First Advisor

Dragan Z. Milosevic

Term of Graduation

Winter 2009

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Systems Science: Engineering Management


Systems Science




Computer software -- Development -- Case studies, Project management -- Case studies, Success in business -- Case studies



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, xv, 413 pages)


The importance of software development (SWD) has been rapidly increasing over the past few decades. As this industry has grown, there has been an increasing deployment of cross organizational (C/O) SWD (also called distributed development or global software development) projects. These C/O SWD projects have adversely impacted the already low success rates of SWD projects. Methods to address problems of C/O SWD projects are not available to SWD managers primarily because challenges that underlie C/O SWD are incompletely understood.

This dissertation explored the problems associated with C/O SWD in real-life contexts. Inductive case study research methods and grounded theory were used to build a theoretical framework based on six cases. This framework was validated by using it to predict outcomes in 32 previously documented cases studies.

Initial observations suggested success in C/O SWD, as measured by project efficiency and project effectiveness, was highly contingent upon variables that pertain to the specific situation of a particular SWD project (uncertainty, complexity and pace of the project; degree of separation between project team members; and extent of the project's alignment with business strategy). However, the relationships between the success metrics and the situational variables were unknown.

Further analysis of the data revealed the existence of a set of project management components (organization, process, tools, metrics, execution strategy, and project culture) that can be manipulated by the project management team. Every component exhibits a different level of sensitivity to the various situational variables and is associated with its own particular success factors. The project management components collectively support the quality of execution of the SWD project's lifecycle stages, which ultimately determines the project's success or failure.

The primary contributions of this research are: (1) Creation of new theory on how to improve C/O SWD success. (2) Unification of new and existing theory into a comprehensive conceptual framework that can be used as a basis for future research. (3) Empirical support for the new and existing theory, which is scarce in C/O SWD domain. (4) A practical tool that can be utilized by project managers to improve the probability of success in C/O SWD projects.


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