Improving the Communication Skills of IS Developers during Requirements Elicitation Using Experiential Learning

By Qurban, Mustafa H.; Austria, Richmond D. | Journal of Information Systems Education, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview
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Improving the Communication Skills of IS Developers during Requirements Elicitation Using Experiential Learning


Qurban, Mustafa H., Austria, Richmond D., Journal of Information Systems Education


1. INTRODUCTION

Many failures in the development of Information Systems (IS) are reported to be attributed to several factors such as incomplete requirements specification, lack of appropriate development methodology, poor design, miscommunication, and non-existence of information architecture vision (Ramani et al., 2006; Feghali and Zbib, 2007). Agile practices in systems development have addressed these issues through the creation of the Agile Manifesto which covers better ways of developing software. In brief, the manifesto tackles basic principles and agile methods during software development which puts high priority on the users through effective communication. It also adheres to the principle that the most effective way of conveying information is through face-to-face conversation (Lindstrom and Jeffries, 2004). As such, Requirements Elicitation (RE) could be seen as the stage where the communication process is relatively intensive (Coughlan and Macredie, 2002; Coughlan et al., 2003). With this, RE represents the foundation of a shared understanding between developers and users about a proposed system which is necessary to achieve project success (Al-Ani, 2002). The most notable of these problems in IS design is the existence of communication barriers during RE (Coughlan et al., 2003; Coughlan and Macredie, 2002).

Agile software development practitioners consider communication barriers such as socio-cultural and language differences among stakeholders as a global challenge (Holmstrom et al., 2006; Lindstrom and Jeffries, 2004). As such, ineffective communication skills among system developers may lead to miscommunication that contributes to the inability to gather complete requirements (Thanasankit and Corbitt, 1999; Qurban, 2008). Correspondingly, ineffectual communication during RE is considered to be one of the most critical factors in the failure of IS projects (Coughlan and Macredie, 2002; Nuseibeh and Easterbrook, 2000). Also, many obstacles such as complex and changing requirements as well as the various levels of interactions between users and developers hinder the successful communication during the RE phase (Nuseibeh and Easterbrook, 2000; Valenti et al., 1998). Hence, project managers handling multiple IS design initiatives should strategically supervise the efficiency of their developers in communicating with the users during RE.

In a study, most IT projects are more likely to be unsuccessful; where only about one out of five IT projects is likely to bring full satisfaction. Also, the larger the project is, the more likely the failure would be. Moreover, it is estimated that nearly 40% of these projects would fail to achieve their business case within one year of implementation (Nauman et al., 2005; Heeks, 2002). Since RE is largely about communication, techniques relevant to understanding requirements remain to be valuable for project success especially during elicitation techniques such as prototyping (Nuseibeh and Easterbrook, 2000). Correspondingly, the need to improve the communication among stakeholders in systems design is evident among various researches (Urquhart, 2001; Coiera et al., 2002). As such, the communication techniques play a central part during RE to manage time and cost of an IS design project (Sindre, 2005; Majchrzak et al., 2005). Similarly, improving the communication process through skill enhancement is essential during RE management (Coughlan et al., 2003).

In the recent IT Governance Global Status Report conducted by the Price Waterhouse Coopers and IT Governance Institute (2008), the communication between IT professionals and users is said to be improving, but slowly. Correspondingly, in order to solve this existing problem, an efficient method of improving the communication process through skill enhancement is necessary (Coughlan and Macredie, 2003). Fortunately, among various learning modalities such as self-directed learning, transformative learning and contextualized learning as enumerated by Herod (2003), Kolb's experiential learning has been considered as an effective strategy to improve various skills of physical therapists (Sellheim, 2006), nurses (Papai et al.

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