work with companies and to see their progress. For example, I’m currently working with a governmental organisation that wants to change the way they are developing software. Based on our research, we advise them on what model to use and how to implement the project, while we’re studying how it evolves. We just had a meeting with the steering group and they are really excited and want to continue the collaboration.

Further information

Jari Kickbusch, phone 7218 5304, email jark@itu.dk

Maria Paasivaara, Associate Professor, phone +45 7218 5176, email mpaa@itu.dk