Most software firms struggle to take advantage of the potential benefits of software process improvement (SPI) as they adopt this technology into the complex and dynamic realities of their day-to-day operation. Such efforts are therefore typically fluctuating between management's attempt to control SPI technology adoption and events that causes the process to drift in unpredictable directions. To further understand how management's attempt to control the process is complemented by drifting, this article investigates the role of improvisation in adoption of SPI technology in a Danish software firm, SmallSoft, over a 10-year period (1996–2005). We found that micro-level and macro-level improvisations interacted, often in uncoordinated ways, to shape SPI technology adoption at SmallSoft. The improvisations enhanced employee creativity, motivation and empowerment, created momentum in the adoption process despite constrained resources, and, most importantly, helped adapt SPI technology to the everyday practices at SmallSoft. However, we also identified un-called for improvisations and outcomes that were uncoordinated with SmallSoft's goals. Based on these findings we discuss how management in small software firms can exploit improvisations to facilitate adoption of complex technologies like SPI.
- Technology Adoption, Software Process Improvement, Improvisation