Projects of the Experimental Software Engineering Group at the University of Maryland

OPT: Organization and Process Together


This project began with the development of a framework, based on the Quality Improvement Paradigm, for systematically analyzing organizational and process issues. This framework was designed and tested in an exploratory case study at the IBM Software Solutions Toronto Laboratory in 1993. Then the project's focus narrowed to the exploration of the specific characteristics of organization and process mentioned above. An empirical study was designed to investigate the relationships between these factors, a pilot study was conducted at IBM in Toronto in 1994 and 1995, and a larger study was conducted at the NASA SEL in early 1996. Both were studies of code inspections, and the amounts of effort expended in various communication activities that are part of the inspection process. Both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis techniques were used, including participant observation, structured interviewing, simple graphical display of data, and statistical tests of significance.

Project Status

Inactive - Studies completed, but a followup study of error data is being contemplated.


The results of both the pilot and larger study point to interesting and non-intuitive relationships between organization and process factors. For example, the participation of inspectors who are unfamiliar with each other tends to increase communication effort, but also tends to uncover more and varied issues pertaining to the code being inspected. Another result shows that a group of inspectors, most of whom are from the same organizational unit but which includes a few outsiders, will take longer to communicate than a group of inspectors all of whom are from the organizational unit, or all of whom are from different units. In short, the studies show that the relationships between organization and process are complex, and require further study of many kinds. The major contributions of these studies are, in fact, a set of methods designed to study this issue, as well as a large set of hypotheses with which to start the investigation.

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Last updated: January 13, 1997 by Carolyn Seaman