Archive / INF Seminars / INF_2019_11_07_Armin_Heinzl
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How Pair Programming Influences Team Performance: The Role of backup-behavior, shared mental models, and task novelty


Host: Prof. Marc Langheinrich




USI Lugano Campus, room SI-008, Informatics building

Armin Heinzl
University of Mannheim, Germany
We examine the team-level effects of pair programming by developing a research model that accounts for mediators and moderators of the relationship between pair programming and team performance. We hypothesize that pair programming helps teams establish backup behavior by strengthening the shared mental models among developers. In turn, backup behavior is hypothesized to attenuate the negative effect of task novelty on team performance. To test our hypotheses, we collected data from the software developers, Scrum masters, and product owners of 62 software development teams in a global enterprise software firm. We find broad support for our research model. The current study makes an important contribution by shifting attention to the team-level effects of pair programming, and by explicating mediating and moderating mechanisms, thereby extending prior work that has mostly focused on the individual- and dyadic-level outcomes of pair programming. Our results also add to prior work on backup behavior by studying the interaction effect of backup behavior and task novelty in the software development context, and by proposing pair programming as a context-specific practice that helps establish backup behavior in teams. In terms of implications for practitioners, our results show that pair programming is particularly valuable for teams that lack shared mental models and backup behavior, and for those that face high levels of task novelty.

Prof. Armin Heinzl holds the Chair of General Management and Information Systems at the University of Mannheim’s Business School. Previously, he held the Chair of Business Informatics at the University of Bayreuth between 1996 and 2002. The aim of his research is to develop theories and methods for the design of IT systems and IT infrastructures as well as for software development. His research results based on empirical studies have subsequently influence on software-supported methods and tools. He is the co-founder and acting director of the Institute for Enterprise Systems (InES) at the University of Mannheim, and the academic director of the Digital Academy@Mannheim Business School. He has been a principal investigator and a member of the steering committee in the BMBF research campus M2OLIE, ForDigital, and Cloud Mall. See his Web page at for more information.