Forward-Looking Practices to Improve the Soft Skills of Software Engineers


Soft-Skills, Delphi, Software Engineers, Communication, Thinking, Leadership, Software Project Failure, Collaboration

How to Cite

Styron, K. (2023). Forward-Looking Practices to Improve the Soft Skills of Software Engineers. Business Management Research and Applications: A Cross-Disciplinary Journal, 2(1), 1–36. Retrieved from


A four-round modified Delphi project surveyed 25 United States software engineering experts. The study examined software engineering leaders’ perceptions of soft-skills importance after a business problem identified a lack of soft-skills as a contributing factor toward the 68% organizational project failure rate in North American. Software project failures lead to reduced organizational performance. An original soft-skills framework guided the data collection and analysis process, which included communication, social, leadership, and thinking practices. A literature review matrix identified 35 potential soft-skill practices included in the Round 1 instrument. The experts winnowed, ranked, remarked on, and added to the practices over three iterative rounds, using contextual rationales and ratings of desirability and feasibility. Six practices were identified as the best ways to improve software engineers’ (SE) soft skills, including SEs must listen to team members and stakeholders, incorporating the information they hear into the conversation; SEs must speak clearly and concisely; SEs must communicate expectations to team members; SEs must synthesize messages from others and consider their perspectives; SEs must employ sound reasoning to make informed and timely decisions; SEs must understand, articulate, and solve complex problems through analytical thinking. The Round 4 confidence rating resulted in a 100% finding of confidence (45% mostly confident; 55% very confident). Communication, leadership, and thinking skills remained in the final framework; social skills were removed. Leaders should use the findings to guide SE training and coaching to improve their team members’ soft skills.

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