Empirical Software Engineering

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 1144–1168 | Cite as

Challenges and industry practices for managing software variability in small and medium sized enterprises

  • Tuomas Ihme
  • Minna Pikkarainen
  • Susanna Teppola
  • Jukka Kääriäinen
  • Olivier Biot


Software variability is an ability to change (configure, customize, extend) software artefacts (e.g. code, product, domain requirements, models, design, documentation, test cases) for a specific context. Optimized variability management can lead a software company to 1) shorter development lead time, 2) improved customer and improved user satisfaction, 3) reduced complexity of product management (more variability, same $) and 4) reduced costs (same variability, less $). However, it is not easy for software companies, especially small and medium size of enterprises to deal with variability. In this paper we present variability challenges and used practices collected from five SMEs. Our study indicates that increased product complexity can lead growing SMEs to the time-consuming decision-making. Many of the analyzed medium size of companies also expect improved tool support to help them to boost their productivity when managing increasingly complex products and increasing amount of variants In fact, in many of the analysed SMEs, a high level of automation in design, release management and testing are or become a key factor for market success By introducing the challenges and used practices related to variability the paper deepens understanding of this highly relevant but relatively under-researched phenomenon and contributes to the literature on software product line engineering.


Software variability challenges Variability practices 



The research leading to these results has received funding from the ARTEMIS Joint Undertaking under grant agreement n° 295397 and from Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) and IWT.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tuomas Ihme
    • 1
  • Minna Pikkarainen
    • 1
  • Susanna Teppola
    • 1
  • Jukka Kääriäinen
    • 1
  • Olivier Biot
    • 2
  1. 1.VTT Technical Research Centre of FinlandOuluFinland
  2. 2.Sirris, The Collective Centre of the Belgian Technological IndustryBrusselsBelgium

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