Factors that Affect Software Systems Development Project Outcomes

Reviewed by Jorge Aranda / 2011-12-21
Keywords: Software Projects

McLeod2011 Laurie McLeod and Stephen G. MacDonell: "Factors that affect software systems development project outcomes". ACM Computing Surveys, 43(4), 2011, 10.1145/1978802.1978803.

Determining the factors that have an influence on software systems development and deployment project outcomes has been the focus of extensive and ongoing research for more than 30 years. We provide here a survey of the research literature that has adressed this topic in the period 1996-2006, with a particular focus on empirical analyses. On the basis of this survey we present a new classification framework that represents an abstracted and synthesized view of the types of factors that have been asserted as influencing project outcomes.

Reading this literature review was a strange experience. Despite its 56-page length, and the fact that it was published only a couple of months ago, it manages to miss most of the interesting research in software development of recent years. There seem to be two reasons for this. First, the paper focuses almost entirely on research coming from the Information Systems community, which for reasons I've never understood is fairly disconnected from the Software Engineering research community (such as the TSE and ESE journals and the ICSE and FSE conferences). Second, the paper only considers research published between 1996 and 2006. It took me a while to realize this, but most of the exciting developments in our field (such as the link between organizational and code structure, the exploitation of data mining techniques to predict defects, and the rich and detailed qualitative evaluations of Agile practices) have only flourished in the last five years or so, and therefore would be out of scope for this survey.

In any case, McLeod and MacDonell's survey provides a long list of factors that have been found to affect software projects, along with citations for each of them, and in that sense it is a useful gateway to research on these topics. Just be aware as you read it that, despite its recent publication date, it is fairly dated already.

PS: The paper is still only available behind a paywall, but it may eventually be posted in the authors' lab site.