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introduction - Volume 5 Number 4

CURRENT ISSUE - Volume 5 Number 4 Jane C. Blake,
Managing Editor

Digital is continually seeking to adopt, improve, or devise processes that will deliver the highest quality products to our customers. In this issue of the Digital Technical Journal, software engineers from several of Digital's organizations present their experiences with modern software process methods, such as Voice of the Customer techniques and the Software Engineering Institute's (SEI) framework, that direct the development focus on the needs of customers.

One of the first hurdles for software process advocates is making a clear case for the value of implementing software product development processes. Steve Knox's paper offers a Software Cost of Quality Model that addresses the cost and schedule concerns of many software managers. The model demonstrates that among the incentives for improving software process is a two-thirds decrease in the cost of quality, as a percentage of development, as process maturity grows.

Digital's software processes are still in the early stages of maturity as defined by the SEI (described in a later paper). Nevertheless, software engineers who are using process techniques are already seeing significant benefits in the form of products that meet customer needs. Paul Huntwork, Doug Muzzey, Chris Pietras, and Dennis Wixon describe the techniques they used to gather customer requirements for the Teamlinks for Macintosh groupware application. Teamlinks designers utilized Contextual Inquiry and artifact walk-throughs, and a Vector Comparative Analysis tool to quantify the data obtained. The authors review the key requirements --- and surprises --- uncovered and the impact these had on design.

Quality Function Deployment is another process for obtaining an accurate, prioritized set of customer requirements, specifically through well-planned, structured meetings. John Hrones, Ben Jedrey, and Driss Zaaf present an enhanced approach to QFDs, i.e., a Distributed QFD for gathering customer requirements from around the globe. They reference a Digital-internal QFD conducted by Corporate Telecommunications Software Engineering.

The motto of the team that built DEC TP WORKcenter was "Use the process, but don't let the process use you." The team was in fact able to successfully adapt several processes --- Contextual Inquiry, QFD, conceptual modeling, and rapid prototyping --- to serve quality and schedule goals. Ernesto Guerrieri and Bruce Taylor analyze the effectiveness of these and other design-phase processes vis-a-vis the WORKcenter project and make recommendations for their general application in future software projects.

Many of the software methods described in this issue originated at the Software Engineering Institute, a federally funded organization which promotes software process infrastructure to achieve productivity and quality. Meg Dumont and Neil Davies provide a brief overview of the five levels of the SEI's Capability Maturity Model and discuss two case studies of their organizations' experiences with the CMM. Included are their evaluations of the challenges presented by the model and future directions for Digital's process-improvement efforts.

In the papers above, engineers stress the importance of learning customer requirements as early as possible in the project. For engineers porting the OpenVMS operating system to the Alpha AXP platform, customer requirements/expectations for this mature and complex system were well known. As Robert Thomson explains, ensuring that these expectations were met for the AXP product and at the same time meeting the aggressive Alpha AXP program schedule would require a new quality-assessment process. Robert describes how subjective data, obtained by means of a questionnaire for developers, can be used to assess the quality of a software release.

The editors thank Tony Hutchings, Technical Director of Digital's Software Engineering Technology Center, for selecting the subjects and writing the Foreword for this issue.

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