Use of Gamification as Implementation Approach for Software
Process Improvement: Trends and Gaps
Adolfo Francesco de Oliveira Colares
, Julio Cezar Costa Furtado
Sandro Ronaldo Bezerra Oliveira
Graduate Program in Computer Sciense, Institute of Exact and Natural Sciences, Federal University of Pará,
Belém, Pará, Brazil
Department of Exact and Technological Sciences, Federal University of Amapá, Macapá, Amapá, Brazil
Keywords: Software Process Improvement, Gamification, Systematic Literature Review.
Abstract: Studies carried out in the context of software process improvement (SPI) report problems and difficulties
that organizations face to implement process models and standards, mainly related to the inability to
overcome some critical factors. Thus, properly conducting SPI can facilitate the development of more
efficient processes to overcome such difficulties, using gamification elements. Therefore, this paper aims to
identify problems in the implementation phase of an SPI effort and use gamification as a tool to mitigate
barriers during SPI implementation in a company that opted for an SPI program such as CMMI (Capability
Maturity Model Integration) and / or MR-MPS-SW (Reference Model for Brazilian Software Process
Improvement) and create the applicability guide using gamification in SPI that can be used by software
organizations. The search string returned 499 (four hundred and ninety-nine) studies, of which 07 (seven)
were selected according to the Systematic Literature Review presented in this paper.
Public and/or private companies that develop
software use methodologies, approaches and / or
strategies for Software Process Improvement (SPI),
otherwise, according to Montoni (2010), the absence
or realization of these approaches without maturity
are the main factors of failure of SPI.
For Montoni (2010), successful implementation
of SPI initiatives essentially depends on strategies
and approaches adopted to support the execution of
such initiatives. Thus, the absence or lack of
adequacy of these approaches is one of the most
common reasons for the failure of improvement
initiatives. In addition, Bayona (2012) states that
other factors are also identified as causing failures in
the conduct of these initiatives, such as
organizational and technical management factors,
lack of communication, motivation and top
management support.
Companies aim to improve their software
development processes to maximize performance
related to cost, schedule, productivity, quality,
customer satisfaction and return on investment
(Goldenson and Gibson, 2003). To achieve this
objective, they seek to implement national and / or
international models, already consolidated, which
define the requirements for the SPI, in addition to
evaluating and certifying the company's level of
maturity to the chosen model (Soares and Oliveira,
Two models used in the SPI initiative can be
highlighted, the Capability Maturity Model
Integration - CMMI (CMMI Institute, 2018) and
Brazilian Software Porcess Improvement - MPS.BR
(SOFTEX, 2021). At the initial levels of these
improvement programs, organizations adopt
measurements that consist of collecting project
execution data and comparing these with the planned
values. While this is a sufficient approach, it is not
Colares, A., Furtado, J. and Oliveira, S.
Use of Gamification as Implementation Approach for Software Process Improvement: Trends and Gaps.
DOI: 10.5220/0011106400003176
In Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Evaluation of Novel Approaches to Software Engineering (ENASE 2022), pages 561-567
ISBN: 978-989-758-568-5; ISSN: 2184-4895
2022 by SCITEPRESS – Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
suitable for organizations seeking high maturity,
evaluating and evolving their processes.
For the development of this work, a Systematic
Literature Review (SLR) was carried out. This
research methodology allows, in a fair way, an
evaluation and interpretation of the available
literature, with the objective of answering one or
several questions in a study area, in a systematic
way and under the control of the researcher
(Kitchenham et al., 2015).
In view of the above, this work presents a
Systematic Literature Review with the objective of
investigating which problems exist in the
implementation phase of an improvement effort
based on models as CMMI and / or MPS.BR and
how the Gamification can help to reduce / remedie
these difficulties.
The next sections of this work are organized as
follows: Section 2 presents some concepts on the
topic of this research, Section 3 details the study
design, Section 4 brings the results, Section 5
presents the discussions, Section 6 addresses some
threats to the validity of this work, Section 7 brings
some related works and Section 8 closes this work
by presenting the conclusions.
This section introduces concepts related to two
topics treated in this paper: SPI and gamification.
Software Process Improvement is defined as a
set of partially ordered steps intended to achieve an
objective within the context of software
development (Feiler and Humphrey, 1993). This
concept allows framing and organizing different
activities related to a software organization.
The SPI consists of a set of coherent policies,
organizational structures, technologies, procedures
and work products, necessary to conceive, develop,
implement and maintain a software product
(Fuggeta, 2000).
Software development is inserted in a very
dynamic context, presenting a very fast pace (Wang
and King, 2000). Therefore, developer companies
define their software processes in order to increase
product quality, strengthen their competitive
position in the market (Komi-Sirvö, 2004) and meet
customer requirements within the specified time and
budget (Greenwood et al., 1996). However, human-
centered processes can exhibit unexpected or
unwanted performance and behaviors, so they need
to be continually evaluated and improved (Fuggeta,
2000; Unterkalmsteiner et al., 2012).
This environment of continuous change and
refinements motivates the creation of quality models
and methods for SPI, a program of activities
designed to improve the performance and maturity
of the organization's processes (CMMI Institute,
2018). According to Hall et al. (2002), software
organizations that implement SPI through the
adoption of standards or models report significant
As a second topic discussed in this paper,
Gamification can be defined as a practice that uses
game elements and mechanics to spread teachings
and even training to the participants of the practice
(Mcgonical, 2011). As the current generation grew
up in the contemporary age of gaming, this closeness
and familiarity has positive aspects in learning.
The purpose of gamification is not to create an
electronic game, but to use the same methods,
techniques and thoughts used in virtual games for
situations that occur in the real world. Thus, there is
the emergence of gamification, which consists of the
use of game elements out of context, with the purpose
of mobilizing subjects to action, assisting in problem
solving and promoting learning (Kapp, 2012).
For Kapp (2012), gamification can motivate
individuals to action, assist in problem solving and
promote learning. In the educational environment, the
main challenge of gamification is to involve students
within the gamified context of learning, so that they
can master the material that is being taught to them.
This section presents the objectives of the work, the
research questions and the method used.
3.1 Goal and Research Question
The present study aims to investigate what problems
exist in the implementation phase of a model-based
improvement effort based on the CMMI and / or
MPS.BR models and how gamification can help to
reduce / remedie these difficulties.
Thus, we propose the following research
questions (RQ):
RQ1: What gamification practices can help in
RQ2: What are the problems and / or difficulties
of a company in the implementation of SPI?
RQ3: What types of approaches have been used
to implement SPI in a company / organization?
ENASE 2022 - 17th International Conference on Evaluation of Novel Approaches to Software Engineering
3.2 Method
To achieve the objective of this study, a Systematic
Literature Review (SLR) was carried out. RSL is a
scientific research methodology that has been
applied in the most diverse areas of knowledge. This
methodology allows, in a fair way, an evaluation and
interpretation of the available literature, with the
objective of answering certain questions about an
area of study. Thus, the evaluation is carried out
systematically, under the control of the researcher
(Kitchenham et al., 2015).
Planning for this SLR includes the following
steps: planning, conducting and presenting
(Kitchenham et al, 2015). Planning takes place
through the definition of objectives, research
sources, evaluation criteria of primary studies,
quality criteria, extraction and analysis of data from
primary studies, analysis of sources, planning of data
analysis and search string.
Three researchers participated in the planning and
execution of the work: a PhD student in graduate
studies in Computer Science and two professors /
researchers with a PhD in Software Engineering.
3.3 Search Strategy
The search occurred in an automated way through a
string formed by a series of keywords and their
respective synonyms. These keywords were defined
based on the research questions, following the
PICOC (Population, Intervention, Comparison,
Outcomes and Context) structure suggested by
Kitchenham and Charters (2007).
However, the objective of this research is to
identify gamification practices to assist in SPI,
applicable in the context of organizations
(companies, institutions, centers and groups) that
work on software projects (Population), in the form
of process models, techniques, methodologies, and
gamification practices (Outcomes).
In this way, the string was formulated with terms
related to (i) population, (ii) intervention, (iii)
comparison, (iv) outcome and (v) context. The terms
used were:
Population: Software organizations and software
improvement projects,
Intervention: Identify gamification practices that
can help in SPI,
Comparison: Approaches to traditional
improvement models,
Result: Process models, improvement
methodology, techniques, methodologies, tools,
standards, methods, techniques, guide and
gamification practices to solve/reduce problems
in an SPI effort,
Context: Software industry.
The search string (as can be seen in Table 1) was
applied to the IEEEExplore and ACM DL databases,
as they meet the aforementioned criteria, have an
expressive base of articles / papers and a high degree
of quality. The studies search method will be
automatic, carried out through web search engines
by keywords.
Table 1: Search String.
(Software organization) AND ((gamification OR
game*) AND (software process improvement OR
SPI OR (improvement AND (planning* OR
implementation* OR evaluation*)))) AND
(Process models OR quality models OR
techniques OR methodolo
ies OR tools)
3.4 Study Selection
In this stage of the work, inclusion (IC) and exclusion
(EC) criteria were applied, in order to select only the
relevant works that answered our research questions.
The IC and EC are presented below.
IC: Studies that present, primarily or secondarily,
gamified practices or gamification applied to
software process improvement,
EC: Studies that are not written in English,
studies not available for download openly or
through the institutional IP of the researchers,
studies such as workshop reports, posters,
presentations, speaker keynotes, books, theses
and dissertations.
Each of the studies underwent a selection process
consisting of four steps: (i) three researchers read the
titles and abstracts of all studies and applied the
exclusion criteria, this step was defined as pre-
selection, (ii) the same researchers discussed
differences in the application of exclusion criteria to
reach a consensus, (iii) the researchers read the title
and abstract, and the full text if necessary, of the
studies selected in the first step to apply the
inclusion criteria, (iv) the researchers discussed
differences in the application of exclusion criteria
to reach a consensus. The process described
resulted in 7 primary studies, available at
3.5 Study Classification and Data
To collect the necessary data that answer the
Use of Gamification as Implementation Approach for Software Process Improvement: Trends and Gaps
research questions defined for this work, a
researcher was responsible for reading the 7 selected
Data analysis aims to classify the studies
according to the proposed research questions.
Therefore, the result of this SLR should map and
classify studies regarding: what are the problems
during the implementation of software process
improvement and how to use gamification to solve
and / or reduce problems and difficulties that
organizations face during the implementation of SPI.
This section presents the results of SLR. Subsection
4.1 presents an overview of the results. Subsections
4.2, 4.3 and 4.4 describe the results for RQ1, RQ2
and RQ3, respectively. In these subsections, the
primary studies will be referenced and identified by
codes and are available at the URL presented in
subsection 3.4.
4.1 Overview
This SLR searched for studies between the years
2011 and 2021. The search resulted in 499 studies,
with 485 found in the ACM Digital Library and 14
in IEEEExplore. However, only 07 primary studies
(after the inclusion and exclusion criteria) were
selected among the 499, and are distributed between
the years 2014 and 2021, as shown in Figure 1. Still
based on Figure 1, we can see that there are few
studies involving gamification with an approach to
SPI, the trend is for a growth in the number of
publications related to the subject of this work, given
that many universities and companies needed to
reduce their research activities due to the pandemic.
Figure 1: Distribution of studies by year.
The study [A1] presents an approach that uses
game theory to facilitate the interaction between
players in an SPI initiative, in a real environment.
The study [A2] presents a teaching tool based on the
principles of gamification to achieve the level of
motivation required in teams involved in SPI. The
study [A3] uses gamification as a systematic strategy
in the teaching and learning of tests through an
experiment with undergraduate students in
Computer Science and the other with students
graduated in Computer Technicians. The study [A4]
identifies models and strategies for evaluating
elements of gamification already reported in the
literature in the context of software engineering. The
study [A5] presents an experiment of a proposal to
teach the software measurement process from
gamification using game and serious game elements.
The study [A6] proposes the use of gamification to
increase the quality of user feedback, and
consequently, improve the quality of the software.
And, finally, the study [A7] makes a comparison of
two work environments, with and without
gamification; the gamified environment shows better
performance and accuracy in its results.
4.2 Gamification Practices to Assist in
This subsection presents results related to RQ1
(“What gamification practices can help in MPS?”).
In the selected studies it was not possible to
identify the gamification elements to solve the
identified problems. Only in Section 7 (Related
Works) can the gamification elements be identified
(Soares and Oliveira, 2021).
4.3 Problems and / or Difficulties of an
Organization in Implementing SPI
This subsection gives an overview of the main
problems and / or difficulties companies face in an
MPS initiative. From the selected studies, it was
possible to identify the problems in the SPI
initiatives, as can be seen in Table 2.
4.4 Types of Approaches Have Been
Used to Implement SPI in an
This subsection presents the approaches used in an
SPI initiative implementation.
From the selected studies, it was possible to
identify that the approaches are conducted using
ENASE 2022 - 17th International Conference on Evaluation of Novel Approaches to Software Engineering
software development process structures and
patterns, such as the CMMI, ISO/IEC (International
Organization for Standardization / International
Electrotechnical Commision), SWEBOK (Software
Engineering Body of Knowledge), and game theory
frameworks that facilitate the interaction between
players in a SPI initiative.
Table 2: The problems in the SPI initiatives.
1. Focus on certification instead of focusing on
2. Lack of
overnment incentive.
3. Reduction in consulting hours as a way to
reduce costs.
4. Lack of knowledge of the importance of
models b
the market.
5. Lack of / few projects to validate an
improvement pro
6. Bureaucrac
in i
rovement pro
7. Continuity of team engagement in the defined
8. Lack of / little knowledge of the models by
9. Different interpretations re
the models.
10. Lack of consistent pro
ect portfolio plannin
11. Lack of consistent planning by the top
ement of the or
12. Lack of flexibilit
of the models.
This section presents our main conclusions and
impressions of the results presented in Section 4.
First, it can be observed that gamification can be
used to solve or minimize problems faced in SPI
initiatives according to selected studies and related
works (in Section 7). The gamification elements
identified can be used when organizations are facing
these issues, not limited to a specific scenario.
However, there is no research according to the
selected studies and related works in which
gamification can be verified in a real scenario of the
SPI initiative, or even compared with a framework
of initiatives such as CMMI, ISO/IEC, SWEBOK
and other approaches.
According to the results listed and described in
this study, it is possible to affirm that there is an
interest on the part of academia and the software
industry in developing research focused on
gamification, especially research that focuses on
approaches to SPI.
This section discusses potential threats to the
validity of this paper and actions taken to address
validity issues. We used the structure proposed by
Wohlin et al. (2000).
6.1 Construction Validity
To minimize the risk that the SLR would not bring
the studies that answered the research questions, a
test was carried out with the search string. Four
studies that proved to meet the research objectives
were manually selected and then it was verified if,
when running the string in the bases, these same
studies would return, which in fact happened.
6.2 Internal Validity
During the extraction process, studies were ranked
based on our judgment. Studies that depend on the
judgment of the authors can carry with them a bias
that needs to be mitigated as much as possible. With
that in mind, throughout the study analysis process,
weekly meetings were held to discuss and reach a
consensus on which studies should really be
6.3 External Validity
It is possible that SLR does not return all relevant
studies on approaches that support to solve SPI
problems. To mitigate this risk, we identified and
relied on studies similar to this one so it wouldn't
start from scratch.
6.4 Validity of Conclusion
To ensure the validity of the conclusion of our study,
we present the results generated directly from the
data and discuss the observations and explicit trends.
This ensures a high degree of traceability between
data and conclusions. In addition, our corpus of
studies is available to other researchers.
Furthermore, the SLR process was carried out with
the support of two PhD professors who have
extensive experience in studies of this genre, with
several publications in software engineering.
Use of Gamification as Implementation Approach for Software Process Improvement: Trends and Gaps
This section presents similar studies that are directly
or indirectly related to the investigation of the
present study.
Herranz et al. (2013) present an approach to
managing change in SPI initiatives, based on the use
of gamification techniques to support SPI processes.
The authors highlight change management as one of
the important areas to be controlled. In this way,
they direct greater care to managers, since their
actions are essential in the improvement of the
software process and their commitments and support
are essential to obtain the benefits of a software
process. However, the authors present a gamified
approach more focused on top management, without
addressing other gaps that are perceived during the
implementation of the improvement.
In the work by Herranz et al. (2014) a
gamification framework oriented to the needs of the
organization and the groups of software
professionals involved in an SPI initiative was
defined. To establish an adequate gamification
framework, the authors emphasized the need to
adapt the motivational factors of each of the
software professional groups. Although the authors
build a gamified structure to help different groups of
professionals, the approach did not specify elements
that should be used as possible solutions to the
problems that professionals would face, since the
structure to be used depends primarily on the initial
study of the people who will be involved. in the
improvement initiative.
To validate the gamification structure presented
earlier, Herranz et al. (2016) used a structure
adapted to the particularities of an organization and
software professionals to encourage motivation. In
this validation, a qualitative research methodology
was employed through interviews that involved a
total of 29 experts in gamification and SPI. The
results of this study confirm the validity of the
presented framework, its relevance in the field of
SPI and its alignment with the standard practices of
gamification implementation in organizations. The
results obtained in the study were relevant to support
the use of the gamification approach in the context
of SPI, however the structure was adapted to the
particularities of an organization and specific
professionals, so it cannot be generalized to other
organizations, since the authors are unaware of their
needs. This perception is in opposition to what was
exposed in the work previously, of creating a
structure adapted according to the scenario of the
The study by Herranz et al. (2018) aimed to
bridge the gap between gamification in SPI and
empirical evidence by presenting the implementation
of the SPI gamification framework in a real
environment. The framework validated in the
authors' previous work was adjusted and
implemented in a small Spanish software
development organization, in a controlled
experiment, focusing on a team competition
(experimental group) to validate its effectiveness.
The implementation results show that the application
of the structure does not increase staff motivation in
SPI tasks, although it contributes to improving their
performance. Therefore, the authors point out that
the results obtained are a consequence of the use of
competitive game mechanics, which may have
caused tension between the participants, and this fact
can reduce motivation and fun.
Soares (2020 and 2021) present a systematic
review of the literature, where problems or
difficulties detected during the implementation of
MPS and gamification elements for the treatment of
these problems are analyzed. The problems were
conducted from two perspectives, analyzes carried
out in the literature and another from the analysis of
results obtained from the application of a survey.
Marougkas et al. (2021) proposes the
improvement of teaching and learning methods
through a framework based on virtual reality,
gamification and adaptive design according to the
student's profile, aiming to make learning procedures
more fun, engaging and effective. The method
proposed in the creation of the framework can serve
as a basis for the design of the applicability guide
using gamification in SPI.
In this way, we can see that although the studies
dealt with in the SLR did not answer all the research
questions; the related works presented in this section
can be used as a basis for collecting this information.
This study described an SLR to identify problems
during the implementation of software process
improvement and how to use gamification to solve
and / or reduce problems and difficulties that
organizations face during the implementation of SPI.
We selected 7 primary studies, from 2011 to 2021.
From the results, it was possible to verify how
scarce the use of approaches and elements involving
gamification for SPI is, despite the studies
describing gamification as a tool in several areas of
software engineering and SPI, in addition to being
ENASE 2022 - 17th International Conference on Evaluation of Novel Approaches to Software Engineering
able to see some limitations that still must be
mitigated, which therefore provides opportunities for
researchers in the area to develop further, using the
experiences presented in related works.
This SLR will serve for the next stage of
research, as an instrument for the elaboration of an
applicability guide using the gamification elements
described by Soares (2021) in software
organizations. In this line, we plan future works to
use gamification as a tool to mitigate barriers during
the implementation of an SPI initiative in a company
that opted for an SPI framework such as CMMI and
/ or MPS.BR, and to develop a guide of applicability
using gamification in SPI so that it can be used by
software organizations.
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Use of Gamification as Implementation Approach for Software Process Improvement: Trends and Gaps