Tag Archives: ICSE

Our paper, “The Role of Domain Knowledge and Cross-Functional Communication in Socio-Technical Coordination”, to be presented this coming week at ICSE2013!

So, our paper at the International Conference on Software Engineering, titled The Role of Domain Knowledge and Cross-Functional Communication in Socio-Technical Coordination, will be presented this coming week in San Francisco. Daniela is going to be presenting this paper on Thursday, May 23 at 1:30 PM in Grand Ballroom B!

The preprint of this paper appears on my blog. The main story is that we examine how diverse roles in two teams in Brazil working on requirements and their related artifacts coordinated along task dependencies using a case study method, and report on how knowledge and work dependencies affect their work.

There are a number of other great papers that are appearing in the same session, including two co-authored by Prem Devanbu. It’s a good session to be at, in my opinion.

Hope to see you there!


The Role of Domain Knowledge and Cross-Functional Communication in Socio-Technical Coordination

Our recent ICSE paper has been accepted and I’ve made it available online here as a pre-print version: ICSE2013-DomainKnowledge-Paper38.pdf.

The paper discusses an investigation into the spread of domain knowledge, as well as specific cross-functional knowledge across two different global software teams. Essentially, there are two kinds of “structures” internally that may guide project communication. First, there’s the cross-functional communication structure, where people within the same roles are allowed to communicate but people of different roles need to communicate via certain team members (usually team leaders) to avoid misunderstandings. There’s also communication across task assignments as well.

One team had relatively experienced team members and a dense communication structure whereas the other team had inexperienced team members and a siloed communication structure. We identified that people with domain knowledge were more often involved in communication. We also identified brokers in both teams who mediated knowledge from person to person – these brokers spanned multiple application domains in our case studies. Surprisingly, team members followed the cross-functional communication structure, but they did not always follow the expected task assignments. We hope these results can help facilitate knowledge sharing and knowledge management in these types of teams.

Abstract: Software projects involve diverse roles and artifacts that have dependencies to requirements. Project team members in different roles need to coordinate but their coordination is affected by the availability of domain knowledge, which is distributed among different project members, and organizational structures that control cross-functional communication. Our study examines how information flowed between different roles in two software projects that had contrasting distributions of domain knowledge and different communication structures. Using observations, interviews, and surveys, we examined how diverse roles working on requirements and their related artifacts coordinated along task dependencies. We found that communication only partially matched task dependencies and that team members that are boundary spanners have extensive domain knowledge and hold key positions in the control structure. These findings have implications on how organizational structures interfere with task assignments and influence communication in the project, suggesting how practitioners can adjust team configuration and communication structures.

Daniela Damian, Remko Helms, Irwin Kwan, Sabrina Marczak, and Benjamin Koelewijn. “The Role of Domain Knowledge and Cross-Functional Communication in Socio-Technical Coordination”, to appear in the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE), May 18-26, 2013, San Francisco, USA.

Download ICSE2013-DomainKnowledge-Paper38.pdf.

ICSE13 paper accepted: The Role of Domain Knowledge and Hierarchical Control Structures in Socio-Technical Coordination

The official notifications for the International Conference on Software Engineering (2013) have been sent out. ICSE is an archival conference that is one of the top conferences in the field. This year, there was an 18.5% acceptance rate.

The paper is about how the presence of domain knowledge among team members affects how people coordinate in a software team. In addition, many of these teams have other hierarchical structures in place and recommend that certain people limit communications with others to follow team boundaries. We investigated two projects in a large global software organization and contrasted how they structured their teams and thus the resulting communication patterns. Some of the techniques they used to “spread” domain knowledge in the team were by incorporating new hires into the project, rotating roles, and making knowledgeable team members easily reachable.

I’ll give a detailed account of the paper when we get in our camera-ready version (which isn’t due until March)!

D. Damian, R. Helms, I. Kwan, S. Marczak, B. Koelewijn. The Role of Domain Knowledge and Hierarchical Control Structures in Socio-Technical Coordination, to appear in IEEE International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE), San Francisco, USA, 2013.

The hidden experts in software-engineering communication (NIER track)

This article isn’t a new publication but I thought I’d provide some information about it here. I did this work by analyzing email communication between team members within a large, multinational organization: almost 5000 emails in all, sent all across the organization.

We found that many email discussions involved people who were included in the discussion thread only after the first email was sent! This was surprising because I thought, initially, that if you emailed people about a topic you’d put all of them in the To/CC of the first message. Instead, in this organization, in 57% of the threads someone added a new recipient to the To/CC list as the thread went on.

In addition, I examined the messages and identified four main situations why emergence occurred:

  • Crisis: There was a big crisis situation, and the message was being passed to as many people as possible so that someone, anyone, might have information that will help.
  • Explicit requests: In the discussion, there was a specific request that a person who was not initially included in the message be involved or undergo a task. This is quite common for expertise-seeking; some people would realise that they couldn’t solve a problem and CC a third-party for help.
  • Announcements: Announcements were large-scale announcements of some sort, and had to reach large numbers of people.
  • Following-up: After a particular event, a message would be sent following up on the event. If there were people involved in the event who were not initially invited, they were included on follow-up emails.

There were a number of takeaways that affect my email habits even now – I try to ensure that people are CCed right from the start, and if someone asks me to recommend someone they should talk to, rather than simply telling them that they should speak with Person X, I actually CC Person X as part of my reply.

ACM DL Author-ize serviceThe hidden experts in software-engineering communication (NIER track)

Irwin Kwan, Daniela Damian
ICSE ’11 Proceedings of the 33rd International Conference on Software Engineering, 2011