Software process improvements have not achieved the desired improvements in product quality. This project raises awareness of quality issues in software products, and work in product evaluation leading to improving the quality of products.
The subject matter of the project includes issues relating to software as a corporate asset, software product quality characteristics and their application in practice, existing standards and current work on standardisation relating to software product quality and evaluation of software, approaches to the evaluation of software including focusing on the critical quality characteristics in different categories of software and how they should be addressed, the process improvements recommended to achieve greater product quality, the results of evaluation work in Europe and the types of benefits being achieved, the techniques and tools available and how they are applied in the evaluation of the different quality characteristics of software products.
The target audience is all software development organisations, both IT and non-IT, but especially SMEs who are less informed on international developments on software product quality issues such as standardisation work, and evaluation and certification work. It also includes acquirers of software and key users of software. Some variations in emphasis exists from one country to another in terms of the type of organisation, the industry sector, the nature of the persons, and the type of products addressed.
The key mechanisms for dissemination are a web information service, an e-mail discussion list, workshops in many countries in Europe, a European conference in Dublin on 15-16 September 1997, a quarterly newsletter, and an enquiry response service available through the internet services. For details of the conference, electronic services, regional workshops, newsletter, contact the Centre for Software Engineering (Ireland). Associate partners include Delta (Denmark), Etnoteam (Italy), ICT (Spain), Kema (Netherlands), SMC (France), QualityLab Consortium (Italy).
EXPECTED IMPACT AND EXPERIENCE
The awareness of these issues will increase significantly in Europe. A number of changes in practices in software development will occur bringing about improvements in product quality. Product evaluation will be introduced more widely as part of the software development process. Third party evaluation will increase and certification schemes will emerge. This in time will be reflected in more effective standards for software product quality.
Each of the partners will offer an increasingly effective and comprehensive service to organisations to assist in achieving product quality improvements. Many will carry out evaluation with a view to certification of products.
The level of awareness of software product quality issues is perceived as very low. The quality of many products is unsatisfactory. More widespread use of information systems implies a significant improvement in usability. The software product quality model set out in ISO/IEC 9126 standard and under major improvement is rarely referred to by software developers, testers, and acquirers. Few products certification schemes exist and very few products are certified to an industry or national or international standard.