Over the past few years, software companies and software-intensive product development organizations have experienced turbulent changes in their business and operating environments. Furthermore, such current courses as large-scale digital transformations, data/AI technology developments and green transitions are likely to call for strong and sustainable capabilities for even enterprise-level agility.
In the annual (since 2018) Nordic Agile Survey industry-academia collaborative research, we have been investigating the current nature of agility in industry. The survey is again open for responding. What agility means and entails for Your company/organization nowadays—and in the future? Think about that, and reply to the survey here!
Green ICT is not a new concept. However, for many reasons it has recently started attracting increasingly both software researchers, industrial software companies and public sector IT organizations. In particular, since many organizations and industrial sectors have announced their targets to become carbon neutral by 2030 or even sooner, there are clear motives and interests to develop and utilize green ICT. In general, sustainability goals call for green ICT.
So what is actually “green ICT” — and, conversely, what is then perhaps not so “green”? There are many aspects of “green” and, consequently, different definitions emphasizing different features of sustainability. In general, resource consumption (especially energy efficiency) is addressed. In current software systems environments, dependencies on various platforms and infrastructures (networks, data centers) make it complicated to realize the actual net effects. An apparently short piece of source code may actually require a lot more — thus being less “green”.
Nowadays ICT and software are increasingly utilized in most every industrial sector in many different ways. It has even been said that all companies are becoming “software companies”. In many cases, ICT is an enabling technology for “greening”. For example various equipment manufactures can embed software systems into their products to optimize energy consumption. Product development companies can use software tools to analyze the products under development to design-for-green.
Ultimately, a combination of utilizing green ICT for greening could be ideal. In such constellations, the ICT solution itself would not be a “problem” and it would provide solution possibilities to sustainability problems.
For us as software engineering researchers, the aforementioned developments introduce many intriguing research problems and aims:
- How to specify “green” software products and systems?
- How to design and develop them?
- How to measure the products and their development with respect to “green”?
- How to identify ICT opportunities for greening in different (non-ICT) industry sectors and application domains?
As posted earlier, we conducted a survey round in October–November 2020 including question items about the impacts of the pandemic and its potential relations to agility. We have now analyzed those results and published a new research paper in the XP 2021 workshop:
Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic for Software Development in Nordic Companies – Agility Helps to Respond
The key findings showed that although the impacts have mostly been negative, it has not been all so. The pandemic has impacted different companies differently both in negative and positive ways. The majority of the responses indicated that agility has helped to respond to the situation.
We are currently preparing another survey round to be conducted by the end of 2021. In fact, perhaps unevenly, the pandemic is (still) affecting many companies, so a longitudinal study is warranted.
For more information about the Nordic Agile Survey, see here.
Many – if not all – software organizations are currently faced with extraordinary circumstances and highly uncertain business conditions. Hardly any “business-as-usual” exists. Some of the discontinuities may even become “new normal”. In these discontinuous times, it is especially apt to consider, what continuous activities and capabilities relate to modern software creation and production.
Continuous delivery and continuous deployment (CD) are nowadays mainstream practices in modern software engineering. Such practices coupled with efficient infrastructures make it possible to develop and maintain software systems frequently based on the current feedback and usage conditions. Continuous integration (CI) supports that way of working.
Continuous experimentation facilitates software product creation by reducing uncertainties with systematic experiments (c.f., here). Consequently, the more uncertainties the software product is faced with, the more useful such experimental development approaches with continuous learning may be.
Advancing from and building on the aforementioned developmental capabilities continuous innovation integrates continuous learning, improvement and innovation. Continuity of the innovation activities and related business processes are especially important in volatile and fast-moving environments where stable states may not prevail for longer times and disruptions may blur and even reposition industry boundaries.
We have recently investigated continuous innovation in an industrial case study (see https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-33742-1_13). ICT use may improve organization-wide ideation and the subsequent innovation process activities by making key information transparent and ubiquitously accessible for all stakeholders. That enables every employee to continuously engage and contribute to idea generation, development and validation. Ideally, the knowledge and creative potential of the entire organization is utilized at critical times.
We have continued our agile survey research with Nitor started in 2018 (see Agile Now in Finland). Recently we presented further results in two occasions:
Furthermore, we have collected more survey data in 2019 and we are currently working on the analysis to publish more research results.
Agile software development is nowadays perceived to be mainstream practice in industrial companies and software development organizations. However, since the publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001 a lot of progressive evolution and developments have taken place both in industrial practice and academic agile research. One of the significant current drivers is the ongoing digitalization which has affected most industry sectors even radically.
Therefore, we have been interested in investigating the actual current state of agile software development in industrial organizations. Moreover, we want to understand Agile in practice more broadly and deeply considering even enterprise-level agility. We are interested in different industrial sectors beyond ICT since agile methods are possibly increasingly applied also in non-ICT companies when they become more software-intensive.
For those research interests we have been collaborating with Nitor (see here) in conducting an industrial survey in Finland in late 2018. The first results have just been presented at XP 2019 7th International Workshop on Large-Scale Agile Development (LargeScaleAgile).
Energy systems are in global transition. They are becoming “smarter” by incorporating more and more software and digital data. This is in particular the case with electricity power systems which are currently developed to so-called Smart Grids. In essence they are power systems coupled with ICT systems.
The nature of the future electricity Smart Grid system is fundamentally different from the traditional power systems. Traditional bulk power generation is shifting towards distributed energy resources (e.g., wind turbines). Furthermore, the power flows can now be two-way so that even individual citizens can produce and sell electricity based on for example their private solar panels. In Finland, households are now equipped with smart metering devices making it possible to manage such power flows with information flows.
Such developments bring up many new needs of software systems engineering for current and future energy system houses to be able to design, build and operate the increasingly complex systems-of-systems comprising hardware, software and human elements (cyber-physical systems, CPS). Moreover, the systems must run 24/7/365 being parts of critical national infrastructure under regulations.
We have recently addressed this empirical software research field in a presentation in the Futures Conference 2018: ENERGIZING FUTURES – Sustainable Development and Energy in Transition with the title
Future smart energy software houses
For further information, see:
Following the successful completion of the DIMECC N4S program, a publicly available N4S Treasure Chest has been released.
See our story in the narratives section in there.
We have recently completed successfully the DD-SCALE (Distributed dynamic software development work in global value networks – framework, tools and work expertise practices) joint-project with the University of Tampere and Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences as research partners and ABB, Comptel, Napa and Nokia as the industrial partners. The Tekes-funded project period was 9/2014-9/2016 with a closing seminar in February 2017.
Productivity in software-intensive product and service development has been a persistent research challenge for decades. Considering total productivity, it is essential to understand holistically the role of software and their development in organizations. In practice, it is not possible to explain conclusively all the business impacts of software development related decisions. Furthermore, the net customer value provided by software is influenced by many company external, non-controllable factors.
However, key factors affecting the total productivity are knowledge and competencies coupled with the ability of the company to leverage them. The company can influence those with various decisions and activities both positively and – possibly unintentionally – negatively. In terms of total productivity, it is imperative to understand that even single, determined decisions and the roles of certain individuals may have major impacts of the performance of the entire organization (e.g., software architectural solutions). In our DD-SCALE research work we have shed light on such factors and events in our industry partner cases. Resulting research publications are currently in preparation.
Further reading (in Finnish): DD-SCALE -tutkimusprojektin päätösseminaari