The true role of active communicators: an empirical study of Jazz core developers
Licorish, SA; MacDonell, SG
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Context: Interest in software engineering (SE) methodologies and tools has been complemented in recent years by research efforts oriented towards understanding the human processes involved in software development. This shift has been imperative given reports of inadequately performing teams and the consequent growing emphasis on individuals and team relations in contemporary SE methods. Objective: While software repositories have frequently been studied with a view to explaining such human processes, research has tended to use primarily quantitative analysis approaches. There is concern, however, that such approaches can provide only a partial picture of the software process. Given the way human behavior is nuanced within psychological and social contexts, it has been asserted that a full understanding may only be achieved through deeper contextual enquiries. Method: We have followed such an approach and have applied data mining, SNA, psycholinguistic analysis and directed content analysis (CA) to study the way core developers at IBM Rational Jazz contribute their social and intellectual capital, and have compared the attitudes, interactions and activities of these members to those of their less active counterparts. Results: Among our results, we uncovered that Jazz's core developers worked across multiple roles, and were crucial to their teams' organizational, intra-personal and interpersonal processes. Additionally, although these individuals were highly task- and achievement-focused, they were also largely responsible for maintaining positive team atmosphere. Further, we uncovered that, as a group, Jazz developers spent a large amount of time providing context awareness in support of their colleagues. Conclusion: Our results suggest that high-performing distributed agile teams rely on both individual and collective efforts, as well as organizational environments that promote informal and organic work structures.