Starting an Improvement Programme


The starting point is to create a detailed plan so that the SPI (Software Process Improvement) Programme can be treated as a separate project. This plan, derived from the organisation's needs and business goals, must detail the relevant background, history and current position. If possible this should also be expressed numerically. A preliminary identification of the improvement scope should be included. This covers identification of:

  • organisational boundaries
  • processes to be improved
  • process improvement steps
  • milestones and review points
  • likely resource needs, budgets and timescales.

It should also identify key personnel, their communication routes, roles and responsibilities.

Document Review/Collation

Prior to the appraisal, all existing process documentation must be identified, collated and reviewed. The review looks for coverage of process against industry best practice and process models. It also includes measurements of the software processes as they were being performed, quality, risk assessment and benchmarking information.

Process Appraisal

The processes are assessed against industry standards SPICE, CMM® or CMMI® to recognised quality standards ISO 9000-4. Capability ratings are allocated for each part of the process. Appraisal results enable the current state of the software processes and usage to be understood and improvement plans to be formulated and prioritised.

CMMI® or CMM® (Capability Maturity Model) Levels 1-5

Developed by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) of Carnegie-Mellon University to provide a means of appraising the performance of software processes, giving clear guidance on where and how to make improvements to achieve the different capability levels.

SPICE (Software Process Improvement and Capability Determination)

Developed by ISO as an International Standard for Software Process Assessment after CMM®. It provides a framework for identifying and implementing process improvements as either a single or continuous cycle.

ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) 9000/1/4

Global standards for establishing the quality of management systems, ISO 9004 is the quality standard for performance improvement.

Scope Study

This is critical to increase the certainty of the project potential size, scope, cost and viability to ensure good financial control throughout its lifecycle. The stages are management goal prioritisation, process assessment and measurement, methods and recommendations, resulting in the Scope Study Report.

GQM (Goal Question Metric)

Carried out through observation, interviews and workshops, this process is iterative, systematic and proven giving rapid identification of the structure for a software improvement programme. It creates a foundation of repeatable procedures for single projects or the entire organisation. The stages are goal identification, measurement planning, measurement performance and validation, concluding with analysis and interpretation of the results.

Producing the Plan

Armed with the information gathered from exisiting documents and process appraisal the plan can be produced stating goals and steps to achieve them. The plan must embody processes to ensure that the steps are carried out appropriately. To do this there are three key drivers, Monitoring, Review and Support which need to be clearly thought through and planned before implementation.

Monitoring Processes and Performance

As all software processes evolve over time, they should be monitored for continuing suitability. Staff will need to be monitored, as they are also an ever changing resource, to ensure competence and understanding of the plan. The measures chosen should be reliable and realistic in terms of acceptable tolerances and adapted to suit each specific part of a process. Responsibilities and processes for monitoring should be defined and understood by all.

Review Processes and Improvements

The results of the monitoring should be regularly reviewed to determine that the improvements are working effectively. Reviews must address the questions: are the measurements, goals and targets still relevant? Have appropriate actions been taken to identify discrepancies and ensure that satisfactory progress is being made?

The results of the review should be fed into the next planning cycle. It is important to consider the number of changes that will be necessary as a result of the review, who they will affect, best time for introduction, how to communicate them and any re-training issues

Support, Education and Training

To create and maintain an environment where process improvement can proliferate, on-going education and training is essential at all levels of the organisation including the assessors.

The training should encompass:

  • quality control and assurance,
  • process improvement concepts, tools, techniques and management,
  • cultural change and supporting skills.

GIFPA Ltd. 2016

Copyright 2016


Applying Software Metrics
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