Customer communication in distributed agile software development: Dissertation

Mikko Korkala

Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles


Agile software development methods emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s with a promise to deliver high quality software within schedule and budget. One of the key differences between so-called traditional development approaches and agile methods is that agile software development methods put significant emphasis on communication. In agile development, communication is proposed to be conducted in an informal face-to-face manner. This communication extends beyond the development team, involving all project stakeholders including the customers, whose role in agile development is pivotal. Since their emergence, agile methods have been adopted in distributed development environments at sites that can be separated by significant geographic and temporal as well as cultural distances. Communication in distributed environments is already difficult in more traditional development projects, and it is even more challenging in agile development projects that emphasise face-to-face communication. The focus of this thesis is to understand how customer communication can be improved in distributed agile software development. The research problem is approached from the perspectives of customer involvement, actions for communication improvement and distributed context through a series of case studies. The empirical evidence is derived from five different case studies involving both small-scale efforts and large, globally distributed development projects. The findings of this thesis have both theoretical and practical implications. The first implication for research comprises the five wastes of communication; lack of involvement, lack of shared understanding, outdated information, restricted access to information and scattered information. These wastes provide a unique view to communication hindrances that are present in distributed agile software development. The second theoretical implication is that lack of trust between the distributed partners is potentially the single most important obstacle to customer communication. As a practical implication, this study provides a toolbox that can be used in order to improve customer communication in distributed agile software development. In this work, the toolbox is first defined on the basis of existing literature and then further complemented with the findings of the studies. The toolbox presents different communication challenges and the solution proposals for them. Based on this study, two distinct areas emerged from the toolbox. These themes are the customer's involvement in the process and systematic analysis and improvement of customer communication, both of which should be given additional attention in distributed agile efforts.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor Degree
Awarding Institution
  • University of Oulu
  • Saukkonen, Samuli, Supervisor, External person
  • Abrahamsson, Pekka, Supervisor, External person
Award date10 Apr 2015
Place of PublicationEspoo
Print ISBNs978-951-38-8230-3
Electronic ISBNs978-951-38-8231-0
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • agile software development
  • distributed agile software development
  • customer communication
  • communication challenges
  • communication waste
  • waste
  • communication solutions


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