Using a Configuration Management Tool to Coordinate Software Development

Author(s): Rebecca Grinter
Venue: Conference on Supporting Group Work Proceedings of conference on Organizational computing systems
Date: 1995



This paper describes the study of one organization's use of a configuration management tool to coordinate development on s software project. The developers use this tool routinely to reduce the complexities of parallel development. The author identifies four aspects of the mechanisms the tool provides for developers to work with each other: difficulties of representing work, the multiple levels they operate at, the possibilities for coordination they provide, and their role in supporting a model of work.

The author conducts a three and a half month on-site interpretive study of a company in 1994. They adopted participant, non-participant observation and interviewing strategies to collect data. Supplemental material was gathered by reading journals, reports, electronic discussion lists, and company documents. The participant observation included: helping with development activities, usability testing, multiple user testing, reviewing documentation and attending meetings. The author also had full access to the configuration management tool so they could watch work in progress. Informal and semi-formal interviewing methods were used ranging from 20 minutes to 2 hours. In total, 20 semi-formal and 80 informal interviews were conducted.

The paper concludes that the mechanisms of interaction provided by the software configuration management tool do not support all the articulation work required to build software. Despite well-defined policies for tool usage, coordinating software development remains difficult and developers often used additional communicative solutions.