Knowledge transfer to improve software processes

[German title: Wissenstransfer um Softwareprozesse zu verbessern]

The Effectiveness of Knowledge Transfer Portfolios in Software Process Improvement: A Field Study
Authors: Sandra A. Slaughter, Laurie J. Kirsch
Information Systems Research (volume 17, issue 3, September 2006)

Key words: knowledge transfer mechanism portfolios; portfolio intensity; portfolio composition; knowledge transfer; software process improvement; management of information systems
Abstract: Because of challenges often experienced when deploying software, many firms have embarked on software process improvement (SPI) initiatives. Critical to the success of these initiatives is the transfer of knowledge across individuals who occupy a range of roles in various organizational units involved in software production. Prior research suggests that a portfolio of different mechanisms, employed frequently, can be required for effective knowledge transfer. However, little research exists that examines under what situations differing portfolios of mechanisms are selected. Further, it is not clear how effective different portfolio designs are. In this study, we conceptualize knowledge transfer portfolios in terms of their composition (the types of mechanisms used) and their intensity (the frequency with which the mechanisms are utilized). We hypothesize the influence of organizational design decisions on the composition and intensity of knowledge transfer portfolios for SPI. We then posit how the composition and intensity of knowledge transfer portfolios affect performance improvement. Our findings indicate that a more intense portfolio of knowledge transfer mechanisms is used when the source and recipient are proximate, when they are in a hierarchical relationship, or when they work in different units. Further, a source and recipient select direction-based portfolios when they are farther apart, in a hierarchical relationship, or work in different units. In terms of performance, our results reveal that the fit between the composition and intensity of the knowledge transfer portfolio influences the recipient’s performance improvement. At lower levels of intensity direction-based portfolios are more effective, while at higher levels of intensity routine-based portfolios yield the highest performance improvement. We discuss the implications of our findings for researchers and for managers who want to promote knowledge transfer to improve software processes in their organizations.

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