Software Quality Management
Software Quality Management Techniques
SQM techniques can be categorized in many ways: static, people-intensive, analytical, dynamic.
Static techniques involve examination of the project documentation and software, and other information about the software products, without executing them. These techniques may include people-intensive activities or analytical activities conducted by individuals, with or without the assistance of automated tools.
The setting for people-intensive techniques, including reviews and audits, may vary from a formal meeting to an informal gathering or a desk-check situation, but (usually, at least) two or more people are involved. Preparation ahead of time may be necessary. Resources other than the items under examination may include checklists and results from analytical techniques and testing. These activities are discussed in (IEEE1028-97) on reviews and audits.
A software engineer generally applies analytical techniques. Sometimes several software engineers use the same technique, but each applies it to different parts of the product. Some techniques are tool-driven; others are manual. Some may find defects directly, but they are typically used to support other techniques. Some also include various assessments as part of overall quality analysis. Examples of such techniques include complexity analysis, control flow analysis, and algorithmic analysis.
Each type of analysis has a specific purpose, and not all types are applied to every project. An example of a support technique is complexity analysis, which is useful for determining whether or not the design or implementation is too complex to develop correctly, to test, or to maintain. The results of a complexity analysis may also be used in developing test cases. Defect-finding techniques, such as control flow analysis, may also be used to support another activity. For software with many algorithms, algorithmic analysis is important, especially when an incorrect algorithm could cause a catastrophic result. There are too many analytical techniques to list them all here. The list and references provided may offer insights into the selection of a technique, as well as suggestions for further reading.
Other, more formal, types of analytical techniques are known as formal methods. They are used to verify software requirements and designs. Proof of correctness applies to critical parts of software. They have mostly been used in the verification of crucial parts of critical systems, such as specific security and safety requirements.
Different kinds of dynamic techniques are performed throughout the development and maintenance of software. Generally, these are testing techniques, but techniques such as simulation, model checking, and symbolic execution may be considered dynamic. Code reading is considered a static technique, but experienced software engineers may execute the code as they read through it. In this sense, code reading may also qualify as a dynamic technique. This discrepancy in categorizing indicates that people with different roles in the organization may consider and apply these techniques differently.
Some testing may thus be performed in the development process, SQA process, or V&V process, again depending on project organization. Because SQM plans address testing, this section includes some comments on testing.
The assurance processes described in SQA and V&V examine every output relative to the software requirement specification to ensure the output's traceability, consistency, completeness, correctness, and performance. This confirmation also includes the outputs of the development and maintenance processes, collecting, analyzing, and measuring the results. SQA ensures that appropriate types of tests are planned, developed, and implemented, and V&V develops test plans, strategies, cases, and procedures.
Two types of testing may fall under the headings SQA and V&V, because of their responsibility for the quality of the materials used in the project:
- Evaluation and test of tools to be used on the project (IEEE1462-98)
- Conformance test (or review of conformance test) of components and COTS products to be used in the product; there now exists a standard for software packages (IEEE1465-98)
Sometimes an independent V&V organization may be asked to monitor the test process and sometimes to witness the actual execution to ensure that it is conducted in accordance with specified procedures. Again, V&V may be called upon to evaluate the testing itself: adequacy of plans and procedures, and adequacy and accuracy of results.
Another type of testing that may fall under the heading of V&V organization is third-party testing. The third party is not the developer, nor is in any way associated with the development of the product. Instead, the third party is an independent facility, usually accredited by some body of authority. Their purpose is to test a product for conformance to a specific set of requirements.