Date of Award

Spring 2007

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Chuck Keating

Committee Member

Rafael Landaeta

Committee Member

C. Ariel Pinto


The purpose of this research was to develop and apply a systems-based framework for the analysis of software development project performance. Software development project performance is measured at the project level; that is, cost, schedule, and product quality that affect the overall project. To date, most performance improvement efforts have been focused on individual processes within the overall software development system. Making improvements to sub-elements, processes, or sub-systems without regard for the overall project is a classic misbehavior entered into by practitioners who fail to use a holistic, systemic approach. Attempts to improve sub-system behavior are at odds with The Principle of Sub-optimization. (van Gigch, 1974) The traditional method of predicting software development project performance, in terms of sub-system performance is too restrictive. A new holistic, systemic view based on systems principles offers a more robust way to look at performance.

This research addressed this gap in the systems and software body of knowledge by developing a generalizable and transportable framework for software project performance that is based on systems principles. A rigorous mixed-method research methodology, employing both inductive and case study methods, was used to develop and validate the framework. Two research questions were identified as integral to increasing the understanding of a systems-based framework. (1) How does systems theory apply to the analysis of software development project performance? (2) What results from the application of a systems-based analysis framework for analyzing performance on a software development project?

Using Discoverers' Induction (Whewell, 1858), a systems-based framework for the analysis of software development project performance was constructed, adding to the systems and software body of knowledge and substantiating a comprehensive and unambiguous theoretical construct for software development. Then, the framework was applied to two completed software development projects to support validation.

The structured systemic framework shows significant promise for contribution to software practitioners by indicating future software development project performance. The research also made a contribution in the area of research methodologies by resurrecting William Whewell's Discoverers' Induction (1858) and furthering the use of the case study method in the engineering management and systems engineering domain, areas where their application has been very limited.