Title page for ETD etd-06222012-183227


Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Odendaal, Maria Elizabeth
Email marlizeo@gmail.com
URN etd-06222012-183227
Document Title An interpretive case study into the application of software engineering theory
Degree MSc
Department Computer Science
Supervisor
Advisor Name Title
Dr A Boake Co-Supervisor
Prof D G Kourie Supervisor
Keywords
  • software engineering
  • software crises
  • project outcome
  • requirements engineering
  • software architecture
  • interpretive research
Date 2012-04-19
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Even before software engineering was formally defined as a discipline, software projects were notorious for being behind schedule and over budget. The resulting software systems were also often described as unreliable. Researchers in the field have, over the years, theorised and proposed many standards, methods, processes and techniques to improve software project outcomes. Based on allegorical evidence, however, it would seem that these proposals are often not applied in practice. This study was inspired by a desire to probe this general theme, namely of the extent to which (if at all) software engineering theory is adopted in practice.

The core of this research is an interpretive case study of a software project in the financial services industry that ran from end 2006 to mid 2008. I was one of a team of approximately 20 developers, analysts and development managers working on the project, until I left the company in 2009. Results are reported in a two-phase fashion over several themes. Firstly, the literature of recommended software engineering practices relating to a particular theme is reviewed. This is regarded as the "theory". Thereafter, the observations and evidence collected from the interpretive study in regard to the relevant theme is presented and discussed.

The first theme investigated is the notion of "project outcome". Definitions of successful and failed software projects are considered from the perspective of the various stakeholders. Also considered are factors that contribute to project success or failure. After examining how case study participants viewed the projectís outcome, it is argued that the project could neither be labelled as a complete success nor as a complete failure. Two areas were identified as problematic: the requirements gathering process; and the system architecture that had been chosen. Improvements in these areas would arguably have most benefitted the projectís outcome. For this reason, recommended practices were probed in the literature relating both to requirements engineering and also to software architecture design. The case study project was then evaluated against these recommended practices to determine the degree to which they were implemented. In cases where the recommended practices were not implemented or only partially implemented, a number of reasons for the lack of adoption are considered.

Of course, the conclusions made in this study as to why the recommended practices were not implemented cannot be naÔvely generalized to the software engineering field as a whole. Instead, in line with the interpretive nature of the study, an attempt was made to gain in depth knowledge of a particular project, to show how that projectís individual characteristics influenced the adoption of software engineering theory, and to probe the consequences of such adoption or lack thereof. The study suggested that the complex and individual nature of software projects will have a substantial influence on the extent to which theory is adopted in practice. It also suggested that the impact such adoption will have on a projectís outcome will be critically influenced by the nature of the software project.

Copyright © 2010, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria

Please cite as follows:

Odendaal, ME 2010, An interpretive case study into the application of software engineering theory, MSc dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-06222012-183227/ >

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