The application of agile practices for requirements prioritization in distributed and outsourced projects is a relatively recent trend. Hence, not all of its facets are well-understood. This exploratory study sets out to uncover the concepts that practitioners in a large software organization use in the prioritization process and the practices that they deem good. We seek to provide a rich analysis and a deep understanding of three cases in an exploratory study that was carried out in a large and mature company, widely recognized for its excellence and its engagement in outsourced software development. We used in-depth interviews for data collection and grounded theory techniques for data analysis. Our exploration efforts yielded the following findings: (i) Understanding requirements dependencies is of paramount importance for the successful deployment of agile approaches in large outsourced projects. (ii) Next to business value, the most important prioritization criterion in the setting of outsourced large agile projects is risk. (iii) The software organization has developed a new artefact that seems to be a worthwhile contribution to agile software development in the large: ‘delivery stories’, which complement user stories with technical implications, effort estimation and associated risk. The delivery stories play a pivotal role in requirements prioritization. (iv) The vendor's domain knowledge is a key asset for setting up successful client-developer collaboration. (v) The use of agile prioritization practices depends on the type of project outsourcing arrangement. Our findings contribute to the empirical software engineering literature by bringing a rich analysis of cases in agile and distributed contexts, from a vendor's perspective. We also discuss the possible implications of the results for research and in practice. We explicate how agile requirements prioritization (ARP) works in the large. An exploratory study is done in large, distributed and outsourcing projects. The resulting rich analysis explains how risk and business value are balanced. Delivery stories are pillars in agile requirements engineering at the large. The use of agile practices depends on the kind of outsourcing arrangement.
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