Supporting Articulation Work Using Software Configuration Management Systems

Author(s): Rebecca Grinter
Venue: Computer Supported Cooperative Work
Date: 1996



This paper describes the results of an empirical study of the use of a configuration management tool, specifically three aspects of support that it provides: the challenges of representing the work, the need to support both individuals and groups working together, and how assumptions about software development built into the tool interact with others in the organization.

The first site of the study which the author refers to as "Tool Corporation", consisted of a rapidly growing organization in which over the course of the study expanded the development team from 14 to 18 people. The developers used a software configuration management tool in their daily work to build the next version of the tool. The author conducted a three and a half month on-site interpretive study in 1994. 20 semi-structured interviews and 80 informal interviews occurred over the study ranging from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

The second site of the study which the author refers to as "Computer Corporation", consisted of approximately 700 developers building computer software. The company was in the process of switching from their existing software configuration management system to the one being produced by "Tool Corporation". The author conducted 13 interviews over the course of 2 days with managers, configuration managers, and developers that were using the new tool ranging from 30 minutes to an hour.

The author concludes that the developers of software configuration management systems should take note of current empirical studies on groupware technologies. Additionally, all three aspects between the organization and the tool occur continuously during use of the tool. The research focuses on how the organizations themselves, rather than solely the developers, interact with software configuration management tools.