Assessing the impact of socio-technical congruence in software development: a systematic literature review




Socio-technical congruence, Socio technical coordination, Software development, Social dependency, Technical dependency, Socio-technical dependency


Software development is a critical task that depends on coordination among team members and organizational activities that bring team members together. The literature indicates that various techniques have been applied to control the coordination level among team members. Notable among these techniques is social-technical congruence (STC), which helps to measure the alignment between the social and technical capabilities of an organization and teams at various stages of software development. The main objective of this study is to perform a systematic literature review (SLR) that recognizes and structures existing studies that represent new evolutionary trends in the field of STC. A SLR is performed of 46 publications from 4 data sources, including journals, conferences and workshop proceedings, most of which were published between 2008 and 2019. Attention is especially directed to synthesizing the studies related to STC and its impact on software development. To this end, a thorough analysis is carried out to elicit the studies on the basis of 7 research questions in this SLR. The outcome of this SLR is a set of ample research studies representing various aspects, performance impacts, factors, and evolutionary trends in the field of STC. Furthermore, STC measurement techniques are classified in two distinct groups, matrix-based and social network analysis-based measures. After a systematic exploration of these aspects, it is concluded that some areas still require further investigation. For instance, (1) STC-related literature exists, but only one research work mainly focuses on the risk of overwhelming STC (i.e., excessive STC measurement may overburden the software development process); (2) STC measurement techniques facilitate the identification of congruence gaps, but no attention have been given towards the unweighted social network analysis based STC measurement models; (3) STC measurement techniques are generally applied in the development phase of the project lifecycle, but these measurements are rarely used in other software development phases, such as the requirement and testing phases or all phases; and (4) The development factors that effects on STC measurement are rarely focused by researchers in context of various domains.

Author Biography

Rodina Ahmad, University Malaya

Department of Software Engineering
Faculty of Computer Science & Information Technology


ALQARNI, T. & QURESHI, M. R. (2019). A unified model to manage requirement engineering for global software development. Kuwait Journal of Science, 46, 33-42.

AVNET, M. S. (2016). A network‐based analysis of team coordination and shared cognition in systems engineering. Systems Engineering, 19, 395-408.

BERNARDI, M. L., CANFORA, G., LUCCA, G. A. D., PENTA, M. D. & DISTANTE, D.(2011). Do Developers Introduce Bugs When They Do Not Communicate? The Case of Eclipse and Mozilla. 2012 16th European Conference on Software Maintenance and Reengineering, 27-30 March 2012. 139-148.

BETTENBURG, N.(2011). Mining development repositories to study the impact of collaboration on software systems. Proceedings of the 19th ACM SIGSOFT symposium and the 13th European conference on Foundations of software engineering, ACM, 376-379.

BETZ, S., MITE, D., FRICKER, S., MOSS, A., AFZAL, W., SVAHNBERG, M., WOHLIN, C., BORSTLER, J. & GORSCHEK, T.(2013). An evolutionary perspective on socio-technical congruence: The rubber band effect. Replication in Empirical Software Engineering Research (RESER), 2013 3rd International Workshop on, IEEE, 15-24.

BIRD, C., MURPHY, B., NAGAPPAN, N. & ZIMMERMANN, T.(2011). Empirical software engineering at microsoft research. Proceedings of the ACM 2011 conference on Computer supported cooperative work, ACM, 143-150.

BOLICI, F., HOWISON, J. & CROWSTON, K.(2009). Coordination without discussion? Socio-technical congruence and Stigmergy in Free and Open Source Software projects. Socio-Technical Congruence Workshop in conj Intl Conf on Software Engineering, Vancouver, Canada.

BROOKS JR, F. P. (1995). The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition, 2/E, Pearson Education India.

CALEFATO, F., LANUBILE, F. & NOVIELLI, N.(2017). A preliminary analysis on the effects of propensity to trust in distributed software development. Global Software Engineering (ICGSE), 2017 IEEE 12th International Conference on, IEEE, 56-60.

CATALDO, M. & HERBSLEB, J. D. (2008). Communication networks in geographically distributed software development. Proceedings of the 2008 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work. San Diego, CA, USA: ACM.

CATALDO, M. & HERBSLEB, J. D.(2008) Communication patterns in geographically distributed software development and engineers' contributions to the development effort. Proceedings of the 2008 international workshop on Cooperative and human aspects of software engineering, ACM, 25-28.

CATALDO, M. & HERBSLEB, J. D. (2013). Coordination breakdowns and their impact on development productivity and software failures. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 39, 343-360.

CATALDO, M., HERBSLEB, J. D. & CARLEY, K. M.(2008). Socio-technical congruence: a framework for assessing the impact of technical and work dependencies on software development productivity. Proceedings of the Second ACM-IEEE international symposium on Empirical software engineering and measurement, ACM, 2-11.

CATALDO, M., MOCKUS, A., ROBERTS, J. A. & HERBSLEB, J. D. (2009). Software dependencies, work dependencies, and their impact on failures. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 35, 864-878.

CATALDO, M., WAGSTROM, P. A., HERBSLEB, J. D. & CARLEY, K. M.(2006) Identification of coordination requirements: implications for the Design of collaboration and awareness tools. Proceedings of the 2006 20th anniversary conference on Computer supported cooperative work, ACM, 353-362.

COLFER, L. J. & BALDWIN, C. Y. (2016). The mirroring hypothesis: theory, evidence, and exceptions. Industrial and Corporate Change, 25, 709-738.

CONWAY, M. E. (1968). How do committees invent. Datamation, 14, 28-31.

CRUZES, D. S. & DYBÅ, T. (2011). Research synthesis in software engineering: A tertiary study. Information and Software Technology, 53, 440-455.

DATTA, S. (2018). How does developer interaction relate to software quality? an examination of product development data. Empirical Software Engineering, 23, 1153-1187.

DE SANTANA, A. M., DA SILVA, F. Q., DE MIRANDA, R. C., MASCARO, A. A., GOUVEIA, T. B., MONTEIRO, C. V. & SANTOS, A. L.(2013). Relationships Between Communication Structure and Software Architecture: An Empirical Investigation of the Conway's Law at the Federal University of Pernambuco. Replication in Empirical Software Engineering Research (RESER), 2013 3rd International Workshop on, IEEE, 34-42.

EHRLICH, K., HELANDER, M., VALETTO, G., DAVIES, S. & WILLIAMS, C. (2008). An Analysis of Congruence Gaps and Their Effect on Distributed Software Development.

FABBRI, S., SILVA, C., HERNANDES, E., OCTAVIANO, F., DI THOMMAZO, A. & BELGAMO, A.(2016). Improvements in the StArt tool to better support the systematic review process. Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering, ACM, 21.

GOKPINAR, B., HOPP, W. J. & IRAVANI, S. M. (2010). The impact of misalignment of organizational structure and product architecture on quality in complex product development. Management science, 56, 468-484.

GOLZADEH, M. (2019). Analysing socio-technical congruence in the package dependency network of Cargo. Proceedings of the 2019 27th ACM Joint Meeting on European Software Engineering Conference and Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering. Tallinn, Estonia: ACM.

JIANG, L., CARLEY, K. M. & EBERLEIN, A.(2012). Assessing team performance from a socio-technical congruence perspective. Proceedings of the International Conference on Software and System Process, IEEE Press, 160-169.

KIANI, Z. U. R., SMITE, D. & RIAZ, A.(2013). Measuring Awareness in Cross-Team Collaborations-Distance Matters. Global Software Engineering (ICGSE), 2013 IEEE 8th International Conference on, IEEE, 71-79.

KITCHENHAM, B. (2004). Procedures for performing systematic reviews. Keele, UK, Keele University, 33, 1-26.

KITCHENHAM, B. & CHARTERS, S. (2007). Guidelines for performing Systematic Literature Reviews in Software Engineering.

KUHRMANN, M. & MÜNCH, J.(2016). Distributed software development with one hand tied behind the back: a course unit to experience the role of communication in GSD. Global Software Engineering Workshops (ICGSEW), 2016 IEEE 11th International Conference on, IEEE, 25-30.

KWAN, I. & DAMIAN, D.(2011). Extending socio-technical congruence with awareness relationships. Proceedings of the 4th international workshop on Social software engineering, ACM, 23-30.

KWAN, I., SCHROTER, A. & DAMIAN, D. (2011). Does socio-technical congruence have an effect on software build success? a study of coordination in a software project. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 37, 307-324.

KWAN, I., SCHRÖTER, A. & DAMIAN, D.(2009). A weighted congruence measure. Workshop on SocioTechnical Congruence, 1-4.

MAHESHWARI, M., KUMAR, U. & KUMAR, V. (2012). Alignment between social and technical capability in software development teams: An empirical study. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 18, 7-26.

MARCZAK, S., KWAN, I. & DAMIAN, D.(2009). Investigating collaboration driven by requirements in cross-functional software teams. Requirements: Communication, Understanding and Softskills, 2009 Collaboration and Intercultural Issues on, IEEE, 15-22.

MCLEOD, L. & MACDONELL, S. G. (2011). Factors that affect software systems development project outcomes: A survey of research. ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR), 43, 24.

NGUYEN, T., WOLF, T. & DAMIAN, D.(2008). Global software development and delay: Does distance still matter? Global Software Engineering, 2008. ICGSE 2008. IEEE International Conference on, 2008. IEEE, 45-54.

OMORONYIA, I., FERGUSON, J., ROPER, M. & WOOD, M. (2010). A review of awareness in distributed collaborative software engineering. Software: Practice and Experience, 40, 1107-1133.

PALYART, M., MURPHY, G. C. & MASRANI, V. (2018). A Study of Social Interactions in Open Source Component Use. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 44, 1132-1145.

PORTILLO-RODRÍGUEZ, J., VIZCAÍNO, A., PIATTINI, M. & BEECHAM, S. (2014). Using agents to manage socio-technical congruence in a global software engineering project. Information Sciences, 264, 230-259.

PORTILLO RODRÍGUEZ, J. (2013).An agent architecture to improve coordination and communicatiion in GSE.

SANGWAN, R. S. & ROS, J.(2008).Architecture leadership and management in globally distributed software development. Proceedings of the first international workshop on Leadership and management in software architecture, ACM, 17-22.

SARMA, A., HERBSLEB, J. & VAN DER HOEK, A.(2008). Challenges in measuring, understanding, and achieving social-technical congruence. Proceedings of Socio-Technical Congruence Workshop, In Conjuction With the International Conference on Software Engineering.

SIERRA, J. M., VIZCAÍNO, A., GENERO, M. & PIATTINI, M. (2018). A systematic mapping study about socio-technical congruence. Information and Software Technology, 94, 111-129.

ŠMITE, D. & GALVIŅA, Z. (2012). Socio-technical congruence sabotaged by a hidden onshore outsourcing relationship: lessons learned from an empirical study. International Conference on Product Focused Software Process Improvement, Springer, 190-202.

ŠMITE, D., MOE, N. B., ŠĀBLIS, A. & WOHLIN, C. (2017). Software teams and their knowledge networks in large-scale software development. Information and Software Technology, 86, 71-86.

SOBRI, W., FAUZI, S., NASIR, M., AHMAD, R. & SUALI, A. (2017). A mechanism to assess the relationship between socio-technical congruence and project performance in incremental model. Journal of Fundamental and Applied Sciences, 9, 58-74.

SOSA, M. E., EPPINGER, S. D. & ROWLES, C. M. (2004). The misalignment of product architecture and organizational structure in complex product development. Management science, 50, 1674-1689.

STAPLES, M. & NIAZI, M. (2007). Experiences using systematic review guidelines. J. Syst. Softw., 80, 1425-1437.

SUALI, A., FAUZI, S., NASIR, M. & SOBRI, W. (2017). A brief method to assess the association of socio and technical dependencies on software quality. Journal of Fundamental and Applied Sciences, 9, 101-114.

SYEED, M., HAMMOUDA, I. & BERKO, C.(2013). Exploring Socio-Technical Dependencies in Open Source Software Projects: Towards an Automated Data-driven Approach. Proceedings of International Conference on Making Sense of Converging Media, ACM, 273.

TAHIR, M., KHAN, F., BABAR, M., ARIF, F. & KHAN, F. (2016). Framework for Better Reusability in Component Based Software Engineering. the Journal of Applied Environmental and Biological Sciences (JAEBS), 6, 77-81.

TAMBURRI, D. A. A., PALOMBA, F. & KAZMAN, R. (2019). Exploring Community Smells in Open-Source: An Automated Approach. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 1-1.

VALETTO, G., CHULANI, S. & WILLIAMS, C.(2008). Balancing the value and risk of socio-technical congruence. Workshop on Sociotechnical Congruence.

VALETTO, G., HELANDER, M., EHRLICH, K., CHULANI, S., WEGMAN, M. & WILLIAMS, C. (2007).Using software repositories to investigate socio-technical congruence in development projects. Proceedings of the Fourth International Workshop on Mining Software Repositories, IEEE Computer Society, 25.

VAN ECK, N. J. & WALTMAN, L. (2010). Software survey: VOSviewer, a computer program for bibliometric mapping. Scientometrics, 84, 523-538.

WAGSTROM, P., HERBSLEB, J. D. & CARLEY, K. M.(2010). Communication, team performance, and the individual: bridging technical dependencies. Academy of Management Proceedings, Academy of Management Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510, 1-7.

WANG, X., XIAO, L., YANG, Y., XU, X. & JIANG, Y. (2018). Identifying TraIn: a neglected form of socio-technical incongruence. Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Software Engineering: Companion Proceeedings. Gothenburg, Sweden: ACM.

WYMAN, O. (2003). The congruence model: a roadmap for understanding organizational performance. Oliver Wyman Group. http://www. oliverwyman. com/ow/pdf_files/Congruence_Model_INS. pdf (accessed December 1, 2007).

ZHANG, F., KHOMH, F., ZOU, Y. & HASSAN, A. E. (2012). An Empirical Study of the Effect of File Editing Patterns on Software Quality. 2012 19th Working Conference on Reverse Engineering, 15-18 Oct. 2012 2012. 456-465.

ZHANG, W., CHEUNG, S.-C., CHEN, Z., ZHOU, Y. & LUO, B. (2019). File-level socio-technical congruence and its relationship with bug proneness in OSS projects. Journal of Systems and Software, 156, 21-40.

ZHANG, W., ZHANG, Q., YU, B. & ZHAO, L. (2014). Knowledge map of creativity research based on keywords network and co-word analysis, 1992–2011. Quality & Quantity, 49.