12th International Conference on Software Quality
Software Division of
Dr. Kevin Daily - Invited Speaker
Kevin Daily is a partner in QAI Europe Ltd, a small UK-based consultancy specialising in the development and implementation of software capability assessment and process improvement. He has over 25 years experience in software development and IT, as a software engineer, project manager, consultant, and trainer, in the UK, Europe and North America. He is a practising ISO9001/TickIT Auditor.
Over the last few years QAI Europe has contributed to a number of EC supported initiatives based on the ISO15504 capability assessment standard and its practical application to help improve the capability of software developers. These have included its use by SMEs and its application to the acquisition of IT systems and services.
Europe was contracted by NCC to advise on the definition of best practice
for the TSE initiative and provide much of the detail of the TSE Route
Towards Software Excellence - Capability Self-Assessments for SME Developers
“Towards Software Excellence” is a web-based facility established by the UK’s National Computing Centre (NCC). It is intended to provide small and medium sized (SME) software developers with a simple and easy-to-use means of self-assessing their development processes against best practice. They can then identify the "strengths and weaknesses" of their current practice and initiate process improvements. With financial support from the UK government and promotional support from trade and professional associations, it has been possible to provide this to nearly 1000 UK users since January this year, initially as a free service. The definition of best practice is an interpretation of the ISO15504 standard, which also provides SMEs with a step towards more formal CMM or SPICE-based assessments if they wish go further down this route.
The TSE initiative is also intending to create an overall profile of the strengths and weaknesses of the UK SME software developers who use the facility – and potentially for other groups of users (eg from outside the UK or developing similar products) who might use it. This should help SMEs, whether from UK or outside, to identify the process improvements needed to retain or improve their competitiveness.
The facility is implemented as a web site, based around a “healthcheck” tool that allows users to answer on-line a series of questions about their software development, management and support practices. Navigation to appropriate questions is by means of a “Route Map” by locates the key categories (process areas) and topics (processes) against which SME users can assess themselves. Once registered, users can log on as many times as they wish over a period of time to build up their complete assessment (capability profile) - they don’t have to enter all the information at once. The tool also provides an explanation of the best practice it uses and a “gap analysis” report for the topics (processes) which they have assessed.
It was recognised from the start that to encourage take-up by SMEs, support from government and industry was essential. Funding by the UK Department of Trade and Industry has allowed the site to be developed and made available (initially period free-of-charge), while support and promotion has been provided by a range of UK professional and trade associations. The overall objective is to help UK SME developers, who represent a substantial proportion of the UK software industry, to remain competitive by promoting their understanding of current performance and take-up of best practice.
NCC is now inviting SMEs from outside the UK to make use of the TSE facility. Via the web site, they can informally self-assess their development practice, identify their strengths and weaknesses against a set of ISO15504-based best practices and eventually compare with their results with the UK user profile as it builds up. As use by external groups (eg from North America) builds up, it is hoped that mutual comparison of overall strengths and weaknesses of SME practice will be possible.