On-line Assessment of the Fit between National and Organisational Culture; A new tool for Predicting Suitable Software Quality Management System

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Nov 12, 2013 (3 years and 8 months ago)


Jaakko (2006)
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(SQM 2006),
April, South
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British Com
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On-line Assessment of the Fit between National
and Organisational Culture; A new tool for
Predicting Suitable Software Quality
Management System

Kerstin V. Siakas
, Jaakko P. Hyvärinen

Alexander Technological Educational Institution of Thessaloniki,
Department of Informatics, P.O. Box 141, GR-57400 Thessaloniki, Greece

University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Dept. of Computer Science and Information Systems
E-mail: japahyva@cc.jyu.fi

Globalising trends in recent years have resulted in more cross-national studies.
Being a global organisation implies having a universal culture. For the past few
decades there has been an important debate about convergence or divergence of
work values. International organisations have tried to understand the diverse
value system of their multinational structure. The objectives of multinational
organisations are to create a universal culture in the whole organisation and to
integrate multi-domestic operations with individuals who hold opposed work
related values. There is evidence that national culture influences management
practices, and multinational organisations need to adapt to the national cultures in
which they operate in order to achieve high business performance. Research has
shown that a fit between national and organisational culture plays an important
role in organisations that promote a climate of satisfied employees.
This paper refers to the critical cultural and organisational factors that need to be
considered when introducing a new or changing an existing Software Quality
Management (SQM) system. This work is based on our findings from research
carried out on software quality assurance issues and Software Process
Improvement (SPI). The research was focused on the significance of the
organisational context, including influences from the national culture in which the
organisation is situated. Findings showed statistically significant evidence that a
fit between the organisational and the national culture lead to higher employee
satisfaction and more trouble free problem solving. On the contrary a dichotomy
generates dissatisfaction, conflict, resistance, dysfunctional organisations and
eventual failure of the quality management function.
The emphasis of this paper is to describe the SQM-CODE model, which was
developed as part of research work, and to present the on-line new SQM-CODE
tool developed recently for self-assessment of the fit between organisational and
national culture. The tool investigates to what degree there is a fit between the
organisational and the national culture and consequently suggests a suitable SQM
system to fit the organisational needs.

1. Introduction
In today’s rapidly changing and highly competitive global environment the contextual
boundaries of IS research and practices have changed to include the wider societal context.
Management experiences difficulties when applying traditional management approaches,
because of the increased complexity of global organisations and their dependency on people
with different underlying norms, values and beliefs. Researchers call for caution in
managing global organisations or global business collaborations, such as off-shore
outsourcing [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. They argue that behavioural traits of diverse work groups can
contribute to dysfunctional organisations. Cultural sensitivity has become a core issue.
In the eSourcing Capability Maturity Model for Service Providers - eSCM-SP [6, 7, 8, 9],
which has many similarities with other capability models, such as Capability Maturity
Model (CMM), Botstrap and Spice (ISO-15504), it is argued that it is important to identify
cultural attributes that impact on service and implementation actions in order to support the
close coordination necessary to meet client requirements. The model states that “multi-
national and organisational differences between the client and the service provider, and
cultural differences within the provider may impact the quality of interactions and the
overall quality of the sourcing relationships” [8]. It is mentioned that important cultural
factors need to be identified and appropriate action to be taken in order to achieve a cultural
fit between the service provider and the client/contractor. However, it is not mentioned
which cultural factors are important, how to identify them or what kind of appropriate action
should be taken.
Nevertheless, for the first time it is explicitly mentioned in a capability model that a cultural
fit between two parts may impact on the quality of interactions. This is an important step in
recognition of the importance of a cultural fit between factors from the external environment
(national culture) and the internal organisational environment (organisation). Other research
has tried to identify such cultural factors including national factors that influence the
effectiveness of Software Process Improvement (SPI) [10, 11, 12].
2. The Fit between National and Organisational Culture
Siakas (2002) found that a fit between national and organisational culture plays an
extremely important role in all kinds of organisations that promote a climate of satisfied
employees and decreased misunderstandings and conflicts due to cross-cultural issues. She
also found and statistically proved that a cultural fit between national and organisational
culture in global organisations is significant for obtaining commitment and avoiding
resistance when introducing change in the organisations such as introducing or changing a
Software Quality Management system. A model, called SQM-CODE, Software Quality
Management– Cultural and Organisational Diversity Evaluation was developed as a result
of her research to assess the organisational and the national culture in order to identify the
cultural fit [11]. The model aims to increase cultural awareness and to provide stimulus for
improvement. It can be used as a tool for assessing the cultural fit between a service
provider and a contractor in an outsourcing business partnership or it can be used in any
global organisation wanting to expand to a new geographical area and/or in virtual
organisations for assessing teams working across organisational boundaries. The aims of
the SQM-CODE model are to help these organisations in developing cultural sensitivity and
to predict a suitable Software Quality Management system in the area of interest.


The SQM-CODE tool is an on-line self-assessment tool which makes a quick assessment. A
full SQM-CODE assessment includes an in-depth analysis aiming to identify critical
cultural factors and to propose appropriate action in order to achieve a cultural fit. The
process is much bigger including quantitative and qualitative research undertaken by an
assessment team. The results and deliverables will allow for the identification of a number
of cultural factors in the assessed organisation that have a bearing on the successful
adoption and implementation of a Software Quality Management system. The outcome of
SQM-CODE will be recommendations to the organisation about what cultural and
organisational factors to take into consideration, especially related to Software Quality
Management issues. For organisations, which do not have a Software Quality Management
system in place, a suitable Software Quality Management system will be recommended.
For all organisations whether they have an existing Software Quality Management system
or not, recommendations and guidelines about possible reorganisation of processes and
responsibilities will be proposed.
This paper describes shortly the SQM-CODE model and the SQM-CODE tool, a self-
assessment tool, which can be used by any organisation that wants a fast response regarding
the basic underlying cultural fit or dichotomy between organisational and national culture
The main objective of the research study that lead to the development of the SQM-CODE
(software quality management: Cultural and Organisational Diversity Evaluation) model
was to add to the knowledge of what factors influence successful Software Quality
Management systems [11, 12]. The research in particular examined those factors, which
form a cultural and organisational perspective. The research question that the study
addressed was to what extent cultural factors influence the successful adoption and
implementation of a Software Quality Management system. The analysis considered factors
from both national and organisational areas. The existence of quality oriented management
procedures (similar to the procedures identified in Capability Models), was investigated
empirically, together with the awareness of quality issues amongst the workforce.
The research method used was a contemporary comparative multimethod also called
triangulation using both quantitative (307 questionnaires) and qualitative investigation (87
interviews) in organisations developing software in Denmark, Finland, Greece and the UK.
Consequently, and by its very nature the investigation utilised the strengths of cross-national
comparative studies.
The SQM-CODE model assesses the cultural fit between national culture and organisational
culture. The SQM-CODE model comprises two sub-models, namely the C.HI.D.DI.
Typology and the Authoritarian-Participative model.
The C.HI.D.DI typology, which is based on Hofstede' s Power Distance and Uncertainty
Avoidance dimensions, classifies organisations into four dimensions namely Clan,
HIerarchical, Democratic and Disciplined. This classification defines the national culture.
Simultaneously a suitable Software Quality Management system is proposed [13].


The Authoritarian-Participative sub-model defines the organisational culture considering
organisational characteristics such as organisational structure, degree of formalisation,
management style, leader’s role, handling of rules and degree of control.
The final two-axed values obtained from both assessments show the cultural fit. The closer
the values are the better the fit. The values can be plotted into the four quadrants of the
C.HI.D.DI typology for graphical representation. The self-assessment of the SQM-CODE
will give a fast response regarding the basic underlying cultural fit or dichotomy between
organisational and national culture.
The findings from a field-study (11, 14) showed statistically significant evidence that if
there is a fit between the organisational and the national culture, then there is a higher
employee satisfaction and problems are solved more smoothly. A dichotomy is highly likely
to generate dissatisfaction, conflict and ultimate failure.
3. The SQM-CODE On-Line Tool

The SQM-CODE On-Line tool was developed as a collaborative research project between
the department of Informatics at the Alexander Technological Educational Institution,
Greece and Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, University of
Jyväskylä, Finland.

3.1 Tool overview

SQM-CODE On-Line tool is a Java based web application that runs on top of an application
server. Organisations can measure their current organisational culture by using the tool. A
default questionnaire (including questions and key rations) of the tool is implemented to
follow SQM-CODE model.

3.2 How the tool works

The tool has two operational modes: one for administration purposes and one for
responding to questionnaires. Administrator must define Questionnaire.dir system property
under application server’s system properties. The Questionnaire.dir property declares a used
working path for the questionnaire. After defining the working path, the administrator
initialises the questionnaire in administrator mode. In the initialisation phase the
administrator copies a default questions file (Questionnaire.xml) and a default XML
schema file (Questionnaire.xsd) to the working directory. In addition he/she defines
organisations units (in administration page of the tool) that are allowed to respond to the
questionnaire. The tool generates an identifier for each organisation unit. This identifier is
needed for logging in to the questionnaire as an organisation and for mapping certain users’
answers to the organisation. This means that several employees in the organisation can
reply to the questionnaire and the data can be analysed with regard to the organisation. In
the administrator page it is also possible to browse answers by each user and the results
(key rations) of the each organisation unit. A raw questions data can also be exported in
Comma Separated Value (CSV) format.

Answering to the questionnaire is straight forward. The user connects to the server using a
web browser and in a front page of the tool he / she is advised to fill in his / her meta data


(including demographic data and the organisation identifier provided by the administrator)
or login (as an organisation or administrator). After filling in the meta data the user is
forwarded to the cultural part of the questionnaire. In this part each question is showed one
by one. After the last question the user is forwarded to the front page of the tool.

In case of the default questionnaire is not used, the administrator can define a set of new
questions in XML format and save the set over the existing Questionnaire.xml file. This is
an important quality characteristic of the application as it allows for online improvement of
the questionnaire. The Questionnaire.xml file must follow the default XML schema format
(Figure 1) or some of its extensions, because of a used schema validation. It is possible to
define open, multiple choice and scale based questions by using the default schema. If there
are requirements for key rations, a meta information should be included for the each
question in the Questionnaire.xml file.

Figure 1: Questionnaire.xsd

The structure of the XML schema above is presented using Altova XML-spy’s [15]
notation. A questions root element of a document must contain one to infinite amount of
question elements. Every question has a type element that indicates certain type of question.
Optional elements of schema are market as dotted. The schema extensions (e.g. a picture
question) can be done with the optional elements.

3.3 Technology and tools in a nutshell

We chose to use Java as programming language for our tool / application implementation
because of its popularity and open source tool / technology support. Our on-line assessment
tool is Java2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) application that is implemented using open source
Java tools and technologies provided by JBoss [16]. The application runs on the top of
JBoss 4.0.3 application server [17] and it is developed using JBoss SEAM [18], which is an
beta application framework for Java EE 5. SEAM unifies the component models of Java
Server Faces (JSF) and Enterprise JavaBeans 3.0 (EJB 3.0) [19]. JSF is a User Interface
(UI) framework for Java web applications [20] and the EJB 3.0 is an extension for the


enterprise JavaBeans that brings simplifications and new functionality to the earlier EJB
Application Programming Interfaces (API) [21].

JBoss application server uses MySQL 5.0.15 relational database [22] as a data source for
our application. The data model of the application (Figure 2) is build using EJB 3.0 entity
beans which are persistent and plain old java objects (POJO). JBoss 4.0.3 provides
Hibernate 3 [23] persistence engine for use in applications and actually EJB 3.0 persistency
is implemented in JBoss by using it. The application’s source code is written with Eclipse
3.1 Integrated Developing Environment (IDE) [24] using JBossIDE plug-in [25]. Unit tests
are written and done using JUnit [26] unit testing framework. Packaging and deploying the
application is done using Apache Ant [27] build tool.

‐phoneNumber : String
‐url : String
‐email : String
‐fax : String
‐answer : string

‐choices : List
‐name : String
‐parent : Organisation
‐firstname : String
‐lastname : String
‐age : int
‐gender : EnumGender
‐workExperience : int
‐education : EnumEducation
‐password : String
‐username : String
‐street : String
‐city : String
‐country : String
‐postalCode : String
‐text : Strin
‐captions : 
List <String>
‐info : String
‐count : int
‐startValue : int
‐interval : int
‐count : int
‐numeric : bool
‐unitKey : int
‐value : String
0..* 1..*
1..* 0..*
1 0..*
1..* 0..*

Figure 2 Application’s EJB 3.0 Entity Beans

Methods and irrelevant attributes are not presented above. Every class in the picture is EJB
3.0 entity bean.

4.4 The developer point of view

Our implementation is about 4500 lines of Java classes and about 500 lines of XML based
user interfaces. One requirement for application was to be flexible. To achieve this
requirement the question engine was implemented so that it is not indented only for
generating questions for SQM-CODE assessments. The engine can be easily configured
with XML files to generate all kinds of questionaries with different semantics and key
rations. Even the addition of a new question type is quite straightforward. The new
Question types must be derived from abstract Question class and derived class types must
be added to a QuestionTypes.properties file which is used for mapping the schema Type
element string to the entity bean class. Initialization of the questions follows Abstract


Factory design pattern [28] and the tool does not know the actual classes of the derived

From the developer’s point of view, EJB 3.0 reaches its aims clearly by simplifying the
development, facilitating test driven development, and focusing on writing POJOs rather
than on complex EJB APIs. The most difficult thing that we met was a little bit buggy code
and lack of full documentation. Certainly this is almost always the case when evaluating or
testing beta implementations. Whereas the amount of writing code is reduced using these
technologies, time has to be spent with understanding the whole set of documentation,
examples and frameworks. J2EE or Java EE 5 is a wide topic to cover. Only EJB 3.0 core
documentation [21] is more than 550 pages. However, we believe that enterprise Java is
going for the moment in a right direction with EJB 3.0.

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