Themes and Difficulties in Distributed Agile Email Activity: A Qualititative Team-Based Study

Steve Counsell, Sunila Modi, Pamela Abbott

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In a previous study by Niinimaki, the main use of emails in a distributed setting was found to be for sending non-urgent, group-wide information. In this paper, we delve deeper into this question and examine interview text from seven industrial development staff in a distributed agile setting to explore the underlying rationale for using email. Exploring communication and co-ordination patterns between teams was the chief motivation for the interviews and study. Results showed that while, in some cases, email was indeed used for team-wide communication (in support of the earlier work) a number of other uses and a set of email 'themes' emerged. We examine these themes and compare them with a set of fourteen communication difficulties associated with GSD listed by Monasor and detailed in a Systematic Literature Review. Preliminary findings from our study suggest further that email reflects a microcosm of many of the listed difficulties, but only for half of the total. The overarching conclusion is that, while email might be perceived as relatively unimportant to GSD activity, it is often symptomatic of larger (and recognized) issues and challenges often underpinned by the personalities involved.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2020


  • Email
  • agile
  • distributed
  • interviews
  • qualitative


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