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  • Ralph Kelly ICSE 2014 Dimensions of Software Engineering Success

    Rights statement: © ACM, 2014.This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in ICSE 2014 Proceedings of the 36th International Conference on Software Engineering, http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2568225.2568261

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    Available under license: CC BY-NC: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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The dimensions of software engineering success

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Abstract

Background: Software engineering research and practice are hampered by the lack of a well-understood, top-level dependent variable. Recent initiatives on General Theory of Software Engineering suggest a multifaceted variable – Software Engineering Success; however, its exact dimensions are unknown. Aim: This paper seeks to investigate the dimensions (not causes) of software engineering success. Method: An interdisciplinary sample of 191 design professionals (68 in the software industry) were interviewed concerning their perceptions of success. Non- software designers (e.g. architects) were included to increase the breadth of ideas and facilitate comparative analysis. Transcripts were subjected to a supervised, semi-automated semantic content analysis, including a software developer vs. other professionals semantic comparison. Results: Participants view their work as time-constrained projects with explicit clients and many other stakeholders. Success depends on stakeholder impacts – financial, social, physical and emotional – and is understood through feedback. Concern with meeting explicit requirements is peculiar to software engineering and design is not equated with aesthetics in many other fields. Conclusion: Software engineering success is a complex multifaceted variable, which cannot sufficiently be explained by traditional dimensions including user satisfaction, profitability or meeting requirements, budgets and schedules. A proto-theory of success is proposed, which models success as the net impact on a particular stakeholder at a particular time. Stakeholder impacts are driven by project efficiency, artifact quality and market performance. In this view, success is not additive, i.e., ‘low’ success for clients does not average with ‘high’ success for developers to make ‘moderate’ success overall; rather, a project may be simultaneously successful and unsuccessful from different perspectives.

Bibliographic note

© ACM, 2014.This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in ICSE 2014 Proceedings of the 36th International Conference on Software Engineering, http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2568225.2568261