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IMPROVING THE SOFTWARE PROCESS WITH SPC


Anita D. Carleton
Senior Member of the Technical Staff
Software Engineering Institute
4500 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
E-mail: adc@sei.cmu.edu
Tel: (412) 268-7718
Fax: (412) 268-5758
ABSTRACT
As most people know, statistical process control (SPC) techniques are not new. SPC and its associated control
charts were developed by Walter Shewhart in the 1920s to gain control of production costs and quality.
But these techniques have not been widely adopted in software organizations. The focus of this presentation will
be to discuss how SPC applies to improving the software process. We will present examples of how software orga-
nizations can apply SPC techniques so they can predict (at least within limits) how a phenomenon may be expected
to perform or vary in the future.
KEY WORDS
software process, software process improvement, statistical process control
PURPOSE AND TARGET AUDIENCE
The purpose of this session is to provide an understanding of the concepts and issues that lie behind SPC and
discuss the steps associated with effectively implementing and using SPC to manage and improve software processes.
The target audience includes professionals whose key focus is on using measurements to manage and improve
software processes.
KEY POINTS
We will discuss Figure 1, which shows a framework for measuring process behavior (figure to appear in the
forthcoming book by Addison Wesley Measuring the Software Process: Statistical Process Control for Process
Improvement by William Florac and Anita Carleton).
We will also discuss what insights can be learned from SPC analysis of the software process:
Gain better insight during development as to how well activities are following the process and how much
deviation in process performance is being observed.
Allow decision-making about risk and additional corrective actions to be considered earlier in the life
cycle.
Gain insight into alternative analytical techniques that can be used to better understand and improve soft-
ware processes and to better predict results and outcomes.
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180 ASQs 53rd Annual Quality Congress Proceedings
Know if a system was better or worse than prior systems
Understand what is a signal and what is not a signal and when to react to a signal
Say, the data says . . .
Get earlier indication of concerns
Understand performance of one subsystem to another
CONCLUSION
The benefits to the attendees includes introducing and helping attendees gain familiarity with some useful
processes, practices, and methods for:
Using measurement data to control and improve process performance
Understanding issues and examples of what organizations are facing as they address SPC for software
Understanding what it means to control and predict the software process
Figure 1. Framework for measuring process behavior.
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