Archive: 2011-05

Happy Memorial Day from all of us here at the SEI. I'd like to take advantage of this special occasion to keep you apprised of some recent technical reports and notes from the SEI. It's part of an ongoing effort to keep you informed about the latest work of SEI technologists. These reports highlight the latest work of SEI technologists in embedded systems, cyber security, appraisal requirements for CMMI Version 1.3, improving the quality and use of data, and software assurance. This post includes a listing of each report, author/s, and links where the published reports can be accessed on the SEI website.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has frequently citedpoor cost estimation as one of the reasons for cost overrun problems in acquisition programs. Software is often a major culprit. One study on cost estimation by the Naval Postgraduate School found a 34 percent median value increase of software size over the estimate. Cost overruns lead to painful Congressional scrutiny, and an overrun in one program often leads to the depletion of funds from another. This post, the first in a series on improving the accuracy of early cost estimates, describes challenges we have observed trying to accurately estimate software effort and cost in Department of Defense (DOD) acquisition programs, as well as other product development organizations.

Background:Over the past decade, the U.S. Air Force has asked the SEI's Acquisition Support Program (ASP) to conduct a number of Independent Technical Assessments (ITAs) on acquisition programs related to the development of IT systems; communications, command and control; avionics; and electronic warfare systems. This blog post is the first in a series that identifies common themes across acquisition programs that we identified as a result of our ITA work. This post explores the first theme: misaligned incentives, which occur when different individuals, groups, or divisions are rewarded for behaviors that conflict with a common organizational goal.

Occasionally this blog will highlight different posts from the SEI blogosphere. Today's post is from the SATURN Network blog by Nanette Brown, a visiting scientist in the SEI's Research, Technology, and System Solutions program. This post explores Categories of Waste in Lean Principles and Architecture, and takes an in-depth look at three of the eight categories of waste (defects, overproduction, and extra complexity) from the perspective of software development in general and software architecture in particular.

The SEI has long advocated software architecture documentation as a software engineering best practice. This type of documentation is not particularly revolutionary or different from standard practices in other engineering disciplines. For example, who would build a skyscraper without having an architect draw up plans first? The specific value of software architecture documentation, however, has never been established empirically. This blog describes a research project we are conducting to measure and understand the value of software architecture documentation on complex software-reliant systems.

As industry and government customers demand increasingly rapid innovation and the ability to adapt products and systems to emerging needs, the time frames for releasing new software capabilities continue to shorten. Likewise, Agile software development processes, with their emphasis on releasing new software capabilities rapidly, are increasing in popularity beyond their initial small team and project context. Practices intended to speed up the delivery of value to users, however, often result in high rework costs that ultimately offset the benefits of faster delivery, especially when good engineering practices are forgotten along the way. This rework and degrading quality often is referred to as technical debt. This post describes our research on improving the overall value delivered to users by strategically managing technical debt, which involves decisions made to defer necessary work during the planning or execution of a software project.