College of Computing and Digital Media Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computer Science

First Advisor

Jane Cleland-Huang

Second Advisor

Adam Steele


Requirements engineering represents a critical phase of the software development lifecycle in which requirements describing the functional and non-functional behaviors of a system are elicited, modeled, analyzed, negotiated, agreed, and specified. In traditional software systems these tasks are typically performed in face-to-face meetings between requirements engineers and the project level stakeholders. However, in today’s global software development environment, it is becoming increasingly commonplace for stakeholders to be dispersed across multiple geographical locations and time zones. Under these circumstances, face-to-face meetings become expensive, and often impossible to facilitate, and as a result the success of the requirements process relies, at least partially, on tools and processes that support distributed communication and collaboration.

To investigate the challenges and effective practices for performing requirements activities in distributed environments, we conducted a series of in-depth interviews with project managers and business analysts who have worked with non-co-located stakeholders. Since many project managers fail to plan and deploy the necessary infrastructures to support quality communication, and in practice requirements are often elicited and managed via email exchanges; we introduced a visual modeling notation to help project managers proactively plan the collaboration infrastructures needed to support requirements-related activities in globally distributed projects. An underlying meta-model defines the elements of the modeling language, including locations, stakeholder roles, communication flows, critical documents, and supporting tools and repositories. The interview findings were further analyzed to identify practices that led to success or created significant challenges for the projects; resulting in a set of patterns for globally distributed requirements engineering.