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Remote Composition and Documentation of Software Products

Objective

Our company started using components two years ago as a high level design tool. This take-up action aims at using components also externally, as a way to sell, document and upgrade our products.
The objective is to allow customers select and download components from our web site, and assemble them. Documentation will also be organised around components, downloaded and assembled by customers. The project starts with designing the new infrastructure (tools, procedures, techniques) to support the approach. Special emphasis is put on technical documentation of components, version control, change control, defect management. After the infrastructure is set up, its use with customers is experimented. Measures and observation will be used to extract and disseminate lessons learnt with this approach.

Objectives:
Our company develops two CAM software products, made of 22 easily pluggable components. The project aims at extending the component approach to the customers, offering them components to be assembled in fully tailored products.

The technical objectives of this this take-up action are:
- Allow customers to choose components from our web site, and easily assemble them into a tailored product on their site.
- Reorganise user documentation around components. Allow the customer to download and assemble tailored user documentation.
- Upgrade configuration management and defect management tools and procedures accordingly.
We target a 20% reduction in effort to produce a tailored product for a customer, and a 15% reduction in effort and delay to produce the user documentation.

The business objective is to be the first company in the domain to offer fully modular products. Customers will profit from:
- More flexible, customised products: more than 12 tailored products will be available instead than two.
- More lean and usable documentation, as it will be limited and adapted to components they use.
- Reduced effort (-25%) to upgrade products, as they will upgrade only if and when a component they use is upgraded.

Work description:
We want to offer to our customers components that they can easily assemble in tailored products. Instead of two products they will be able to choose among more than a dozen customized products.
The means to do this is a formalized repository of components. Each component is made of source code, user documentation, and technical documentation. The repository is accessed by developers through our intranet and by customers via the Internet.
- WP Study designs the repository and the surrounding infrastructure: procedures and tools to store components, methods and notations for technical documentation, procedures and tools for version control, change control, and defect management; tools to allow customers to assemble components and user documentation on their site.
- WP Set-up implements the infrastructure; tools are installed, procedures are detailed, developers are trained.
- WP Repository-start-up populates the repository. Existing components are upgraded to the newly defined format. Assembly of customized products and user documentation is tested in-house. This implies experimenting the infrastructure, but in-house only.
- WP Experimentation. The whole infrastructure is tried with a few customers, and then extended to all. Tune-up is performed as problems are found.
- WP Measurement. Measures are defined and collected to objectively characterize results. Process measures (effort, defects) are used to check technical goals. Interviews and questionnaires are used to verify the effect on the customers.
- WP Dissemination packages the results in a form readable to a larger audience and publishes them in form of papers and presentations. A project web site is activated and maintained.
- WP Management is dedicated to manage the project and report on it.

Milestones:
- WP Study produces a document describing the infrastructure.
- WP Set up produces a working infrastructure (tools, procedures, training).
- WP Repository-start-up delivers a repository filled with components in the new format. It produces also tailored products to verify the feasibility of the approach.
- WP Experimentation uses the infrastructure internally and externally.
- WP Measurement and dissemination produce reports based on measures about the lessons learnt from the project.

Funding Scheme

ACM - Preparatory, accompanying and support measures

Coordinator

FIDIA S.P.A.
Address
Corso Lombardia 11
10099 San Mauro Torinese
Italy