Collaborative conceptual design: A large software project case study
During software development, the activities of requirements analysis, functional specification, and architectural design all require a team of developers to converge on a common vision of what they are developing. There have been remarkably few studies of conceptual design during real projects. In this paper, we describe a detailed field study of a large industrial software project. We observed the development team's conceptual design activities for three months with follow-up observations and discussions over the following eight months. In this paper, we emphasize the organization of the project and how patterns of collaboration affected the team's convergence on a common vision. Three observations stand out: First, convergence on a common vision was not only painfully slow but was punctuated by several reorientations of direction; second, the design process seemed to be inherently forgetful, involving repeated resurfacing of previously discussed issues; finally, a conflict of values persisted between team members responsible for system development and those responsible for overseeing the development process. These findings have clear implications for collaborative support tools and process interventions.