Communication Flows in Software Product Development: A Case Study of Two Mobile Software Firms

By Tuunanen, Tuure; Vainio, Marianne | JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application, January 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Communication Flows in Software Product Development: A Case Study of Two Mobile Software Firms


Tuunanen, Tuure, Vainio, Marianne, JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application


ABSTRACT

After a steady rise in the revenue that they achieved in the late 1990s, small software firms, in particular, were hit hard. Because of the restricted investments and tight budgets, the goals of firm strategies started shifting towards delivering outstanding products in terms of price, quality and performance. However, the focus of current information systems (IS) development methods is on improving processes to produce better and more predictable results, and, therefore, they tend to lack responsiveness to market opportunities. In this study, we review the marketing-related discussion of new product development (NPD), and suggest that the NPD framework offers valuable insights for the development of mobile software products. The NPD framework especially contributes to interactions with other business dimensions and the firm's environment. In an interpretive case study of two mobile software firms, we apply both the NPD approach and the IS development methods as a lenses to identify the participants involved in the development of software products, and how the information was communicated between them throughout the phases of software product development. In the two firms, the applied framework uncovered the communication flows between the participants of software product development and integrated the interaction between them into a coherent view. In particular, the findings indicate the importance of informal, tacit communication as a basis for these interactions. As a result of this study, a preliminary conceptual model is presented describing the integration of the NPD approach with the IS development methods through cross-functional teams and rich communication in the development of software products. As a contribution, we suggest that the integration of the marketing-related NPD framework with the IS development methods provides guidance for managers to develop successful mobile software products in the dynamic markets in which small software firms exist.

INTRODUCTION

Mobile devices are increasingly becoming standardized commodity products instead of exclusive high-technology products due to the falling retail and service prices. Thus, the firms operating in the field have started to look more closely at their software product development and to look for means that would yield more new outstanding quality products for less investment. This shift also stresses the need for effectively integrating the knowledge from various sources, such as the market, customers, users, competitors and regulatory parties, in order to enhance the market responsiveness of their products. We present that there is a need for integrating more information from the markets to the development of mobile software products.

The information systems (IS) literature has been viewing the relationships with customers and users as transaction-oriented and based on specific organizational projects. Several of the early approaches to IS development methods, like the Waterfall (Royce 1970), suggest that the user needs be collected at the beginning by the analysts. Although researchers have suggested some more iterative methods of development (e. g. Boehm 1988), the linear way of thinking is still quite dominant in the current ways of collecting software requirements (Mathiassen, Saarinen, Tuunanen and Rossi 2004). Among IS development methods, incorporating market elements into the process has proven especially difficult (Regnell, Hösta, Dag, Beremark and Hjelm 2001), as the current views tend to overlook up-front business planning (Vainio, Tuunanen and Abrahamsson 2004).

Within marketing science, the problem of developing innovative new products has led to the birth of a new specific discipline, called "new product development" (NPD), which focuses on delivering a product from idea to launch. The NPD literature presents that customers and users are important sources of innovation and firms are therefore encouraged to commit considerable resources to build sustainable, long-term relationships to them. …

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