Information Systems Development

Information Systems Development

Our work in this area has focused on three different aspects of IS development practices: 1) how individuals (i.e., systems analysts) conduct systems analysis and design tasks and how we might be able to improve their task performance, 2) how teams perform ISD projects and how we might be able to improve team project performance, and 3) how the organizational structure in which the ISD projects are embedded might influence ISD project performance. 

Analyst Performance in Systems Analysis and Design

Our work in this area was focuses on improving the performance systems analysts’ task performance in systems analysis and design.  Since most modern IS development methodologies (e.g., structured analysis and design, rational unified process, etc.) use complex requirements modeling methods, we focus on studying how features of IS development methodologies (e.g., types and grammar of diagrams used to model information systems) affect human problem solving behaviors and performance in information systems analysis and design and how we might be able to enhance analyst performance my incorporating new diagram types to assist the analysts’ cognitive processes.  Theories in the cognitive sciences (e.g., human problem solving and reasoning, diagrammatic reasoning, expertise and expert performance) are used to theorize about and analyze analysts’ cognitive processes in systems analysis and design.

The following research questions have been addressed:

  • How do the diagrammatic representations of the analysis and design methodologies affect how people use diagrams for systems analysis and design?
  • In order to deal with complexity of the domain, realistic development projects make use of many diagrams from multiple different perspectives and at multiple levels of abstraction. Then, how do systems analysts understand a system with so many diagrams?
  • How do expert and novice systems developers differ in terms of the process of designing systems?
  • How can we improve systems development methodologies, in terms of both the modeling formalism as well as the prescribed process to improve performance in systems analysis and design?

Team Performance in Information Systems Development Projects

Due to the complexity of information systems development, ISD projects are almost always performed by project teams composed of multiple individuals.  Furthermore, individuals within these teams gain experience and knowledge over the course of participating in multiple projects over time.  Therefore, how the team is composed in terms of which individuals are in the team and how individuals gain experience and knowledge over time becomes important in understanding ISD project performance. 

Several research projects investigated organizational learning and adaptation in software development organizations.  We ask:

  • Do learning effects differ across different types of essential ISD knowledge, namely domain and technology knowledge?
  • Do different types of experience portfolios (i.e., deep specialists or broad generalists as a result of different experience trajectories) have differential impacts on ISD productivity
  • How does the extent of cross-domain knowledge across domain and technology knowledge influences ISD performance? 

Information Systems Development Projects and Organizational Structure

Structural characteristics of ISD projects (e.g., project management structure, organizational structure, adoption of different approaches to ISD, etc.) create real-world constraints that ISD organizations and teams must overcome to be effective and efficient in information systems development.  However, in order to systematically study the range of structural properties of the ISD context, we need a generalized theoretical framework that connects the macro-level environmental context, the meso-level organizational context, and the micro-level ISD development team context.  Our work in the information systems development area has culminated in developing a theoretical framework along with a computational model with which the various structural properties of ISD and their impacts on ISD process and performance in the face of wicked ISD problems such as environmental complexity, requirements uncertainty and volatility can be systematically studied. 

Using the theoretical framework of ISD as landscape search, our research investigates:

  • How do different approaches to ISD (e.g., agile vs. waterfall approaches) influences ISD process and performance given different levels of ISD complexity?
  • How do spatial and temporal dispersion in distributed ISD teams impact ISD performance?
  • How do technical and leadership competencies of ISD project managers influence ISD performance?