Software Quality Management

The notion of "quality" is not as simple as it may seem. For any engineered product, there are many desired qualities relevant to a particular project. The section explains software quality fundamentals, including the main SQM processes: quality assurance, verification, validation, review, and audit.

Software Quality Management Processes

Software quality management (SQM) applies to all perspectives of software processes, products, and resources. It defines processes, process owners, and requirements for those processes, measurements of the process and its outputs, and feedback channels. Software quality management processes consist of many activities. Some may find defects directly, while others indicate where further examination may be valuable. The latter are also referred to as direct-defect-finding activities. Many activities often serve as both.

Planning for software quality involves:

  • Defining the required product in terms of its quality characteristics.
  • Planning the processes to achieve the required product.

These aspects differ from, for instance, the planning SQM processes themselves, which assess planned quality characteristics versus actual implementation of those plans. The software quality management processes must address how well software products will, or do, satisfy customer and stakeholder requirements, provide value to the customers and other stakeholders, and provide the software quality needed to meet software requirements.

SQM can be used to evaluate the intermediate products as well as the final product.

Some of the specific SQM processes are defined in standard (IEEE12207.0-96):

  • Quality assurance process
  • Verification process
  • Validation process
  • Review process
  • Audit process

These processes encourage quality and also find possible problems. But they differ somewhat in their emphasis.

SQM processes help ensure better software quality in a given project. They also provide, as a by-product, general information to management, including an indication of the quality of the entire software engineering process. The Software Engineering Process and Software Engineering Management KAs discuss quality programs for the organization developing the software. SQM can provide relevant feedback for these areas.

SQM processes consist of tasks and techniques to indicate how software plans (for example, management, development, configuration management) are being implemented and how well the intermediate and final products are meeting their specified requirements. Results from these tasks are assembled in reports for management before corrective action is taken. The management of an SQM process is tasked with ensuring that the results of these reports are accurate.

As described in this KA, SQM processes are closely related; they can overlap and are sometimes even combined. They seem largely reactive in nature because they address the processes as practiced and the products as produced; but they have a major role at the planning stage in being proactive in terms of the processes and procedures needed to attain the quality characteristics and degree of quality needed by the stakeholders in the software.

Risk management can also play an important role in delivering quality software. Incorporating disciplined risk analysis and management techniques into the software life cycle processes can increase the potential for producing a quality product.