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Software process improvement and related standards/models

"You cannot win in today's marketplace 
using yesterday's processes." 
-- Dr. H. James Harrington 
In the 1990s, software process improvement was primarily promoted under the auspices of achieving the requirements of various standards/models.  Tantara believes standards/models have a role in software process improvement but need not be a prerequisite to business excellence.

Applying standards/models for software process improvement

When you read business success stories, they often advise that you need to begin your business/software process improvement journey by first applying a standard or model. However, when you speak to these successful businesses, a commonality stands out -- they use standards and models not as bibles but as planning tools and as checklists to be considered when determining completeness of their planned efforts.  Using standards and models in this manner is like using a roadmap when you take a journey.

Everyone will agree, a roadmap is a great initial planning tool and a good guide to a new never yet travelled destination (goal).  The roadmap shows you many routes (choices) to your destination and possibly, the type of terrain--divided highway, paved road, gravel road, mountains, dessert, and so forth. The roadmap indicates what is possible and often potential rewards (points of interest). It does not dictate how (the route to take), where to stop (gas stations, tourism centers,...), nor advise on the required resources (the type of vehicle for the terrain), costs (the recommended luxury of your vehicle), schedule (the speed of travel) and expected return-on-investment (which point of interests are worth your efforts/focus). 

Some roadmaps can also help achieve different objectives:
For example,  two travellers may have the same destination (e.g., the goal to attend a family reunion in city XYZ) with different objectives: one traveller may desire the quickest route (hence, will use a roadmap indicating interstate highways) while the other traveller may want to visit friends on the way  (hence, will use a roadmap indicating routes to towns and cities)--note: some roadmaps will accomplish both set of objectives.

Recommended Approach

When applying standards and models, Tantara's advice is simple -- first know your journey's goal and objectives, choose the appropriate roadmaps (see table below), seek roadmap/implementation advice from someone with a proven record (like Tantara), then finalize your plans/budget and proceed to drive the best route to achieve the desired goal and objectives.
Standards and models to consider
for business/software process improvement, are:
Click here for history and relationships of the various standards/models
If your need is...
For the software process,
if your need is...
For all types
of processes...
To begin your software business or quality improvement journey, it is best to first assure yourself and your clients that you are effectively managing your core process (i.e., the software life cycle) and its supporting functions. To do this, consider achieving the ISO 9001 requirements.
Also consider ISO 9000 if your objective is to ensure a consistent understanding of management expectations and/or to improve cross-functional performance.
To interpret the ISO 9000 standards for a software environment, consider using any of the following software quality management system guidelines:
AS 3563 -- Australian interpretation of ISO 9001 for the software industry AS 3563
ISO 9000-3 (International interpretation of ISO 9001 for the software industry) ISO 9000-3
TickIT (United Kingdom interpretation of ISO 9001 for the software industry) TickIT
To define your software process, consider:
ISO 12207: Internationally recognized standard for developing software life cycle processes ISO 12207
ISO 12207 and related Software Life Cycle Standards ISO 12207 /  SLC..
IEEE 1074: Standard for developing software life cycle processes IEEE 1074

To define your software process for small-scale projects, also consider the SPIRE Handbook.

To define your software process for large-scale contractual projects, also consider all the other IEEE Software Engineering Standards.

To begin your software process improvement journey or strengthen your software process capability (say after ISO 9000 registration), consider applying:
Bootstrap model Bootstrap ( V3.0 )
ISO 15504 (SPICE) -- an international model for software process improvement and capability determination ISO 15504 (SPICE)
SEI SW-CMM -- a Capability Maturity Model primarily applied in North America SEI SW-CMM

Alternatively, if your organization develops an integrated system composed of hardware and software, consider applying:
Systems Engineering CMM SE-CMM
SEI's CMM-Integrated SEI SW-CMMI
Trillium model Trillium

To be recognized as an organization of "world class products/services" or as a leader of "best practices", consider implementing a Total Quality Management (TQM) model such as
TQM Award in Canada -- Canada Award for Excellence (CAE) Canada Award for Excellence (CAE)
TQM Award in Europe -- Europe's Business Excellence Award (BEA) Europe's Business Excellence Award (BEA)
TQM Award in United States -- Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) United States' Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA)
Also consider applying a TQM model to strengthen the company's leadership and to improve the strategic alignment of  the business with "external" customer/market needs.
Consider using ISO 9004 as a guideline for quality improvement and quality management.
Contact Tantara for pros and cons of applying one standard/model over another.
This article was written by Tantara Inc., a business consulting
firm specialized in software best practices and the improvement of
process effectiveness and software product/service potential.
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( Revised: July 24, 2001 )