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Exploring the emergence of collaborative practices in globally distributed agile software development

Agile software development approaches have emerged as a response to perceived frustrations of more heavyweight plan-driven methods, and have now become well established within the information systems field. More recently, there has been a tremendous growth in applying agile methods in globally distributed settings. In light of this, there is a pressing need to understand how agile practices are adapted which were originally conceived for collocated settings, and now actually being used in globally distributed settings, taking into account the challenges posed by such contexts. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to this research gap, with a quest to better understand and unpack the "black-box" of how collaborative practices evolve within global agile settings. The value of this research lies in improving and advancing our understanding of the challenges the team members go through in adapting agile practices in global contexts. The research also explores how collaborative practices can support agility in globally distributed settings. In order to contribute to knowledge and increase conceptual clarity, there is a need to carry out in-depth and in-situ research within an organisational context. By taking a socio-technical perspective this study intends to extend our existing knowledge on how collaborative practices are evolving in real-time practice within globally distributed agile settings. The empirical evidence is drawn from a globally distributed team, operating in a global financial bank with offices based in London and Delhi. Interpretive research methods including semi-structured interviews and observations are used to understand team members' experiences of developing collaborative practices in a globally distributed context. Although existing literature on agile software development acknowledges the intrinsic significance of collaboration for effective functioning of agile methods, current studies fail to demonstrate a situated practice perspective on how collaborative practices are adapted in globally distributed settings. This study enlists the analytical concepts of boundary objects and Pickering's "mangle of practice" to better understand the process of how collaborative practices evolve in globally distributed agile teams. The resulting analysis provides us with a much more nuanced understanding of how interactions take place in developing collaborative practices in globally distributed contexts. The findings reveal that collaborative practices within such settings tend not to follow from pre-set expectations of how agile practices should work, but are temporally emergent. Team members have to revise collaborative practices through an ongoing process of mutual "tuning" within their situated contexts, in order to achieve a gradual state of interactive stability or a steadiness of practices. The results demonstrate how actors address the challenges in developing shared understandings to drive forward the joint software development process across global locations and move towards supporting agility within the projects. The thesis presents a pluralistic conceptual framework called the Collaborative Tuning Approach, which aids in gaining critical insights of issues related to adapting agile practices and also demonstrates how collaborative practices can act as enabler to achieving agility in such settings. The framework explains the challenges the team members face and how these are overcome when attempting to modify practices and indeed how these evolve through an ongoing state of flux and uncertainty leading to hybrid agile practices.
Date January 2018
CreatorsModi, Sunila
ContributorsAbbott, P. ; Hone, K. S.
PublisherBrunel University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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