View other issues

Contents

by Luis Fernández, Pasqualina Potena and Daniele Rosso

Project ICEBERG investigated a novel approach to improving understanding of the real cost impacts of poor quality software and supporting the suite of management decisions required to take corrective action across the entire software development cycle.

The ICEBERG project was developed to consider the issue of Transfer of Knowledge (ToK) in the Software Quality Assurance (QA) domain and had two main objectives: (1) investigating, defining and implementing model-based processes oriented to identifying the most effective and efficient QA strategy for software development in general, and more specifically, software developed for telecommunications and finance organisations; and, as stated for this type of Marie Curie projects, (2) bolstering the research platform in this area for future work through the secondment of researchers and the specific training of early stage and recruited researchers.

Project Motivation
Commonly, software projects need to be performed and delivered against project schedules that specify timings, costs and quality constraints (amongst other things). One of the most cost- and time-intensive components of the overall development cycle is the QA process. A major issue associated with this process is that the individual analysis of single factors in isolation is frequently inaccurate, as pairs of factors may visibly (and sometimes adversely) affect each other. Therefore, frameworks that support decisions made in relation to meeting scheduling and quality requirements, while keeping project costs within budget, would be very helpful for project managers.

Research Themes and Challenges
The ICEBERG project started in February 2013 and will end in December 2017. It is funded through the European Marie Curie program (IAPP category). The project’s main scope is to provide researchers with new research skills and broaden the horizons of models-based processes with a view to identifying the most effective and efficient QA strategy in software development.

Figure 1: A graphical illustration of the decision model indicating when it is best to stop testing and move into the software delivery phase.
Figure 1: A graphical illustration of the decision model indicating when it is best to stop testing and move into the software delivery phase [2].

A number of institutions collaborated on this project: two research centres (CINI (Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale per l’Informatica) - University of Naples and University of Alcalá (UAH)) and two SMEs (Assioma.net and DEISER). Specifically, the two universities provided skills in the areas of quality estimation and forecasting models of software products/processes and related costs. The SMEs contributed highly qualified real-life experience on the testing of software projects/processes. The project involves up to 19 researchers who all have the opportunity to make cross-entity swaps with the other partner institutions. The researchers then have the opportunity to share their capacities, acquire new skills and develop new competences on decision support systems in the quality assurance domain. Once they return, this knowledge flow continues, this time back to their home institutions, enhancing European economic and scientific competitiveness. Up to three researchers have been specifically contracted for periods of 18 or 24 months in order to contribute to the project and to be trained as specialists in the field..

The key focus of the project will be the enhanced support that a joint analysis of schedules/times, costs and quality can give to decision-making (details on the project scope can be found in [1]). A particular emphasis will be given to the design and development of innovative and effective models for (1) evaluating the costs associated with testing activities in relation to a given quality issue (e.g., missing, incomplete or wrong implementation of testing activities/phases) and (2) guiding business decision processes on what investments should be made in the software testing process (e.g., see Figure 2).

Longer-term, the objectives of the ICEBERG project include: (1) the creation of a database which enables data collected from the literature and past business (software) projects (provided by industrial partners) to be categorised; (2) the definition of model-based processes to support decision-making on investment in testing activities [3] (e.g., the scheduling and allocation of various testing activities and the effort in each phase defined in the test plan); and (3) the development of proof-of concept IT tools for automating the application of model-based processes.

Both the model-based processes and proof-of concept IT tools will be evaluated using real-world test cases provided by the industrial partners. It will be the first attempt to combine existing literature and practical experience (provided by experts in the field). The decision-making frameworks developed through this project will help to maximize the effectiveness of practitioners. The adoption of well-assessed quality decision methods can only be effectively achieved by analyzing the effort and time necessary to incorporate them into real-world systems. Therefore, we know that understanding practitioners perceptions regarding the strengths, limitations and needs associated with using state of the art practice solutions in industry is vital. We hope that once completed, the outcomes of this work will address the classical questions “How many tests are enough?” and “When to stop software testing?”

Link:
ICEBERG: http://www.iceberg-sqa.eu/

References:
[1] P. Potena et al.: “Creating a Framework for Quality Decisions in Software Projects”, ICCSA (5) 2014: 434-448, LNCS
[2] M. Cinque et al.: “On the Impact of Debugging on Software Reliability Growth Analysis: A Case Study”, ICCSA (5) 2014: 461-475, LNCS
[3] L. Fernandez, P. J. Lara, J. J. Cuadrado: “Efficient Software Quality Assurance Approaches Oriented to UML Models in Real Life”, Verification, Validation and Testing in Software Engineering, IGI Global, 385-426, 2007.

Please contact:
Luis Fernández, Pasqualina Potena
University of Alcalá, Spain,
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Daniele Rosso
Assioma.net srl, Italy
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.