The University of Auckland’s Centre for Software Innovation has launched a project aiming to boost software process and product improvement (SPPI) in local software companies.
The project aims to significantly up the practice of SPPI in the local IT industry by developing and applying a range of advanced software productivity techniques and tools, says John Grundy, co-chief scientist of the Centre for Software Innovation. The focus is software process and product improvement using model-based software visualisation methods and tools.
The four-year project, which is funded by a $3.4 million grant from the Foundation of Research, Science and Technology, will initially engage with local companies to survey challenges and successes in the SPPI area. CSI will then work with a number of companies to increase quality and productivity, says Grundy.
The University of Auckland, AUT, Victoria, Waikato, Massey and Canterbury universities are involved in the project, which aims to work with around 10 companies, says Grundy.
Many of the companies Grundy has talked to so far have had problems such as cost over-runs; vendors have left them; they have had critical staff leave; or they have adopted tools or methods that have turned out to be sub-optimal, he says. A number of the companies recognised that, as software developers, they need to understand and adopt emerging techniques and tools, he says. But, even for larger software companies, this is a huge challenge, mainly due to cost and lack of resources, Grundy says.
The project’s three themes include model-driven engineering; process and project management; and software imaging and visualisation. In the first year, Grundy hopes to run a number of small sub-projects with companies within each theme area, and in the following year build on these projects.
“We would like to get a sense of where [the companies’] challenges are, where we might be able to help them, where they can help us — where they have had a successful improvement project,” he says.
Grundy hopes the SPPI project will result in a community — interested in process and product improvement — that will take on a life of its own beyond the scope of this project.
Ultimately, students will be placed in companies to work closely with the staff. Grundy also hopes that the project will lead to new connections between the academic world and industry. He says CSI staff may have short secondments at companies, and company personnel may come to CSI’s labs.
Boosting productivity is another goal of the project.
“Software is the same as any other sector,” he says. “We need to think smarter; plan, manage, execute — learn from our mistakes, learn from our successes — and improve every time we [make] a new software product.”