The impact of agile practices on communication in software development

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Abstract

Agile software development practices such as eXtreme Programming (XP) and SCRUM have increasingly been adopted to respond to the challenges of volatile business environments, where the markets and technologies evolve rapidly and present the unexpected. In spite of the encouraging results so far, little is known about how agile practices affect communication. This article presents the results from a study which examined the impact of XP and SCRUM practices on communication within software development teams and within the focal organization. The research was carried out as a case study in F-Secure where two agile software development projects were compared from the communication perspective. The goal of the study is to increase the understanding of communication in the context of agile software development: internally among the developers and project leaders and in the interface between the development team and stakeholders (i.e. customers, testers, other development teams). The study shows that agile practices improve both informal and formal communication. However, it further indicates that, in larger development situations involving multiple external stakeholders, a mismatch of adequate communication mechanisms can sometimes even hinder the communication. The study highlights the fact that hurdles and improvements in the communication process can both affect the feature requirements and task subtask dependencies as described in coordination theory. While the use of SCRUM and some XP practices facilitate team and organizational communication of the dependencies between product features and working tasks, the use of agile practices requires that the team and organization use also additional plan-driven practices to ensure the efficiency of external communication between all the actors of software development.

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