Sunday, September 4, 2016

IEEE Software September/October 2016 Issue

Associate Editor: Brittany Johnson (@brittjaydlf)

The September/October issue is dominated by papers on the software development process and the business behind the software that is produced. One important aspect of software development and, more importantly, the ability to sell software (or rather thrive as a software company) is the ability to innovate. Innovation, by definition, is the ability to come up with new ideas that improve the state of the art. Amazon is a prime example of what innovation can do for a company, dubbed Forbes 2015 #8 most innovative company in the world AND #29 among the Fortune 500 in 2015. And I'm willing to bet just about everyone reading this blog post has purchased at least one item from Despite having no physical stores, according to the National Retail Federation, is the 8th top retailer in 2016!

So what's in Amazon's secret sauce? A couple of papers in this issue of IEEE Software may shed some light on how to increase our ability to innovate and turn innovative ideas into action:

  • "How Software Development Group Leaders Influence Team Members' Innovative Behavior" by Fabio Q.B. Silva, Cleviton V.F. Monteiro, Igor Ebrahim dos Santos, and Luiz Fernando Capretz, and
  • "Innovation-Driven Software Development: Leveraging Small Companies' Product-Development Capabilities" by Ricardo Elto-Brun and Miguel-Angel Sicilia

In their article on "How Software Development Group Leaders Influence Team Members' Innovative Behavior", the authors explore the effect of leadership style on the ability for teams to innovate using empirical evidence from existing literature and two industrial case studies. According to their literature review, the most commonly studied leadership styles are transactional, transformational, and charismatic leadership. The authors decide to focus on the former two, stating these two that can affect innovative behavior in various ways. Surprisingly, and not surprisingly, transactional and transformational leadership can be good and bad for innovation. The surprising part, or the part I myself did not know, was that each type of leadership fosters a complimentary type of innovative behavior -- while transformational leadership inspires exploratory innovation (search for new ways to do things and solve problems), transactional leadership inspires exploitative innovation (refine current methods to gain efficiency). I, like I think most people, think of innovation as more of the former. But really it's a combination of both that breeds true success. Take Amazon...I'm sure they spend time thinking of new ways to do things, however, looking at the consistency in their software and business model over the years, I'm willing to bet they do their fair share of exploitative innovation.
What's not surprising is that innovation requires flexibility and truly effective leadership comes from knowing the ideal leadership style based on the context. Do these type of leaders exist? If so, what do they look like and how much more successful are they really than the combo leaders this article speaks on? Chime in if you think your company has dynamic leadership!

The authors of "Innovation-Driven Software Development: Leveraging Small Companies' Product-Development Capabilities" explore innovation in smaller software development teams by developing an innovation activity model. What was interesting about this work, particularly when read after the above article, is that their work focuses less on how to foster new ideas and more so on the process that takes an innovative idea and makes it a reality -- their innovation activity model is composed of activities, outcomes, tasks, and work products. In fact, the authors stressed the fact that an innovation management model shouldn't focus solely on idea generation. To be truly effective, there should be considerations regarding how to diffuse the innovation to real customers and stakeholders. The authors reference the well-known Diffusion of Innovation model, developed by Everett Rogers, which has been used in a variety of contexts to help foster, or explain the lack of, adoption of innovations. As with the previous article, the authors were thorough -- combining literature reviews, interviews, and focus groups to determine objectives that would inform the construction and refinement of their model. A slight disappointment is that small companies eventually, with success, can become larger companies. Is this growth to be expected? Prepared for? Does the model expand with the company or is the model only useful for small companies. Questions that need answers...future work?

Again, another set of interesting reads in the September/October 2016 issue...don't believe me? You don't have to take my word for it...check it out today!

No comments:

Post a Comment