Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

The Use of Kanban to Alleviate Collaboration and Communication Challenges of Global Software Development

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

The Use of Kanban to Alleviate Collaboration and Communication Challenges of Global Software Development

Article excerpt


The development of software projects through interactions of organisations, people and technology across geographical boundaries, organisational and national cultures, languages and working styles is known as Global Software Development (GSD) (Tanner, 2009). GSD team members are generally from diverse cultures and work together while located in different locations and time zones Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1998). This form of work setup is implemented through IT outsourcing (Mohagheghi, 2004) and is enabled through computer-mediated technologies (Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1998).

GSD is widely used in the software industry due to the numerous benefits that it offers to businesses (Scharff, 2011). These benefits range from reduced cost to improved software quality, resulting in a competitive advantage that business organisations are constantly seeking (Niazi et al., 2013; Scharff, 2011). Mergers and acquisitions are also influencing the shift towards GSD, resulting in the production of innovative products, new markets, and access to a more diverse pool of software developers (Sudhakar, Farooq, & Patnaik, 2011). Recently, the outsourcing of software development experienced exceptional growth especially within European companies outsourcing to Indian IT companies (Soderberg, Krishna, & Bjorn, 2013). Soderberg et al. (2013) supported the reasons for such growth are not only the labour cost reduction and high quality of software produced by Indian IT companies, but also includes the long-term partnerships and the knowledge that these offshore companies have to offer. However, teams working in GSD face numerous collaboration and communication challenges (Bannerman, Hossain, & Jeffery, 2012; Bjarnason, Wnuk, & Regnell, 2011; Herbsleb, 2007). These categories of challenges are very important subjects of study because human relations are crucial for the success of GSD projects. In fact, even more important than technical skills (Sudhakar et al., 2011).

A practice that aids in mitigating the aforementioned challenges, both in co-located and in GSD teams, is the use Agile methodologies (Bannerman et al., 2012; Wang, Conboy, & Cawley, 2012). In GSD, Agile methodologies are being used in response to the fast-paced changes that occur in software development projects, with added focus on collaboration and communication challenges occurring within that context (Kaur & Sharma, 2014).

Lean approaches form a subset of Agile approaches that focus on eliminating waste (Ebert, Abrahamsson, & Oza, 2012). Lean software development starts with value orientation, then reducing unnecessary features, improving the interfaces, empowering the software developers and continuously improving the solutions (Ebert et al., 2012).

Kanban is a software development methodology which applies Lean principles (Ahmad, Markkula, & Oivo, 2013; Ikonen, Pirinen, Fagerholm, Kettunen, & Abrahamsson, 2011). Kanban is becoming increasingly popular (Ahmad et al., 2013) and is being used to enhance Scrum and other Agile methodologies (Ahmad, Markkula, Oivo, & Kuvaja, 2014). Although Kanban's popularity is increasing, many questions with regard to its adoption in software development are still not answered. Practitioners face serious challenges while implementing Kanban as clear definitions of its practices, principles, techniques, and tools are lacking (Mahnic, 2014).

Studies have shown that in co-located settings, Kanban can help promote communication and collaboration especially when the teams come together and do not yet know each other (Oza, Fager holm & Munch, 2013). However, little is known how Kanban can assist in the mitigation of communication and collaboration challenges in GSD. Literature suggests that Kanban is used to enhance Scrum and other existing agile methods (Ahmad et al., 2014), but it has not yet been established how such enhancements are experienced within the GSD context. …

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