Describing Agile Requirements Development and Communication using Complex Adaptive Systems Theory
Americas Conference on Information Systems
Agile software development methods help software development teams respond to changing requirements. Fundamental to this ability to respond to change is the manner in which requirements are communicated and developed. The question of agile requirements development is considered through the lens of Complex Adaptive Systems theory, a theory used to explain agility in software development teams. A case study of the communication and development of requirements in a software development team is
... rted, where the three dimensions of CAS Theory described by Vidgen and Colleagues (Vidgen and Wang 2009) are adapted to describe requirements communication and development practices in greater detail. We find that this focus on requirements practices can further explain increases in a software team's agility. Keywords Agile software development, Complex Adaptive Systems, User Stories methods of documenting requirements in industry have reportedly been highly successful (Armano and Marchesi 2000; Mohan et al. 2010) . While case studies describing the adaptations of Agile requirements communication and development practices have demonstrated the successfulness of the adaptation, there have not been any studies which have explained theoretically how requirements development and communication adaptation decisions have successfully resulted in an increase in agility. Other case studies focus on high-level practices such as the continuous engagement of customers and using a flexible architecture (Mohan et al. 2010) or the agility of the team in terms of broader Agile project management practices (Vidgen and Wang 2009). While such findings are highly useful, they do not capture the rich, experiential attributes of requirements communication and development practices. Other studies in Agile software development settings have used descriptive frameworks such as distributed cognition which describes interactions between individuals and artifacts in great detail (Abdullah et al. 2010 ), but do not describe how these contribute to agility. We therefore report on a case study exploring and discussing several critical work practice incidents related to requirements communication and development which could shed light on the agility of the work practices. We assess the extent to which CAS Theory explains why changes in requirements communication and development work practices lead to increased agility. CAS theory is useful for explaining how decisions made at the micro or individual level lead to macro level effects (Nan 2011), such as the increased agility of a team. We discuss these work practices in terms of dimensions adapted from of Complex Adaptive Systems Theory set forth by Vigden and Colleagues (Vidgen and Wang 2009) to focus on requirements communication and development practices.