University of Limerick
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Finding out what really happened after SPI assistance in Ireland

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posted on 2011-08-10, 11:54 authored by Martha H. Sanders
The environment of software development and maintenance is intangible, invisible and consequently difficult to manage. Specific problems have been documented, and solutions developed to meet these individual problems. Project specific problems, poor quality software and concern that activities were not giving value for money were all addressed separately. Measurement and training were treated as separate activities that could improve all these areas. While each of these activities could be effective, organisations started looking at more general solutions which provided cultural change to the environment for developing and maintaining software. Two examples are: lean programming of several types and open source software. Each of these methodologies is used today, but some organisations have adopted standards and models that can provide certification or some other sort of recognition that gives customers confidence in an understood level of service/product quality. By the mid-nineties, globally recognised standards were being used for software compliance: ISO : 9001 1994 and the Capability Maturity Model. Modern versions are based on the concept of software process improvement (SPI), the notion that if software processes are more controlled, the software products created by them are more likely to be what the customer requires. ISO/IEC 15504 was developed to define how to assess software processes. All of these standards have evolved and changed since the nineties. Efforts at harmonisation have been made, but there are still differences in purpose and content. The original research question was, ‘What actually happened after SPI assistance in Ireland?’ The SPI assistance was provided to 80 companies that took part in training and consulting programmes sponsored by the European Commission; this was the target population. Short-term benefits are discussed in case studies and final reports for each of these programmes. Existing programmes were available for this research but none were designed to cover processes common to all the different standards used in the SPI programmes. Therefore, it was necessary to design the research with one assessment model suitable for these potentially different environments. Ten companies agreed to a full interview and assessment. Data analysis of each company and cross-functional case studies are used to draw specific and more general conclusions. This model is independent of any single standard and can be used by a company looking for a subcontractor or partner, a national body wanting to determine the status of its country’s software companies, or a researcher in a similar situation of looking at mixed environments. This research influenced other activities, such as participating in development of an international standard for small software companies.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Richardson, Ita


peer-reviewed 1 pdf containing 2 volumes. Volume II contains appendices.



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