Identifying the Critical Factors in Software Development Methodology Fit
In software development, one size does not fit all. Contingencies shape the alignment between the project and its environment, and between software development and project success. Yet the conditions favouring a particular software development methodology (e.g., waterfall or scrum) are not well understood. The current research aims to answer two questions: (1) What are the important factors in software development methodology (SDM) fit? (2) What is the role of SDM fit in project success? A review of the IT literature revealed two kinds of SDMs. On the one hand, there are traditional, plan-driven methodologies that seek compliance to a pre-established plan and existing processes. On the other hand, there are agile methodologies that seek to embrace the increasing changes and uncertainty involved in software development projects. The literature review established that there is no agreement on the contingencies associated with the use of each methodology, nor agreement on how to measure project success. Exploratory research was undertaken to identify contingencies in software development. Preliminary interviews of projects workers, using a card sort procedure, helped to identify key constructs and to generate and refine a set of measurement items. Then an international survey of software development project workers was conducted. Data analysis revealed two factors that are important in SDM fit: one is organizational culture; and the other is empowerment of the project team. The first factor encapsulates variables related to the project environment such as the level of entrepreneurship and methodology supported by top management. The second factor is related to the characteristics of the project and includes variables such as procedural empowerment and project uncertainty. No support was found for factors such as project size, criticality and the need for personnel supervision that are generally considered important contingencies. The current study also demonstrates that SDM fit is one of the predictors of project success, and affirms prior claims that one methodology does not fit all projects. The current research contributes to the SDM fit literature a contingency model that includes the impact of factors associated with the project and the project environment, on SDM fit and project success. The contingencies identified and evaluated by this research may assist practitioners to select the most appropriate methodology, and to achieve higher project success rates.