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Interview Series with Research Group Leaders - Jürgen Münch
Dear readers, the interview series of TKTL group leaders is making its debut today! The goal of the series is to provide an open forum for research group leaders to present their latest research developments, activities in teaching, project work opportunities, and general comments about our department.
For the opening session, we interviewed the first FiDiPro professor of our department, Prof. Jürgen Münch, who is leading the Software System Engineering group. His research areas include cloud-based software engineering, global software engineering, software measurement, and process and quality engineering.
CS Blog Team: Can you provide an overview of your research and your group?
Prof. Münch: Software system engineering focuses on planning, development, and operation of complex software-intensive systems or services. Hereby, the systematic development, maintenance, and evolution of software is of significant importance. Nowadays, software is typically developed by distributed teams in different countries with technologies and business constraints that are changing at a fast pace. There is a tremendous need to better understand appropriate development practices and how they can be used effectively in real development environments. The underlying paradigm of my research is empirical software engineering, i.e., we typically start with real problems from practice, observe techniques, methods, tools as they are used in real-world environments, and finally carry out systematic exercises to come up with knowledge. This often leads to theories explaining the observations. We aim at better understanding why certain techniques, methods, tools should be applied in a specific environment and what the effects of such technologies are. This kind of knowledge is highly important. Without it, software development would be on the level of medieval medicine, where many drugs appeared to have an effect, but there was no knowledge why. This kind of medicine imposed high risks and it was difficult to improve. One main technical focus at present is cloud-based software engineering. Many new cloud technologies are available but the implications with respect to software engineering are widely unknown.
In my group, there are currently one senior researcher, one post-doc, one PhD student, and five research and teaching assistants. In addition, we also have researchers who are working for other groups and contributing to our projects, and we plan to hire more researchers. Our group is now running the Software Factory which is gaining extensive attention across academia and industry. The University of Helsinki is part of the renowned International Software Engineering Research Network (ISERN) and our group plans to represent the University in this network.
CS Blog Team: What are the projects that your group is carrying out at the moment?
Prof. Münch: Besides the Software Factory, we are participating in the TiViT Cloud Software Program Finland, one of the Finnish flagship programs with over 30 partners from industry and academia. Other projects focus on how to scale high-performance teams in software organizations, and on empirical studies in the area of cloud-based software engineering. My research group is gaining plenty of industrial support such as from F- Secure, Elektrobit, Tieto and Nokia Siemens Networks. In the area of measurement we are collaborating with pioneers and most influential software measurement researchers in the framework of a joint measurement project. This project currently focuses on better understanding the link between business strategies and software-related activities by applying measurement and experimentation principles also on higher levels of an organization.
CS Blog Team: What has your experience been so far with the Software Factory? We heard it was an important factor for you to come to Helsinki.
Prof. Münch: The Software Factory in Helsinki is a unique lab where we are able to carry out several exciting and cross-disciplinary projects. It offers students interested in software engineering a close-to-reality working experience where they can learn how to communicate, how to document their work, how to apply principles of software engineering, and what software companies are really looking for. We have already established a network of several Software Factories in different countries so that we are also able to perform distributed projects and provide an even closer experience of current and future development styles. Industry companies are also highly interested in our Software Factory because it provides a convenient environment for prototyping and helping to identify problems in software development at first sight. From a research angle, the Software Factory is a promising laboratory environment for performing empirical studies. In contrast to other software engineering laboratories, the Software Factory is not only focusing on software engineering experimentation, but also supporting the experimentation of companies on the business level. For instance, a Software Factory project can be used to create a so-called minimum viable product that can be shipped to potential customers and helps startups to learn about the real customer value of their products. This can help to answer questions such as whether consumers recognize the problem that a startup is trying to solve. It is exciting to see that measurement and experimentation also play an increasingly important role in the area of innovation and business development. The Software Factory contributes to both, better understanding of software engineering practices and better understanding the business value of innovative products. Since most of the innovative products are software- based nowadays, I think that the factory is exactly in the right place.
CS Blog Team: What are the courses you are giving now? Are there any upcoming ones in the near future?
Prof. Münch: We are currently organizing the software factory projects and one seminar on cloud-based software engineering. I plan to regularly offer the course “Software measurement and quality modeling” that has already been given last fall. Other courses will be offered in the future, so please follow our announcements closely. Students who are interested in the Software Factory projects are invited to join our “Open Door Day” which we have on a regular basis and where the upcoming projects are presented.
CS Blog Team: What do you expect from a student who wishes to write a thesis or conduct research in your group?
Prof. Münch: We expect basic knowledge of software development in general, for example obtained by taking basic computer science lectures. In addition, analytical thinking is highly valued. Especially for empirical studies, knowledge about statistics might be helpful. Since we are addressing practical problems, hands-on experience is also highly appreciated. Students who are interested in writing their Master thesis in my group can contact me directly. Our website also contains information about open positions.
CS Blog Team: Do you have any comments about the environment here at the department?
Prof. Münch: The overall environment is excellent. My group has obtained plenty of support from the Department to build the new Software Factory. The project that supports my FiDiPro professorship aims at leveraging the Software Factory to the cloud level. We call this the “Cloud Software Factory”, a concept that has already been recognized and adopted by others. We also established collaborations within the department, for instance with Prof. Sasu Tarkoma on cloud computing. The IT support is very helpful and we currently collaborate on building an OpenStack cloud in the factory. The department has a quite unique set of laboratories, especially the NODES lab for product experimentation, the Linkki lab for education and the Software Factory for software engineering and software innovation. This fits the empirical approach I am following very well. Last, but not least, the students often already have practical experience and are very interested in our topics.
CS Blog Team: Thank you for sharing your time with us for the interview.
For more information, please check Prof. Jürgen Münch's homepage and group website
The CS Blog Task Force
Aaron is doing his PhD in the NODES group at the CS department. His research focuses on mobile computing and energy efficient design for multi-interfaced mobile devices.
Giulio is a Professor at the CS department. His area is Human-Computer Interaction. For more information, please find his homepage here
Doris is a researcher at the CS department and HIIT, doing her PhD in the neuroinformatics research group. Her research interests include graphical models, causal discovery, and time series.