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In constructing a software system, extended periods of coding without adequate coordination (such as system integration and testing) can result in considerable fault correction effort. On the other hand, too much coordination can also prove counterproductive by disrupting the smooth flow of development work. The goal, therefore, is to find an optimal level of coordination so as to minimize system construction effort while adhering to functionality and schedule constraints. Previous research, however, has not considered dynamic project factors such as system growth, system stability and team learning when addressing the above coordination problem. Dynamic factors are important because they could lead to differences in the intensity (frequency) of coordination needed at different stages of system construction. Unlike existing studies, we propose a dynamic coordination policy that places coordination activities at optimal (and often nonuniform) intervals during the construction of a system. Our analysis shows that, if a system stabilizes slowly, more intense coordination should occur early in the project. Also, if the team's knowledge of the system improves with time (i.e. learning effects are present), more intense coordination should occur both near the beginning and near the end of the project. Our analysis also shows that, by encouraging more frequent coordination, superior development tools could facilitate team learning. Finally, the application of the coordination model to data from a NASA software project demonstrates that optimally coordinating a project could significantly reduce the system construction cost.
Date of Publication: Jul 2002