Aligning Software Processes with Strategy

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Abstract

Although increasing evidence suggests that superior performance requires alignment between firms’ strategies and production processes, it is not known if such alignment is relevant for software development processes. This study breaks new ground by examining how firms align their software processes, products, and strategies in Internet application development. Drawing upon the literatures in strategy, operations management, and information systems, we identify four dimensions that influence alignment: the business unit strategy, the level of product customization, the level of process customization, and the volume of customers. To examine how these dimensions are synchronized, we conducted detailed case studies of Internet application development in nine varied firms including both start-ups and established “brick and mortar” companies. Our analyses reveal that the firms in our study do use differing processes for Internet application development, and that many of the firms match their software process choices to product characteristics, customer volume, and business unit strategies. We develop concept maps for the firms that are in alignment to illustrate how managers configure specific product and process dimensions. We also offer potential explanations for why some firms are misaligned, such as attempting to execute incompatible strategies, the lack of coordination between marketing and production strategies, the too rapid expansion of process scope, and inflexible barriers to rapid adaptation of process. Our study contributes detailed insights into how software processes are customized to complement different types of product requirements and strategies.

Additional Details

Author Sandra K. Slaughter, Linda Levine, Balasubramaniam Ramesh, Jan Pries-Heje, and Richard Baskerville
Year 2006
Volume 30
Issue 4
Keywords Software process, product–process matrix, Internet application development, software development strategy, competitive strategy, contingency theory
Page Numbers 891-918