The Impact of Goals on Software Project Management: An Experimental Investigation

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Abstract

Over the last three decades, a significant stream of research in organizational behavior has established the importance of goals in regulating human behavior. The precise degree of association between goals and action, however, remains an empirical question since people may, for example, make errors and/or lack the ability to attain their goals. This may be particularly true in dynamically complex task environments, such as the management of software development.

To date, goal setting research in the software engineering field has emphasized the development of tools to identify, structure, and measure software development goals. In contrast, there has been little micro-empirical analysis of how goals affect managerial decision behavior. The current study attempts to address this research problem. We investigated the impact of different project goals on software project planning and resource allocation decisions and, in turn, on project performance. The research question was explored through a role-playing project simulation game in which subjects played the role of software project managers. Two multi-goal structures were tested, one for cost/schedule and the other quality/schedule. The cost/schedule group opted for smaller cost adjustments and was more willing to extend the project completion time. The quality/schedule group, on the other hand, acquired a larger staff level in the later stages of the project, and allocated a higher percentage of the larger staff level to quality assurance. A cost/schedule goal led to lower cost, while a quality/schedule goal led to higher quality. These findings suggest that given specific software project goals, managers do make planning and resource allocation choices in such a way that will meet those goals. The implications of the results for project management practice and research are discussed.

Additional Details

Author Tarek K. Abdel-Hamid, Kishore Sengupta and Clint Swett
Year 1999
Volume 23
Issue 4
Keywords Goals, software project management, software cost, software quality
Page Numbers 531-555