Blurring Boundaries: Toward the Collective Empathic Understanding of Product Requirements

06/07/2020 ∙ by Robert C. Fuller, et al. ∙ 0

Within the agile paradigm, many software product companies create cross-functional product development teams that own their product or a defined set of product features. In contrast to development teams operating within a heavily-disciplined software development process, these product teams often require a deeper and, importantly, a collective understanding of the product domain to serve as a rich context within which to understand the product requirements. Little is known about the factors that support or impede these teams in collectively achieving this deep understanding of the product domain. Using Constructivist Grounded Theory method, we study individuals and teams across seven software companies that create products for a diverse range of markets. The study found that certain organisational and planning process factors play a significant role in whether product development teams have the potential to collectively develop deep domain understanding. These factors also impact individual and development team dynamics. We identify two essential metaphorical dynamics of broadening the lens and blurring boundaries that cross-functional product teams employ in order to fully embrace product ownership, visioning, and planning towards achieving a deep collective domain understanding, creating a richer context in which to understand product requirements. We also conclude that the highly specialised nature of many organisational models and development processes is contraindicated for cross-functional product development teams in achieving this deep collective understanding and we call for a rethinking of conventional organisational and product planning practices for software product development.

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