First step climbing the Stairway to Heaven Model - Results from a Case Study in Industry


  • Paulo Sérgio dos Santos Júnior Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Espírito Santo
  • Monalessa Perini Barcellos Federal University of Espírito Santo
  • Rodrigo Fernandes Calhau Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Espírito Santo



Stairway to Heaven, Agile, Systems Theory, GUT Matrix, Ontology


Context: Nowadays, software development organizations have adopted agile practices and data-driven software development aiming at a competitive advantage. Moving from traditional to agile and data-driven software development requires changes in the organization´s culture and structure, which may not be easy. The Stairway to Heaven Model (StH) describes this evolution path in five stages. Objective: We aimed to investigate how Systems Theory tools, GUT Matrix, and reference ontologies can help organizations in the first transition of StH, i.e., moving from traditional to agile development. Method: We performed a participative case study in a Brazilian organization that develops software in partnership with a European organization. We applied Systems Theory tools (systemic maps and archetypes) to understand the organization and identify undesirable behaviors and their causes. Thus, we used GUT Matrices to decide which ones should be addressed first and we defined strategies to change the undesirable behaviors by implementing agile practices. We also used the conceptualization provided by reference ontologies to share a common understanding of agile and help implement the strategies. Results: By understanding the organization, a decision was made to implement a combination of agile and traditional practices. The implemented strategies improved software quality and project time, and cost. Problems due to misunderstanding agile concepts were solved by using reference ontologies, process models, and other diagrams built based on the ontologies conceptualization, allowing the organization to experience agile culture and foresee changes in its business model. Conclusion: Systems Theory tools and GUT Matrix aid organizations to move from traditional to agile development by supporting better understanding the organization, finding leverage points of change, and enabling to define strategies aligned to the organization characteristics and priorities. Reference ontologies can be useful to establish a common understanding about agile, enabling teams to be aware of and, thus, more committed to agile practices and concepts. The use of process models and other diagrams can favor learning the conceptualization provided by the ontologies.


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How to Cite

dos Santos Júnior, P. S., Perini Barcellos, M., & Fernandes Calhau, R. (2022). First step climbing the Stairway to Heaven Model - Results from a Case Study in Industry. Journal of Software Engineering Research and Development, 10, 5:1 – 5:18.



Case Study