Purpose The purpose of the article is to investigate the impact of organizational culture on software process improvement (SPI). Is cultural congruence between an organization and an adopted process model required? How can the level of congruence between an organizational culture and the values and assumptions underlying an adopted process model be assessed? How can cultural incongruence be managed to facilitate success of software process improvement? Design/methodology/approach The competing values framework and its associated assessment instrument are used in a case study to establish an organizational culture profile of a business unit within the case company. The instrument is supplemented with a technique to generate culture profiles of texts such as process models like the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) and the case company’s quality system based on the framework. The different profiles are subsequently compared and analyzed. Findings The culture profile of the CMMI confirms previous research and depicts a result-oriented, formalized, and structured organization. A comparison with the company’s quality system shows congruent culture profiles suggesting that the case company has succeeded in capturing underlying assumptions of the CMMI when updating the quality system as part of their SPI initiative. The analysis also reveals the organizational culture profile of the business unit to be incongruent with the quality system’s profile. This disconfirms previous research claiming that congruence is a prerequisite. Further analysis reveals that actions were taken by managers in the case company to address the cultural challenges and successfully implement new processes. It is, therefore, concluded that cultural incongruence is not an insurmountable barrier to SPI. By comparing cultural profiles, some SPI implementation challenges become evident and that in turn allows for effective SPI management action. Research limitations/implications The research is based on a single case study which is sufficient to disconfirm existing research. Additional research is, however, needed to validate both the proposed text analysis technique as well as the proposed process for assessing and managing cultural challenges confronting SPI projects. Practical implications SPI managers are provided with recommendations for managing the cultural challenges associated with SPI. By following a four-step process, SPI managers establish and compare culture profiles and decide how to address identified problems. To that end the text analysis technique is offered as a web service that allows for analysis of all text-based process models and standards, and of internal process documentation. Originality/value The proposed culture management process, including the text analysis technique, is a cost-efficient approach to analyzing and managing cultural challenges during SPI in a specific company. The process provides understanding and guidance in dealing with the specific challenges faced by software companies during SPI.
Information Technology and People, 2013, Vol 26, Issue 2, p. 146-171