Management Strategies for Process Software Improvement

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Introduction

Historically, software firms have focused on the process of software improvement as a technical strategy. The following paper identifies the key weaknesses of focusing exclusively on technical strategies when it comes to managing groups of people. As such, the best approach to manage process improvement in the software sector is to apply practices that are based in human concerns and organizational behavior management and incentive techniques.

Problem Statement

The problem with process software improvement is that many organizations wish to improve the quality of their software and improve overall process to produce better products to consumers by only using technical means.

Goal of Paper

The goal of the paper is to provide cultural and organizational means of improving process software elements without having to use strict technical objectives. Strict technical approaches are aligned with the personality type of many employees in the various software fields. As such, a human approach or flavor can be inserted into the sector to help encourage teamwork and incentive to improve the process of software development.

Solution

Software’s development history started in the early 1970s and software engineers rarely were able to produce software applications within budget or on time. When the teams did finally complete the end product, they often did not fully meet the requirements of the systems or the customer’s expectations. During the 1980s and through the early 1990s, this dilemma did not change much or improve much at all. Even in today’s ever-changing and innovatively driven business world, these software applications continue to be late in delivery and this blows budgeting constraints and the end results are often found to be defective in various areas. This illustrates that the issues that started back in the 70s are still prevalent today. In order to overcome these determents seemingly inherent to software development, the industrial software complex has embraced a set of standardized process procedures that hold the design and manufacture of its products in the highest quality to the end user. Any analyst can reference a random published copy of Software Engineering Notes to see all of the continued problems seen are software processing procedurial issues that can be improved with continuous new adoptions of improvement processes. To put it simply, the blame cannot be placed on the programmers or designers for these flaws; rather, the culprit is the organizational and cultural dynamics that enforce significantly high barriers. The following paper identifies several process improvement strategies that can be embraced by an organization to improve its company culture and thereby improve its software development capacity. The elimination of these barriers will inevitably work to increase the probability of implementing a software process improvement change that is highly successful.

One of the most important cultural traits to improve software’s process of design to the end user is an organization that has a common vision and a set of employees working towards that goal. The organization must describe a mission that is simple and clear in its ability to communicate to employees (Moita, 2008). A vision statement must illustrate the company’s special nature in the market and set a very high standard for expectations in quality and productivity that will hold employees accountable for future endeavors. A software company must also describe its core competencies that are based on the achievement of excellently efficient and profitable operations. The vision and mission should also communicate a close relationship with the customer as being a top priority. When an organization develops and then commits to a set of core strategies that have been supported by company values and the mission of executive leadership, it can then develop a strategic plan to engage the actual activities that support software development. The strategic plan embodies the goals of management in setting operational objective that are obtainable and stated in a clear and concise manner. Typically, software improvement processes try to justify the action by establishing a value based upon a comparison of previous output to future productivity and assessments of quality products. Therefore, these objectives must be able to be measured in order to quantify the improvements achieved through the strategies mentioned above. Given the metrics are supported in success by higher profit margins driven by production and quality, the business will then forecast improvements that are long term and sustainable. These comparisons should be made against at least two competing organizations. IBM has been assessed as a CMM Level 5 organization, improved by six percent per annum…Similarly, IBM that developed the Space Shuttle Onboard Software, which is another CMM Level 5 organization, appears to have improved productivity by about eight percent per year over the previous fifteen years using these strategies (Baddoo & Hall, 2012).

The continuous improvement within software companies must be driven by the definition of the exact change effort supported by a vision. The effort to change should compel software engineers to assess the most important and promising improvement actions. In order for key leadership to identify a common vision and mission there company should be able to perform four fundamental tasks. First, the organization should identify projects that can most benefit from change. Thus, an organization should focus a change effort on new projects since it is more difficult to change processes of existing projects than for new ones” (Diaz & Slago, 1997, p. 68). In addition the organization should scrutinize projects that are important to the business. Secondarily, the company should locate what the consumer’s values are and the most important values in determining what processes it could improve or change to add value to the customer’s transaction. For each process of improvement that the company decides to adapt, it must assess and document the vision statement and how they relate. Each process vision must describe the new capabilities of the process and identify realistic performance and quality improvement expectations (Laporte & Trude, 2008).When changing multiple software improvement processes a company should take a slow approach. Consequentially, the company should introduce and deliver the changes over a several month timeline in order to allow employees to grow and adapt to the changes over time. The last thing the strategic management team wants is for employees to feel overwhelmed and express resistance to change. Being overwhelmed can negatively impact employee performance and decision making in regards to innovation. According to Hall, Rainer, and Badoo (2002, p. 3) “The approach of enlightenment involves four major steps:

1.) Change leaders involve stakeholders in developing a shared understanding of what needs to change and why;

2.) Stakeholders affected by the change develop transition strategies; and

3.) Change leaders model the new behavior; and

4.) Strategies are applied to bring about the desired behavior throughout the organization. This approach requires more people to define the solutions or strategies so that a larger group of individuals owns them, which is important in achieving successful change.”

The next step is to obtain a commitment to change within the organization as proposed by leadership. This change should be consistent with previous change strategies and the employee should understand that managers are committed to the change and are actively listening and responsive to employee concerns. That is, customers should not feel that management will leave a change strategy as just another fad that comes and goes over time. If there were several recent efforts at change, gaining an acceptance of this new strategy can be very difficult. The achievement of the commitment among employees to change requires several key champions that are organizational impromptu leaders that can promote the change among individuals who aren’t on board. Change sponsors must understand and communicate what the change is, and why it should occur, as well as the positive impacts that the change will have on the organization. In addition, the change agents must have a personal commitment in enabling the change to have success. They must also demonstrate a commitment to it by demonstrating a behavior that is enthusiastic and supports the change.

The next objective in managing a streamlined process improvement process is to adopt a broad rand of strategies that can be flexibly implemented. What separates each of the approaches is how each leader engages employees in regards to change. One polarization is a total focus on logistics or project managerial issues in getting the project completed while ignoring the human and organizational issues. On the other hand, there is an over-commitment in addressing people’s and the organization’s issues first and ignoring the completion of the project in a timely manner. The autocratic management style involves a few steps that include the top leaders setting the tone for what needs to be changed and how leadership holds everyone accountable to expectations with a policy accountability mechanism. However, this approach does not address organizational issues relating to human employees. This approach wrongfully assumes that the individual and organization’s behavior will change even though the effected employees had absolutely no input into the change. People like to feel like they are a part of the software improvement mechanism. There are technical and risks associated with culture

There are risks with cultural and technicalities when a firm decides to change and adapt new strategies. The technical risk happens when a new change doesn’t work as anticipated or disrupts an ongoing business to such a degree that it hurts its relationship with valuable customers. Risks that are cultural based happen when employees desire that what they do not know is not even worth worrying about. Second, there are employees that want to believe that their particular situation is so special that the others do not have the capacity or ability to help out anyway. Third, workers usually are afraid of losing an item in which they hold dear value. For example, workers may perceive a change strategy as a threat to security in employment, status socially, or the power of authority. Fourth, employees may not understand the change and don’t trust the firm that they work for. Fifth, employees may simply resist change because that is their personality type and anything new is perceived as bad. An effective process software improvement managerial strategy can reduce these people’s thoughts in a number of ways. “One way is to thoroughly, effectively, and truthfully communicate the change effort to the members of the organization. Another way is to implement change through successful pilot efforts. A third way is for an organization to identify how the work patterns of employees need to change and then manage those changes. However, the most effective way to get people to accept change is to involve them in negotiating and defining a change (Gyna, 1997).

Employee competencies and human capital must be a portion of the strategy plan. Core competencies are tasks that include systems of belief, motivations, and specific skills of the job and knowledge are only surface illustrations of competence. Therefore, firms should be less involved in the action of improving specific transient skills and more interested in core competencies that can endure the test of time for process software improvements. The business can teach employees the nature of why things should be done a certain way as well as how those things can help build the organizations capacity for success by using the core competency enduring skill sets. This approach also gets employees more involved with the change and will lessen the resistance to accept new ideas and allows the business to change and adapt to the world that is constantly moving. In order to develop the capabilities of staff, a business can also help better identity, understanding, and a problem solving mentality to approach problems in a way that offers multiple solutions and strategies to solve those problems. As such, the training program that a good software improvement company embraces should focus on the newest and latest tools and methods to achieve success in designing and manufacturing software applications. If a company doesn’t allow new training methods and new curriculums, the company is inevitably going to have staff embrace old sets of practices that will render the new changes as a meaningless bore and a business that operates under an old set of instructions that are outdated.

In order to align change efforts in software process improvements with success, an organization must reward and give recognition where it is due. Usually, businesses reward the individuals based on their success individually in achieving a core objective to the business. While this is typical, a new approach is to define recognition and rewards as based on intrinsic items of tangible value to the business as defined by the mission and vision statement. Also, because it is important that the organization maximize benefits and the majority of task involve teamwork then it lends itself to assess that the individuals based on the team’s performance in addition to the individual’s performance. Therefore, a reward system that puts one team member against the other is counterproductive in software improvement processes. Therefore, an organization should use an objective and publically announced set of criteria for merit increases and promotions that is equitable and fair in the light of the entire employee population. This should differentiate the pay grade between high and low performers. When the change strategy is in place, a business must continually evaluate the recognition and reward program to insure that it is consistent in regards to the overall change effort. If this fails, the business must adapt the program to illustrate the reward to employees that adjusts their behaviors to desired outcomes. Lastly, executive managers must communicate and spread the vision of the organizational goals to its staff so that the behavior modification tactics work through the reward system.

Communication is tremendously important as arguably the most effective tool that an organization can employ to get change acceptance among employees. Communication to change efforts should be made personal – face to face because techniques such as mass emails and bulleting posting are considered passive participation. This communication to promote change must also occur frequently to improve the processes. Organizations must encourage its executives and middle management to start the change process from the top down. Also, the message must first explain the reasons why the change is vitally important and the decision not to change would result in catastrophic consequences for the business. The need to change should be continually revisited and reinforced so that employees are ready to change their behaviors when the time is right and when it best meets the needs of the company. In closing on communication, the business must embrace a balance between predictive measurements that focus on customers and products and how they impact processes. These metrics must form a structured hierarchy so that the executive management relates directly to the staff and organization’s goals. The lowest level goals must also relate to very detailed individual metrics such as labor hours and performance evaluations.

In closing, the paper has embraced a set of core concepts that can be used as a program to improve software process changes by employees and management. Many of the steps are critical; however, they are all very important. If the tactics mentioned throughout this paper are ignored it could cause the change effort to fail and the overall process software improvement to stall or fail altogether. The most important critical step is building and implementing a vision for the organization that promotes continuous process improvement. The vision should embody the specific change processes that must be addressed to protect the software improvement strategies that are working. The next crucial objective is to get the executive backing of the strategy and a commitment that is personified by the chief executives. Without the support of the upper administration to push the new change, the vision is likely to fail. Third, the practitioners involved in the development of change must be fully involved and support in every way the change and improvement initiative.

References

Baddoo, N. & Hall, T. (2002). Motivators of Software Process Improvement: an analysis of practitioners’ views.” Journal of Systems and Software, 62, 85-96

Diaz, M. & Slago, J. (1997). How software process improvement helped Motorola. IEEE software, V13(4), 65-72.

Gryna, F. M. (1997). Quality Planning and Analysis: From Product Development throughUse, 1997. Human Assets, AMACOM.

Hall, T., Rainer, A. & Baddoo, N. (2002). Implementing software process improvement: An empirical study. Software Process: Improvement and Practice, 7(1), 3-15.

Laporte & Trudel. (2008). Addressing the people issues of process improvement activity at Oerlikon Aerospace. Software Process; Improvement and Practice, 4(4), 199-207.

Moitra, D. (2008). Managing change for software process improvement initiatives: A practical experience-based approach. Software Process: Improvement and Practice, 4(4), 199-207