Configuring Global Software Teams: A Multi-Company Analysis of Project Productivity, Quality, and Profits

Narayan Ramasubbu, Marcelo Cataldo, Rajesh Krishna Balan, and James D. Herbsleb
Singapore Management University, Singapore; Carnegie Mellon University, USA
Developer Waves

In this paper, we examined the impact of project-level configurational choices of globally distributed software teams on project productivity, quality, and profits. Our analysis used data from 362 projects of four different firms. These projects spanned a wide range of programming languages, application domain, process choices, and development sites spread over 15 countries and 5 continents. Our analysis revealed fundamental tradeoffs in choosing configurational choices that are optimized for productivity, quality, and/or profits. In particular, achieving higher levels of productivity and quality require diametrically opposed configurational choices. In addition, creating imbalances in the expertise and personnel distribution of project teams significantly helps increase profit margins. However, a profitoriented imbalance could also significantly affect productivity and/or quality outcomes. Analyzing these complex tradeoffs, we provide actionable managerial insights that can help software firms and their clients choose configurations that achieve desired project outcomes in globally distributed software development.