Coordination challenges in large-scale software development: a case study of planning misalignment in hybrid settings

Saskia Bick, Kai Spohrer, Rashina Hoda, Alexander Scheerer, Armin Heinzl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Achieving effective inter-Team coordination is one of the most pressing challenges in large-scale software development. Hybrid approaches of traditional and agile development promise combining the overview and predictability of long-Term planning on an inter-Team level with the flexibility and adaptability of agile development on a team level. It is currently unclear, however, why such hybrids often fail. Our case study within a large software development unit of 13 teams at a global enterprise software company explores how and why a combination of traditional planning on an inter-Team level and agile development on a team level can result in ineffective coordination. Based on a variety of data, including interviews with scrum masters, product owners, architects and senior management, and using Grounded Theory data analysis procedures, we identify a lack of dependency awareness across development teams as a key explanation of ineffective coordination. Our findings show how a lack of dependency awareness emerges from misaligned planning activities of specification, prioritization, estimation and allocation between agile team and traditional inter-Team levels and ultimately prevents effective coordination. Knowing about these issues, large-scale hybrid projects in similar contexts can try to better align their planning activities across levels to improve dependency awareness and in turn achieve more effective coordination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)932-950
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • agile
  • dependency awareness
  • hybrid
  • information systems development
  • inter-Team coordination
  • Large-scale software development
  • planning alignment

Cite this