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System quality factors are important to both hardware and software applications. Several factors must be considered when addressing hardware and software quality. Factors such as functionality, reliability, usability, efficiency, maintainability, and portability are among the considerations. Functionality and reliability quality factors can potentially affect other components of system quality. Thorough quality assurance programs can help ensure quality and overall system efficiency.
System functionality can save organizations time and money by creating and advancing efficient quickly operating systems. Functionality allows organizations to maximize efficiency and cost-effectiveness within lean operating budgets (Wimmer, 2005) Legacy systems fail to meet most organization's functionality needs. Systems that do not function properly create extra hours of work, slow transactions, expand timelines and generally cost organizations money. Improving functionality to meet an organization's needs is the responsibility of both the design team and organization. The organization must provide specification requirements, and the design team must elicit this information. Properly identifying functionality needs will assist in designing a quality system.
System reliability is of the utmost importance. Functionality is important. However, if the system is not reliable functionality will become a secondary concern. Reliability issues that arise in both hardware and software can have far-reaching implications. System reliability issues mirror some environmental issues (Neumann, 2006):
Dangerous contaminants may emerge and propagate, often unobserved
Detection, remediation, and prevention require a cooperative effort
Short sighted reasoning generally impedes long-term planning
When something goes wrong, resolutions are typically difficult
Reliability should be addressed during the design stage and continually reevaluated throughout the implementation and test and turn up functions. System functionality and system reliability are important building blocks for a quality operating system.
The Telecom industry addresses functionality by addressing a customer's needs and building and adapting a system to fit those needs. Reliability in the Telecom industry tends to be redundancy when considering hardware. Software within the transport equipment is all redundant. Systems are typically backed up and diverse route designs are implemented. Considering functionality and reliability issues allows the Telecom industry to provide efficient and reliable services to customers. Customers benefit from such thorough designs and both organizations are successful in obtaining their goals.
Capability Maturity Model
The SEI Capability Maturity Model (CMM) assists in refining the system development process.
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a place to start
the benefit of a community's prior experiences
a common language and a shared vision
a framework for prioritizing actions
a way to define what improvement means for your organization
A system development process using the tools and advantages provided by the CMM will have a better chance of success. An important step for any organization is to truly identify where it ranks on the maturity scale. This understanding will allow the organization to make adjustments accordingly and improve its system development process overall.
Assessment of where a company stands on the CMM scale can be categorized as follows:
Level 1 Initial processes are not clearly defined and the organization lacks a stable environment. Frequent problems that arise at this level is budgeting issues and the inability to maintain a strict timeline.
Level 2 Repeatable at this level, organizations are able to repeat previous successes. Basic project management for costs tracking and schedule are evident.
Level 3 Defined processes are described in standards, procedures, tools and methods. These standards are improved upon over time.
Level 4 Managed Precision in processes allow management to control the development effort. Management can find ways to adjust to new projects without significant loss of quality.
Level 5 Optimizing continually improves processes by both incremental and innovative technological advancements.
The CMM is not used within my work group at AT&T. From the projects I have been involved with, I would give AT&T a 3 on the CMM rating scale. Processes are typically defined, yet the initial definition is rarely detailed. Processes tend to be worked out in the middle of a project. As a result, some design specifications and scheduling adjustments are required. An outline of the project is provided. This outline is generally gathered from existing information gained from previously successful projects. This outline allows AT&T to replicate the same success. However, many of the same pitfalls still prove problematic. AT& T is improving processes and is close to a level 4 on the CMM scale. With a little more focus and attention to detail AT&T could soon be considered a level 4. This detail and focus will allow AT&T's system development process to be more efficient.
Software Development Standards
The software development process imposes structure on the development of software products (Wikipedia, n.d.). Standardization allows independent assessments which can be used to evaluate how well an organization defines and executes processes (Wikipedia, n.d). There are several documentation processes such as the ISO9000 which describes standards for formalizing processes with documentation (Wikipedia n.d.). Standardizing the software development process is beneficial form both customers and organizations.
In order for organizations to effectively standardize, a structured process must be developed. Some of the processes that with structure lead to standardization are as follows (Wikipedia n.d.):
Requirements analysis identifying requirements of the software product.
Specification system requirements are documented and specified. Specification works well with improving existing applications.
Design and Architecture defines how the software will function.
Testing establishing continuity between separate components often time design by different organizations.
Documentation allows for speed and ease of future maintenance and advancement.
Focusing on quality in the development and maintenance of software systems allows organizations to react, adapt and deploy quickly (Bessin, 2004). Standardization in the system development process allows organizations to deploy systems quickly and efficiently, providing them a competitive edge in the aggressive business world. Standardization is beneficial for any organization involved with technology. Banks, government, police, schools, and utilities are several organizations that benefit from standardization. Software that is easily updated, able to operate with other components, and easy to maintain allows organizations to operate efficiently. Standardization also allows organizations to update rapidly when a need is identified. Thus, allowing the organization to remain competitive and effective.
Bessin, Geoff (2004). The Business Value of Software Quality. IBM Software
Neumann, P (Feb, 2006). Trust Worthy Systems Revisited. Communications of
the ACM Vol 4, No 2
Wikipedia (n,d.) Capability Maturity Model Retrieved from Wikipedia March 4,
Wikipedia (n.d.) Software Development Process Retrieved from Wikipedia March 4, 2006 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_development_process
Wimmer, S (Dec, 2005). Computer Upgrades Cut County's Cumbersome
Paperwork. Government Procurement.