Software quality engineering, in particular software quality modeling, is a relatively new field for research and application. In this book we discuss four types of software quality models: reliability and projection models, quality management models, complexity metrics and models, and customer-oriented metrics, measurements, and models. A list of the models follows .
There is a tremendous amount of literature on customer satisfaction. The scope of customer satisfaction research and analysis goes beyond the discipline of software engineering. Therefore, in the following discussions, we confine our attention to the first three types of model.
Of the first three types of model, reliability and projection models are more advanced than the other two. Quality management models are perhaps still in their early maturity phase. It is safe to say that in spite of a good deal of progress in the past decade , none of the three types of models has reached the mature stage. The need for improvement will surely intensify in the future as software plays an increasingly critical role in modern society and quality has been brought to the center of the development process. Software projects need to be developed in a much more effective way with much better quality.
Note that the three types of model are developed and studied by different groups of professionals. Software reliability models are developed by reliability experts who were trained in mathematics, statistics, and operations research; complexity models and metrics are studied by computer scientists. The different origins explain why the former tends to take a black-box approach (monitoring and describing the behavior of the software from an external viewpoint) and the latter tends to take a white-box approach (looking into the internal relationships revolving around the central issue of complexity). Quality management models emerged from the practical needs of managing software development projects and draw on principles and knowledge in the field of quality engineering (traditionally being practiced in manufacturing and production operations). For software quality engineering to become mature, an interdisciplinary effort to combine and merge the various approaches is needed. A systematic body of knowledge in software quality engineering should encompass seamless links among the internal structure of design and implementation, the external behavior of the software system, and the logistics and management of the development project.
From the standpoint of the software industry, perhaps the most urgent challenge is to bridge the gap between state of the art and state of practice. On the one hand, better training in software engineering in general, and metrics and models in particular, needs to be incorporated into the curriculum for computer science and software engineering. Some universities and colleges are taking the lead in this regard; however, much more needs to be done and at a faster pace. Developers need not become experts in measurement theory, failure analysis, or other statistical techniques. However, they need to understand the quality principles, the impact of various development practices on the software's quality and reliability, and the findings accumulated over the years in terms of effective software engineering. Now that software is playing a more and more significant role in all institutions of our society, such training is very important. Indeed, the impact of poor software quality has been the subject of news headlines.
On the other hand, this gap poses a challenge for academicians and researchers in metrics and modeling. Many models, especially the reliability models, are expressed in sophisticated mathematical notations and formulas that are difficult to understand. To facilitate practices by the software industry, models, concepts, and algorithms for implementation need to be communicated to the software community (managers, software engineers , designers, testers, quality professionals) in their language. The model assumptions need to be clarified; the robustness of the model needs to be investigated and presented when some assumptions are not met; and much more applied research using industry data needs to be done.
With regard to the state of the art in reliability models, it appears that the fault count models give more satisfactory results than the time between failures models. In addition, the fault count models are usually used for commercial projects where the estimation precision required is not as stringent. In contrast, for safety-critical systems, precise and accurate predictions of the time of the next software failure is necessary. Thus, the time between failures software reliability models are largely unsuccessful . Furthermore, the validity of reliability models depends on the size of the software. The models are suitable for large-size software; small- size software may make some models nonsensical . For small projects, sometimes it is better to use simple methods such as the test effectiveness example (simple ratio method) discussed in the previous section, or a simple regression model.
A common feature of the existing software reliability models is the probability assumption. Researchers have challenged this assumption in software reliability (Cai et al., 1991). For the probability assumption to hold, three conditions must be satisfied: (1) The event is defined precisely, (2) a large number of samples is available, and (3) sample data must be repetitive in the probability sense. Cai and associates (1991) observed that software reliability behavior is fuzzy in nature and cannot be precisely defined: Reliability is workload dependent; test case execution and applications of various testing strategies are time variant; software complexity is defined in a number of ways; human intervention in the testing/debugging process is extremely complex; failure data are sometimes hard to specify; and so forth.
Furthermore, software is unique; a software debugging process is never replicated. Therefore, Cai and associates contend that the probability assumption is not met and that is why software reliability models are largely unsuccessful. They strongly advise that fuzzy software reliability models, based on fuzzy set methodologies, be developed and used. Hopefully, this line of reasoning will shed light on the research of software reliability models.
Another technology that could be valuable in quality modeling and projection is the reemerging neural network computing technology. Based loosely on biological neural networks, a neural network computer system consists of many simple processors and many adaptive connections between the processors. Through inputs and outputs, the network learns mapping of inputs to outputs by performing mathematical functions and adjusting weight values. Once trained, the network can produce good outputs given new inputs. Different from expert systems, which are expertise based (i.e., from a set of inference rules), neural networks are data based. Neural network systems can be thought of as pattern recognition machines, which are especially useful where fuzzy logic is important. In the past decade, applications of neural networks have begun in areas such as diagnosis, forecasting, inventory control, risk analysis, process control, scheduling, and so forth. Several neural network program products are also available in the commercial market.
For software quality and reliability, neural networks could be used to link various in-process indicators to the field performance of the final product. As such, neural networks can be regarded as machines for automatic empirical modeling. However, as mentioned, to use this approach, large samples with good quality data must be available. Therefore, it seems that until measurements become engrained in practice, the software industry may not be able to take good advantage of this technology. When neural network systems are in use, quality engineers or process experts must also retain intellectual control of the models produced by the networks, discern spurious relationships from the genuine ones, interpret the results, and, based on the results, plan for improvements.
In the meantime, for a software development organization to choose its models, the criteria for model evaluation discussed in Chapters 7 through 12 can serve as guidelines. Moreover, experience indicates that it is of utmost importance to establish the empirical validity of the models based on historical data relative to the organization and its development process. Once the empirical validity of the models is established, the chance for satisfactory results is significantly enhanced. At times, calibration of the model or the projection may be needed. Furthermore, it is good practice to use more than one model. For reliability assessment, cross-model reliability can be examined. In fact, research in reliability growth models indicates that combining the results of individual models may give more accurate predictions (Lyu and Nikora, 1992). For quality management, the multiple-model approach can increase the likelihood of achieving the criteria of timeliness of indication, scope of coverage, and capability.
Empirical validity may become the common ground to bridge the different modeling approaches and a promising path for the advancement of software quality engineering modeling. Empirical validity refers to situations in which the predictive validity and the capability ( usefulness ) of the model is supported by empirical data of the organization, or the models are based on theoretical underpinnings and empirical relationships derived from the organization's history. Good models ought to have theoretical backings and at the same time should be relevant to actual experience. Many of the quality management models we discussed are substantiated by empirical validity, and some of them were developed based on our experience with commercial projects. For complexity and design metrics, the relationships are based on empirical statistical models (e.g., multiple regressions). There is also a recognition that the direction of complexity metrics research (including the object-oriented metrics) is to conduct more empirical validation studies, and to correlate these metrics to the managerial variables (e.g., quality improvement, productivity, project management).
In software reliability modeling, it is long recognized that some models sometimes give good results, some are almost universally awful , and none can be trusted to be accurate at all times. I contend that the reason behind this phenomenon is empirical validity, or the lack of it. Note that empirical validity may vary across organizations, processes, and types of software. It is therefore important for an organization to pick and choose the right models to use. Recent software reliability research on the Bayesian approach (Fenton and Neil, 1999; Neil et al., 2000) and on improving reliability prediction by incorporating information from a similar project (Xie et al., 1999; Xie and Hong, 1998) indicates that empirical validity is receiving attention among software reliability researchers.
Finally, in our discussions of the quality management models, there is the Rayleigh model, or a discrete phase-based model as the overall framework of the entire development process. Within this framework, we discussed specific models and metrics to cover the major phases of development. Our objective is to build links among these models and metrics so the project's quality can be engineered from the early stages. Because not all of these models are "parametric," we again rely on the heuristic linkages. Figure 19.1 shows an example of the linkages among the code integration pattern, the test plan S curve, and the testing defect arrival model. Based on the empirical relationships observed among the several patterns, once the planned code integration pattern is available, which is early in the development cycle, we would be able to determine the position of the test S curve and the testing defect arrival model in the time line in terms of number of weeks prior to product ship. An early outlook of the quality of the project can then be derived: the higher the inter-secting point between the projected defect arrival curve and the vertical line at product ship, the worse the quality of the project will be, and vice versa. Then the team can engineer improvement actions throughout the development cycle to improve the quality outlook. When the project progresses along the development cycle and more information becomes available, the models and their linkages can be updated periodically. For examples:
Figure 19.1. Linkages Among Several Models and Metrics for Early Quality Planning
What Is Software Quality?
Software Development Process Models
Fundamentals of Measurement Theory
Software Quality Metrics Overview
Applying the Seven Basic Quality Tools in Software Development
Defect Removal Effectiveness
The Rayleigh Model
Exponential Distribution and Reliability Growth Models
Quality Management Models
In-Process Metrics for Software Testing
Complexity Metrics and Models
Metrics and Lessons Learned for Object-Oriented Projects
Measuring and Analyzing Customer Satisfaction
Conducting In-Process Quality Assessments
Conducting Software Project Assessments
Dos and Donts of Software Process Improvement
Using Function Point Metrics to Measure Software Process Improvements
A Project Assessment Questionnaire