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Assessment and improvement of software engineering productivity

PhD project title: Assessment and improvement of software engineering productivity

Outline description, includinginterdisciplinary, intersectoral andinternational dimensions 
Software systems and products are an integral part of daily life and society.  Productivity of Software Engineering (SE) practices and software engineers, who develop software systems, is a critical factor in determining success of software companies, and timeliness of product releases. Thus, companies invest major resources to improve the productivity of SE practices.

This PhD project will determine the factors which impact SE productivity and their cause‐effect relationships. The PhD student will develop analytical models (such as System‐Dynamics simulation models) to simulate impact of improvements in different factors.
A related focal point of the project will be the cooperative, social and human aspects of SE, which is often termed as Behavioural Software Engineering. Since software is developed by people for people, productivity of software teams is fundamentally impacted by how well members of SE teams work effectively with each other. SE productivity will be assessed from the lens of economics. Thus, relevant models and theories from the field of economics, e.g., ‘efficiency wage’ and ‘tournament theory’, will be utilised.

The project will also clearly contribute to the objectives of the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD), in which “productivity” is a major theme: e.g., "… to address a number of key barriers to growth by taking measures to improve productivity.  The project proposal has been carefully set up with interdisciplinary, intersectoral and international dimensions:

The supervisory team is an interdisciplinary collaboration between two research disciplines: Software Engineering EEECS (Dr. Garousi), and Economics (Prof. McVicar)
To ensure industrial impact, Dr. Joost Noppen, from British Telecom (BT), is a member of the supervisory team, ensuring intersectoral dimension
The supervisory team members have an active network of international collaborators, e.g., Dr. Garousi collaborates with researchers in Austria, USA, and Turkey, with whom we plans to collaborative, e.g., sharing international data.

Key words/descriptors
Software engineering; productivity; Personnel economics

Supervisor Information

 First Supervisor: Dr. Vahid Garousi
o School: School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EEECS)
o Email:

 Second Supervisor: Professor Duncan McVicar
o School: Queen's Management School
o Email:

 Third Supervisor: Dr. Joost Noppen
o Company: British Telecom (BT), Unit: Technology, Service & Operations
o Email:

Contribution of non HEI partner

Discussions have been made between the two QUB staff and the industrial partner, British Telecom (BT), and there are plans to organize several research visits (placements/internships) for the PhD student in BT during this PhD project, which will enable knowledge exchange, data collection, and technology transfer in both directions. Each such research (field) visit could take up to three weeks.
Furthermore, there are plans to sign a confidentiality agreement between QUB and BT, and also to apply for ethics approval in QUB since some work‐related data of software engineers will be studied in the project.

Subject areas:Software engineering; Economics