Software Process Improvement for Small and Very Small Enterprises

Software Process Improvement for Small and Very Small Enterprises

Mohammad Zarour (King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia), Alain Abran (École de Technologie Supérieure, Canada) and Jean-Marc Desharnais (Bogaziçi University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-141-2.ch009
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Abstract

Software organizations have been struggling for decades to improve the quality of their products by improving their software development processes. Designing an improvement program for a software development process is a demanding and complex task. This task consists of two main processes: the assessment process and the improvement process. A successful improvement process requires first a successful assessment; failing to assess the organization’s software development process could create unsatisfactory results. Although very small enterprises (VSEs) have several interesting characteristics such as flexibility and ease of communications, initiating an assessment and improvement process based on well-known Software Process Improvement (SPI) models such as Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) and ISO 15504 is more challenging in such VSEs. Accordingly, researchers and practitioners have designed a few assessment methods to meet the needs of VSEs organizations to initiate an SPI process. This chapter discusses the assessment and improvement process in VSEs; we first examine VSEs characteristics and problems. Next, we discuss the different assessment methods and standards designed to fit the needs of such organizations and how to compare them. Finally, we present future research work perceived in this context.
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Background

Designing an improvement program for a software development process is a demanding and complex task. This task consists of two main processes: the assessment process and the improvement process. A successful improvement process requires first a successful assessment which identifies the exact weaknesses in the organization’s software development process; failing to assess the organization’s software development process could create unsatisfactory results.

Software processes assessment (SPA) can be used either to determine the capability of another organization, for subcontracting purposes, or to determine and understand the status of the organization’s current processes to initiate an improvement process. Currently, several methods are available to assess the maturity and capability of a software development process based on well-known software process assessment and improvement frameworks such as CMMI and ISO-15504. The success of these assessment methods and improvement frameworks is supported by post-development studies on the validity, reliability and effectiveness of these methods. Unfortunately, many researchers consider that such methods are too large to implement in small and very small organizations. As a result, some researchers have studied process assessment and improvement in small and very small organizations and proposed assessment methods suitable to such organizations’ needs, usually called lightweight SPA methods such as MARES, TOPS and FAME. These methods and others will be discussed in the solutions and suggestions section

There is no standard definition for small organizations size. The size is something relative, i.e. an organization having 100 employees considers another organization having 1000 employee as very large, while the organization having 1000 employee considers the organization having 100 employees as a small one, and perhaps will consider the organizations having 10 employees as “micro-organizations.” So when discussing SPI in small and very small organizations we have, firstly, to define “what small and very small” mean to us.

In the Software Engineering Process Group conference (SEPG’98) on the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and small projects held in 1998, small was defined as: three to four months of effort, among five or less staff (Hadden, 1998). (Orci & Laryd, 2000) have developed a dynamic model of CMM to be applied in small organizations, in which they made different classification for organizations based on size, and introduced new terms such as: eXtra small and eXtra eXtra small, Table 1 summarizes their classification.

Table 1.
Organization sizes based on (Orci & Laryd, 2000)
Variant of “Small”Number of People
XXS (eXtra, eXtra small)1-2
XS (eXtra small)3-16
S (Small)16-50

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