The Development of International Standards to Facilitate Process Improvements for Very Small Entities

The Development of International Standards to Facilitate Process Improvements for Very Small Entities

Claude Laporte (École de Technologie Supérieure, Canada) and Edgardo Palza Vargas (École de Technologie Supérieure, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4301-7.ch065
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Industry recognizes that Very Small Entities (VSEs) that develop software are very important to the economy. A Very Small Entity (VSE) is an entity (enterprise, organization, department or project) with up to 25 people..Failure to deliver a quality product on time and within budget threatens the competitiveness of VSEs and impacts their customers. One way to mitigate these risks is to put in place proven software engineering practices. Many international standards and models, like ISO/IEC 12207 or CMMI®1, have been developed to capture proven engineering practices. However, these documents were not designed for VSEs and are often difficult to apply in such settings. This chapter presents a description of the development of process improvement international standards (IS) targeting VSEs developing or maintaining software as a standalone product or software as a component of a system. The documents used by ISO/IEC JTC1/SC72 Working Group 24 (WG24), mandated to develop a set of standards and guides, and the approach that led to the development, balloting of the ISs, and TRs (Technical Reports) for VSEs are also presented. The chapter focuses on the ISO/IEC 29110 Standard3, the development of means to help VSEs improve their processes, and the description of a few pilot projects conducted to implement the processes of ISO/IEC 29110 standard.
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Most software engineering centers, such as the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), dedicate a large portion of their resources to large organizations. Even though there seems to be an awareness of the needs of Very Small Entities (VSEs), a VSE is an entity (enterprise, organization, department or project) with up to 25 people, published software engineering practices are still for the most part difficult to use by organizations with up to 25 people. A few centers around the world are focusing their Software Process Improvement (SPI) activities on small enterprises and VSEs. Some centers and initiatives and their accomplishments in helping VSEs are discussed in (Laporte, Alexandre, & O'Connor, 2008; Laporte, Alexandre, & Renault, 2008; Oktaba et al., 2007; Laporte, April, & Renault, 2005; Habra, Alexandre, Desharnais, Laporte, & Renault, 2008).

Since a standard from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) dedicated to software life cycle processes was already available, i.e. ISO/IEC 12207 (ISO/IEC 12207, 2008), WG24 decided to use the concept of the ISO Standardized Profile (SP) to develop the new standards for VSEs. A profile is defined as “a set of one or more base standards and/or SPs, and, where applicable, the identification of chosen classes, conforming subsets, options and parameters of those base standards, or SPs necessary to accomplish a particular function” (ISO/IEC TR 10000-1, 1998). From a practical point of view, a profile is a matrix that identifies the elements that are taken from existing standards from those that are not to produce a Standardized Profile. The overall approach followed by WG24 to develop this standard for VSEs consisted of six steps:

  • Select, from existing standards, process subsets applicable to VSEs;

  • Develop a roadmap to help VSE grow their capabilities;

  • Tailor the subset to fit VSE needs;

  • Develop International Standard (ISs) and Technical Report (TRs);

  • Produce guides which are easy to understand, affordable, and usable by VSEs;

  • Develop means to accelerate the adoption and implementation of the ISs and TRs.

In the next section, the standards that have been used by WG24 to develop the ISs and TRs for VSEs are described.

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