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Advancing in software product management: An incremental method engineering approach

By I. van de Weerd

Abstract

Hardly any figures exist on the success of product software companies. What we do know is that a good Software Product Management (SPM) practice pays off. However, not many IT-professionals know how to implement SPM practices in their organization, which causes many companies to not have the proper SPM processes (such as prioritizing requirements or defining a product roadmap) in place. One of the reasons for this low maturity in SPM practices is that hardly any education exists in this domain. Some commercial courses are offered in the US and Europe. However, software product management is not taught in colleges and universities. As a consequence, software product managers have to learn the practice of SPM on the job. Since no solid body of knowledge in the SPM domain exists, this can be a difficult task. An approach to address the lack of SPM knowledge among product managers is to give them access to SPM methods and guide them in implementing them in their company. Immediately some other problems come to mind. For example, product software companies can be characterized by differing situational factors; they operate in diverse sectors, have varying sizes and use a range of development methods. Subsequently, companies need different methods. For example, a company with 5 employees does not need an elaborate release planning method, whereas a large company, such as Microsoft, needs to have a very elaborate workflow process in place within the software product management domain. Each company operates in its own context that can be described by multiple situational factors. These situational factors have a great influence on the decision whether to implement simple or elaborate SPM processes. In this research, a knowledge infrastructure is proposed that provides methodical support to product software companies. The aim of this knowledge infrastructure is to assess and thereby analyze a company’s current situation and maturity level. Then, by using incremental method engineering and meta-modeling principles, previously stored method fragments can be selected and assembled into a process advice. By implementing this process advice in the existing processes, the overall maturity of the SPM practice increases. This dissertation consists of three parts. First, the main processes (requirements management, release planning, product roadmapping, and portfolio management) and internal and external stakeholders in the SPM domain are described. In the second part, a modeling-technique for analyzing and storing method increments is proposed. Furthermore, the principles for incremental method engineering are identified, formalized and validated in a retrospective case study. In the third part, an approach for incremental method evolution is described. In this approach, the aforementioned concepts are combined with a maturity matrix for SPM, and integrated in one knowledge infrastructure. Finally, a comparative case study is described, in which three companies are researched. By assessing the companies’ SPM processes, a maturity profile is created that serves as a basis for process improvement. The results indicate that the knowledge infrastructure is able to create a useful process advice for improving a company’s SPM practice

Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:dspace.library.uu.nl:1874/35156
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