The Social Dynamics of Software Development

A. Heiskanen, M. Newman, J. Simila

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademic


A variety of experiences in software development processes between a public sector organisation and several software vendors over a decade-long period are described and interpreted. Three information systems histories are presented as case examples and their analysis is based on detailed insider observations. A social process model is used to describe the relationships between key actors within the client organisation while a transaction cost framework is used to explain the joint forms of the relationships between the client and the vendors. The resulting model depicts in a concise way how the relationships have evolved and stabilised over time. In this model, major encounters between the actors are those which have at least the potential to change the relationship state between the parties. The relatively stable passages between consecutive encounters are labelled episodes. By perceiving systems development as a series of encounters and episodes, it is possible to identify the critical turning points of development work and to display the dynamics of a software development trajectory. While our findings support the well-known basic software procurement principle, this is only after the trajectories have stabilised. Two of the three trajectories exhibit major changes in software procurement strategies before reaching a steady state. The paper ends with a discussion of the findings and some implications for researchers and practitioners. © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
JournalAccounting, Management and Information Technologies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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