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Making Software by Greg Wilson, Andy Oram

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Why Is Coordination a Challenge in GSD?

Large multisite or multiorganization projects have existed for many decades. One of the first problems tackled by organizational researchers starting back in the 1950s was how best to organize work. Researchers such as Galbraith, March, Simon, and Thompson argued that interdependencies among tasks in a project or in an organization should be minimized. In those cases where coordination needs are unavoidable, they showed that if we know a priori (a) all the steps involved in a task and (b) the different interdependencies among tasks in a project, we can use mechanisms such as standard operating procedures to manage the interdependencies and efficiently coordinate work. However, when exceptions to the rules occur or uncertainty surrounds a task, we need more flexible coordination mechanisms, such as direct interaction among project members or meetings.

More recently, Malone and Crowston [1994] suggested additional coordination approaches using traditional software problems such as shared resources or producer/consumer relationships as analogies for ways to manage work dependencies.

In the technical domain, work on modular system designs has suggested very similar ideas. For instance, Parnas was one of the first to argue that systems should be decomposed into units (e.g., modules) and that dependencies among them should be minimized [Parnas 1972]. In this context, dependencies are represented by the interfaces exposed by each unit or module. As ...

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