The Impact of Component Modularity on Design Evolution: Evidence from the Software Industry

by Carliss Baldwin, Alan MacCormack, and John Rusnak

Software designs which are modular in nature are more “evolvable,” in that these designs facilitate making future adaptations.  In essence, modularity creates “option value” which is particularly important when a system must meet uncertain future demands.  In this work, Alan & Carliss (with John Rusnak) break new ground exploring the relationship between modularity and evolution in real systems by analyzing the evolution of a successful commercial software product over its entire lifetime.  They measure modularity and find that it has a strong impact on design evolution.  Specifically, they find that tightly-coupled components are harder to kill, harder to maintain, and harder to harder to adapt & improve.

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