Communication Channels in Brazilian Software Projects:
An Analysis based on Case Study
Leandro Zocaratto Rezende
, Edmir Parada Vasques Prado
and Alexandre Grotta
1,2 c
IS Post-graduation Program (PPgSI), University of São Paulo (USP), São Paulo, Brazil
IS Graduation Program, Federal Institute of Sao Paulo (IFSP), São Paulo, Brazil
Keywords: Communication Management, Project Success, Software Development.
Abstract: Technology project management is challenging. However, there are few works in the literature related to
communication channels (CC) and project success. Therefore, this research aims to analyze the influence of
communication channels on the short and medium-term success of software development projects in a
Brazilian enterprise. This research is based on a literature review about communication channels and project
success. The research has a qualitative and descriptive approach and used an ex-post-facto strategy. Ten
software development project management professionals were interviewed at a large banking institution in
the first half of 2019. This research confirmed a positive association between CC and software project success
when considering efficiency, impact to the customer, and project staff. Besides, we also identified the two
most relevant CC for the context studied and identified a CC not mentioned in the literature.
There is a perception among specialists that
information technology projects fail regularly. Only
36% of software projects are completed on time and
on-budget (Standish Group, 2015). Even worst, when
considering different points of view from researchers,
practitioners, and academics perspectives (Al-Ahmad
et al., 2009) there is still no single measure of
software project success (Shenhar & Dvir, 2007).
Even when a project is considered well-done, there
are still many reports of challenges and efforts to
overcome them (Al-Ahmad et al., 2009).
Most of the project issues are related to the human
aspects: behavioral, organizational, or managerial
aspects (Hartman & Ashrafi, 2002). Embracing all
these aspects, the communication process is
accountable for many issues, including both its inputs
and outputs (Lu, Liu, & Liu, 2009), including the
communication channels (CC).
Another research gap is that project data relating
to communication is not usually collected and
analysed in parallel with the project execution. These
research approaches gap to capture the project
momentum data, such as CC data. Instead of that
approach, it is suggested to collect and analyze data
when the project is still going on or, if not possible, at
least when the project has just been finished (Shenhar
& Dvir, 2007; Lu, Liu, & Liu, 2009).
Even further, we performed a research and
discovered a gap that related communication and
software project success: there were only 11 papers in
IEEE Xplore and ACM databases relating these two
factors from 2010 to 2019. These researches were not
related to any developing country.
Given these gaps relating communication and the
project success, this research aims to answer the
following research question: What are the
contributions of CC on the success of software
development projects in a Brazilian enterprise?
The research goal is to analyse the influence of
CC on software development projects from both short
and medium terms perspectives. We aim to analyse
this goal through data gathered during project
development regarding three criteria: (1) project
efficiency; (2) impact to customer; and (3) impact to
team members. The research framework was
developed in the second semester of 2019.
Rezende, L., Prado, E. and Grotta, A.
Communication Channels in Brazilian Software Projects: An Analysis based on Case Study.
DOI: 10.5220/0010451303210328
In Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems (ICEIS 2021) - Volume 2, pages 321-328
ISBN: 978-989-758-509-8
2021 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
2.1 Software Project Success
Project success might be defined as the project has
achieved its objectives and its benefits for the
organization (Shenhar & Dvir, 2007). This definition
sets at least three dimensions: cost, time, and scope
dimensions (Dvir, Raz & Shenhar, 2003). These
dimensions are also known as the triple constraint,
given they consider the project planning objectives.
We choose a multidimensional model to
accommodate both project success and user/business
perspectives. This model endorses five dimensions
(Shenhar & Dvir, 2007) as follows:
(1) Project Efficiency: the short-term measure
that addresses if the project was completed as
planned, especially schedule and budget aspects.
(2) Customer Impact: the importance of
customer requirements.
(3) Team Members/Staff Impact: satisfaction,
retention, and personal growth of team members.
(4) Business/Direct Success Impact: the direct
impact the project has on the organization.
(5) Future Impact: the medium-term measure
that addresses the organization's readiness for future
2.2 Project Communication
Communication is an essential element of Project
Management (PM) given it ensures the successful
delivery of the project (Emmitt & Gorse, 2003).
Communication has seven elements as follows:
senders, encoding, the message itself, a transmission
channel, decoding, receivers, and feedback (Zulch,
Moreover, when analyzing the communication
process, it is important to consider their main
characteristics. Table 1 shows the four characteristics
most cited in the literature.
Table 1: Project communication characteristics.
Characteristics Citations
Degree of formality 18
Channels 17
Verbalization 10
Internalization 8
Thirteen other characteristics 25
Total 78
According to Djajalaksana, Zekavat, and Moon
(2017), these four characteristics could be defined as:
(1) Degree of Formality. There are two types of
communication formality: formal communication,
which is structured and officially enforced by the
management; and informal communication, which is
unstructured and made by the team members to
address deficiencies and minimize insecurity of the
formal communication system.
(2) Verbalization. Verbal communication
occurs through written, oral, heard, or spoken
communication; non-verbal communication refers to
paralinguistic communication or carried out through
expressions, emotions, or feelings.
(3) Internalization. Communication can be
internal when it occurs between members of the
project or the organization, or external when directed
to the client, investors, media, or other stakeholders.
An important feature of communication is its CC.
Thus, we describe the CC in more detail below.
2.3 Communication Channels
Project communication can be done through CC.
Each of them has advantages and disadvantages in
their use. According to Gillard and Johansen (2004),
the decision of the appropriate CC to be used –
telephone, videoconference, e-mail, face-to-face
conversation or gestures, a table, a graphic – is of
paramount importance. The CC affects the impacts
the recipient messages. For example, reading a
document can have a different impact than listening
to the same message on a conference call, due to the
inflections of voice and body language observed in a
conference call, but absent in a written document.
Choosing an appropriate CC can save time in
interpreting the message.
Bhalerao and Ingle (2010) studied the CC used
between members of the project team and between
them and the clients, in each phase of the project. The
research result showed that in all phases face-to-face
communication between team members prevails.
However, concerning communication with
customers, both e-mails and face-to-face
communication are used. These authors analyzed the
following CC: face-to-face, video, e-mail,
documents, telephone, and text messages. Chang and
Ehrlich (2007) and Johansen and Gillard (2005)
showed similar results.
Korkala and Maurer (2014) presented the concept
of synchronicity. Synchronicity is defined as the
extent to which a CC allows individuals to achieve a
shared pattern of coordinated work behavior. Thus,
video conferences and face-to-face communication
have a high level of synchronicity; conference calls
and chats have a medium level; while e-mail, voice
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messages, faxes, and documents are low. Hummel
and Rosenkranz (2013) present a table containing 23
CC and their respective synchronicity capabilities.
3.1 Research Variables
The framework is composed of an independent
variable and the dependent variable. Figure 1
represents the research framework graphically and
these variables are detailed.
Figure 1: Research framework.
3.1.1 Independent Variable
The research model has a single independent variable:
communication channels (CC). This variable
represents the types of CC. Several authors classified
the CC in ten types (Chen et al., 2013; Kennedy,
McComb & Vozdolska, 2011; Bhalerao & Ingle,
2010; Korkala & Maurer, 2014; Tuomas et al., 2012):
• (C01) Software tools: development suites,
source codes, versions, and catalogs tools.
• (C02) Official documents: reports, bulletins,
specifications, standardized documents.
• (C03) Electronic mail: e-mail, mailboxes, or
distribution lists.
• (C04) Discussion or face-to-face
conversation: always involving only two people.
• (C05) Group meetings: always involving
more than two people.
• (C06) Telephone/voice messages:
messaging applications, answering machine,
telephone calls.
• (C07) Instant text messages: applications,
corporate programs, communicators.
• (C08) Conferences: audio, video, in person.
• (C09) Presentations: workshops, plenary
sessions, lectures.
• (C10) Collaborative informational
environments: wikis, forums, web pages.
3.1.2 Dependent Variables
The research framework has three dependent variables
based on the success dimensions (Shenhar & Dvir,
2007). These dimensions have negative or positive
impacts. Although there are five dimensions of
success, only the first three refer to short and medium-
term results, which are the scope of this research. The
three dimensions used by this research are:
(1) Project Efficiency (D1): measures the
contribution to achieving time, cost, and scope goals.
(2) Impact on the Customer (D2): it measures
the contribution to meet customer requirements,
satisfaction, and loyalty.
(3) Impact on Team Members (D3): it
measures the contribution to staff satisfaction,
employee retention, and professional growth of team
3.2 Guiding Questions
We defined three guiding questions (Q1 to Q3) based
on the research main question and based on the
literature review (Mark & Wulf, 1999; Aranda et al.,
2010; Zulch, 2014; Djajalaksana, Zekavat & Moon,
Q1: Does CC have a positive impact on project
efficiency (D1)?
Q2: Does CC have a positive impact on customer
satisfaction (D2)?
Q3: Does CC have a positive impact on team
members (D3)?
4.1 Organization Characteristics
The researched company is one of the largest banks
in Brazil with international projection. This Bank has
a well-defined IT area that is scaffolded by a generous
budget. This area has more than two thousand
employees working on several technology projects.
D1- Project
D2 - Impact to
D3 - Impact to
C01 Software tools
C02 Official
C03 E-mail
C04 Presential
or conversation
C05 Group meetings
C06 Telephone
or voice
C07 Instant
C08 Conferences
C09 Presentations
C10 Collaborative
* Q1, Q2, and Q3 are research questions
to project
Communication Channels in Brazilian Software Projects: An Analysis based on Case Study
These projects serve in all areas, in which there are
different sizing and different PM methods. These PM
methods are mainly based on waterfall, agile or
4.2 Participants and Project Criteria
The participants accepted to engage in this research,
which represented a unique and highly valuable
opportunity for a case study based on (Yin, 2015).
Criteria to select participants were: (1)
experience in software development projects within
the financial industry; (2) participation in at least
three different project phases; (3) education level
should include at least bachelor degree; (4)
professional experience of at least five years; (5)
professionals from several backgrounds, such as
software engineers, system developers or project
leaders, is important; and (6) at least ten IT
professionals as participants.
Criteria to select projects for this case study (Yin,
2015) were: (1) projects must have come from
different areas of the organization; (2) projects must
have been completed recently or are still in the final
stages or the post-implementation phase, to have
short/medium term data; (3) projects might have
different sizing and (4) projects must have a clear
methodology – agile, waterfall or
4.3 Data Acquisition
We adopted individual interviews as an instrument
for data collection due to the qualitative nature of the
research (Yin, 2015). The interviews were conducted
with ten professionals who participated in different
projects related to software development.
We adopted the semi-structured interview
(Selltiz, Wrigthman, & Cook, 1987) because it has a
pre-establish script that makes it easier to compare
information among participants. The first interview
used as a pre-test to guide the other interviews.
Interviews were conducted in the second half of 2019.
4.4 Data Processing
Data were processed using two different techniques.
First: content analysis, to categorize and interpret the
data collected in the interviews. According to
Neurendorf (2002), content analysis allows a
qualitative exploration of messages and information.
Second: judge analysis. This technique advocates
a judgment by a group of experienced experts in the
field (Medeiros et al., 2015). The expert group was
composed of participants from an individual
interview. They analysed the relationship between IC
and PS what was done previously one-by-one through
individual interviews. A group agreement means: the
number of specialists who agree with a statement is at
least double of those that do not agree with a
statement (Medeiros et al., 2015).
5.1 Sample: The Participants
Ten people were selected for this research. We
analysed in the interviews the level of success
achieved by the projects and the research questions.
Interviews were named from I01 to I10. The first
interview served as a pre-test. We selected for the first
interview a specialist with more project experience
than the other ones to serve as a pre-test.
The questions and the script of the instrument
were validated by the pre-test, and the instrument was
adjusted to its final version based on these pre-test
results. We conducted individual interviews at a quiet
and private place in after-hours. The interviews were
recorded. We informed all interviewees about the
research goals and collect their consent before
recording the interview. Table 2 summarizes the
interviewees' most relevant characteristics.
Table 2: Participants’ sample summary.
Interview Age Gender Schooling University course Experience (years) Interview (minutes)
I01 29 Male Post-graduated Information Systems 9 82
I02 25 Male Post-graduated Engineering 5 60
I03 26 Female Post-graduated Engineering 5 94
I04 28 Male Bachelor Computer Science 7 76
I05 28 Female Post-graduated Computer Science 6 47
I06 28 Female Bachelor Engineering 5 60
I07 31 Male Post-graduated Engineering 8 54
I08 29 Male Post-graduated Information Systems 9 38
I09 32 Male Post-graduated Engineering 5 51
I10 36 Female Post-graduated Engineering 18 52
Average 29 7,7 61
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Table 3: Projects data sample summary.
ID Projects areas Success Project Team Approach Position
in Participation in
Achieved Status
company* project phases**
M E S 1 2 3 4 5 6
I01 Pay-out system Succeed Finished 175 Agile
I02 Risk analysis Succeed Finished 55 Waterfall
I03 Technology Succeed Running 15 Agile
I04 Technology Partially Finished 10 Hybrid
I05 Risk analysis Failure Finished 5 Agile ● ●
I06 Technology Partially Finished 100 Agile
I07 Customer relationship Succeed Finished 10 Waterfall
I08 Banking agencies Succeed Finished 70 Waterfall ● ●
I09 Risk analysis Succeed Finished 11 Agile
I10 Human resources Succeed Finished 40 Hybrid
* M-manager; E-engineer; S-System analyst
** 1 ideation; 2 requirement definition; 3 software development; 4 test; 5 implantation; 6 post-implantation
5.2 Sample: The Projects
We selected ten projects with software development
activities in their scope, either in part or in full. These
have been started at different points in time between
2016 and 2019. The projects were developed in seven
different areas of the Bank: three in the technology
area, three in the risk analysis area, and the other ones
in four distinct areas.
Nine projects were finished during the field
research, which made it possible to identify short or
medium terms success criteria. The size of the teams
varied but an average was 49 members. The smallest
team had five members and the largest one had 175
members. Moreover, participants participated in at
least three distinct project phases. All projects
achieved full or partial success, except project I05,
which was discarded from the sample due to an issue
with data. Table 3 summarizes the relation between
projects and participants.
5.3 Use of Communication Channels
We present to interviewees the list of communication
channels identified in the literature. The purpose was
for them to rank the most used.
In interview I01, a CC not identified in the
literature was reported. The CC is called an
“interactive environment” by the organization. It is a
CC used in group meetings that have resources for
participant interaction. Examples of this interaction
are the rooms with walls, tables, and windows that
can be used for writing, besides the use of digital
panels. This CC is of recent use in the researched
organization. We did not find citations about it in the
scientific literature; however, it appears in
publications on innovation in organizations (Neves,
2018). This communication channel (C11) was added
to the relationship obtained from the literature.
The CC´s frequency of use was assessed using a
three-point Likert scale: (1) unused channel; (2) little
used channel; and (3) widely used channel. The CC´s
frequency of use reported in the interviews is shown
in table 4. We use the median statistic to separate the
most used from the least used CC. It should be noted
that C03 was used in all projects.
5.4 Motivation for Use of
Communication Channels
One of the objectives of the research was to identify
the motivation for the use of a given CC. We analyzed
the most used CC, based on the responses collected
from the interviewees, which allowed us to classify
the motivations in seven categories:
Project Life Cycle. This category includes
communications related to backlogs; alignment of
activities with project objectives; status and
milestones of the project; definitions of technical
solutions; and problem-solving.
Communication with Stakeholders. Includes
conversations with the customer, users, executives,
and leaders. These communications refer to project
specifications, follow-up bulletins, status reports,
amongst others.
Obligation. Refers to the communication of
mandatory project information. Among them, we
stand out the use of methodologies, organization
internal processes, and project ceremonies.
Information Storage. In software projects, it
is necessary to store information related to the
versioning and cataloging of the software.
Communication Channels in Brazilian Software Projects: An Analysis based on Case Study
Table 4: Communication channels frequency of use.
Project Communication channels
Most used channels Less used channels
C03 C04 C07 C05 C02 C01 C06 C08 C10 C11 C09
E01 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 3 3 3
E02 3 3 2 3 3 3 3 3 1 2 1
E03 3 3 2 2 3 1 1 1 2 1 1
E04 3 3 3 2 2 3 2 1 2 2 1
E05 3 2 3 2 1 3 3 1 1 1 1
E06 3 3 3 3 2 2 1 1 3 3 2
E07 3 3 3 2 3 1 3 3 1 3 2
E08 3 3 3 2 3 2 3 2 1 1 1
E09 3 3 2 3 2 3 2 1 1 1 2
E10 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 3 3 1 2
Frequency 30 29 27 25 25 24 23 18 18 18 16
Physical Distance. Certain CCs are more
effective when there is a physical distance between
Number of Interactions. Some motivations
are related to CC that handles a lot of messages or
contacts well.
Broadcast Communication. In some projects,
communication needs are greater or more complex
among the project team. Some communications needs
are met by group conversations, communication with
leaders, informal communication, and conversations
in a foreign language. In more complex cases,
organizations use war-room communication
(broadcast for critical issues).
Figure 2 shows the association between the CC
most used and the motivation for its use. Electronic
mail (C03), instant text messages (C07), and group
meetings (C05) are the three CC with more use
motivations. On the other hand, project life cycle and
broadcast communication are the two motivations
category more often reported.
C02. Official documents are also mandatory in
internal processes, in addition to being used for status
C03. Electronic mail has more motivations: it is
used to control activity lists and project backlogs, to
send progress reports and reports to clients, to specify
and define user requirements, to formalize strategic
decisions, to register and storage project decisions,
and to other formal communications.
C04. Face-to-face conversations took place to
discuss problems, define technical solutions, in
addition to project members' conversations in a
foreign language.
C05. The group meetings took place because it
was easy for everyone to be in the same physical
location and to discuss problems, define the technical
solution, ensure objectives alignment, and control the
to-do list of activities. Some meetings took place in
the war-room, a place that provides scale
communication for critical issues that involve various
groups of people. They avoid numerous phone calls
and large amounts of text messages.
Motivation Communication channels
C03 C07 C05 C04 C02
Project life
Number of
Frequency 4 4 3 2 2
* F- frequency
Figure 2: Motivation to use communication channels.
C07. Instant text messages were used for
informal group conversations or hierarchical vertical
communication. Moreover, they were used to solve
doubts and quick points of the projects, define
technical issues, and provide communication for
teams in different locations.
C11. The interactive environment was used
predominantly in intrinsic project subjects, such as
technical definitions and problem-solving.
ICEIS 2021 - 23rd International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
5.5 Strengths and Weaknesses of
Communication Channels
This section addresses the factors that have positively
affected the success of projects by each CC. The first
analysis focuses on the strengths of the CCs most
often used in projects. Table 5 shows the channels
characteristics that enabled the project's success.
Table 5: How Communication channels enabled project
CC Enabling the success of the project through
C02 • Dissemination of the work
• Rapid definition of requirements
• Formalization to improve understanding
• Speed and agility
• Project alignment and clarification of doubts
• Generate discussions, clarify requirements,
avoid failures, and send bulk information
• Project alignment and clarification of doubts
• Generate discussions, clarify requirements,
avoid failures and send bulk information
• Communication tool between members of
different physical environments
5.6 Communication Channels and
Project Success
We perform Table 6 according to the project success
dimensions and CC interviews. This table
summarizes the results. CC influences short and
medium terms success in software development
projects under the three dimensions: project
efficiency (D1), impact on the customer (D2) and
impact on team members (D3). This result is in line
with the CC literature (Gillard & Johansen, 2004;
Bhalerao & Ingle, 2010; Hummel & Rosenkranz,
2013; Korkala & Maurer, 2014; Kennedy, McComb
& Vozdolska, 2011).
Table 6: Communication channels positive contribution
over the Project Success.
CC Success Dimension
D1 D2 D3
Frequency 4 4 4
5.7 Research Limitations
This section presents the limitations of the research
and its validity. They are mostly related to the data
analysis technique and the generalization of the
(1) Data analysis technique. The data collected
in the interviews were analysed using the content
analysis technique. The interpretation of this data was
made by the author, which attributes subjectivity to
the results.
(2) Results generalization. All participants
belong to a single company and constitute a small
sample, which does not allow generalization of the
research results to other companies, based on 10
people that worked for software development
The goal of this paper was to analyse the influence of
CC on the software project success from both short
and medium terms perspectives within the context of
one large Brazilian banking. To achieve this goal,
qualitative and descriptive research was carried out
using the content analysis technique. This research
was carried out with 10 experienced professionals.
The answers to the research questions and the
contributions of this paper are presented below.
All the research questions had affirmative
answers. Thus, it was confirmed a positive
association between CC and software project success
when considering efficiency, impact to the customer
and project staff aspects. This result is in line with the
literature which emphasizes the importance of CC in
Furthermore, it was possible to obtain two
complementary results. First, a new CC was reported
in the projects: the interactive environments. This is a
CC related to group meeting environments and
conversations that have digital resources for
interaction between participants. Examples are rooms
with writable walls, glass tables and windows, digital
panels, and visual materials. This channel has very
recent use in Brazilian enterprises, which may be the
reason why we did not find reports about it in the
academic literature.
Second, it was possible to analyse the CC. We
classified the CC in three criteria: frequency of
citation in the literature, motivation for their adoption,
and positive contribution to project success. The two
most relevant CC for software projects within the
analysed context were email (C03) and group
Communication Channels in Brazilian Software Projects: An Analysis based on Case Study
meetings (C05). These two CCs were well classified
by the three criteria: they are amongst the most cited
in the literature, the ones that have the most
motivations for adoption, and the greatest
contribution to the success of software development
The contributions of this research allowed the
identification of the most effective CC for software
development projects in Brazilian companies.
Moreover, we identified a new CC (interactive
environment – C11) that contributes to project
success but has a high cost of implementation. This
can be a limiting factor for application in small to
medium-sized businesses.
Our project intends to analyze, as future work, the
use of digital CC in projects affected by mobility
restrictions of project members.
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