Openess and Requirements Engineering in Software Ecosystems

Project Details

  • Project Overview
    This project studies stakeholder interactions and their relationship to requirements management practices in software ecosystems. In today’s modern, transparent development environments, anyone can submit issue reports and new feature requests to the development team. Discussions can occur around these work items to negotiate and clarify requirements. This openness results in requirements from the masses, where stakeholders across the software ecosystem can participate in discussions that shape the way requirements are elicited, analyzed and validated with the project stakeholders. In this project, we investigate who participates in these requirement discussions, focusing on stakeholder interactions that are emergent and not anticipated during the planning stages of the project. We analyse how these emergent users contribute and their impact on the requirements.
  • SEGAL Members Involved
    Aminah Yussuf, Alessia Knauss, Kelly Blincoe, Eric Knauss, Daniela Damian

Project Description

Recent research has regarded the development of large scale software projects as ecosystems of interacting and interconnected organizations. Stakeholders internal or external to product teams collaborate and provide input towards the criticality or usefulness of product features. 

We studied the ecosystem around the development of the Collaborative Lifecycle Management (CLM) product at IBM. We used multiple methods for data collection, including interviews within several ecosystem actors, on-site participatory observation, and analysis of online project repositories. We described the flow of product requirements information through the ecosystem, how the open communication paradigm in software ecosystems provides opportunities for ’justin-time’ RE – and which relies on emergent contributions from the ecosystem stakeholders –, as well as some of the challenges faced when traditional requirements engineering approaches are applied within such an ecosystem. We identified two tradeoffs brought about by the openness in software ecosystems: i) allowing open, transparent communication while keeping intellectual property confidential within the ecosystem, and ii) having the ability to act globally on a long-term strategy while empowering product teams to act locally to answer end-users’ context specific needs in a timely manner.

We also studied the emergent stakeholders’ contributions to online discussions about product features. We found that including emergent contributors early in requirements elicitation was a crucial asset in the ecosystem. On less problematic requirements emergent stakeholders were more likely to comment early in the lifecycle and commented more frequently to clarify requirements. On more problematic requirements, emergent users contributed later. Our analysis suggests that it is important for stakeholders who are external to the team or product to participate in requirements discussions early in the iteration.

Knauss, E., Knauss, A., Borici, A and D. Damian, Openness and Requirements: Opportunities and Tradeoffs in Software Ecosystems, Proc. of IEEE International Conference on Requirements Engineering (RE’14), Karskrona, Sweden, 2014


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