University of Oulu

Improving the software inspection process with patterns

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Author: Harjumaa, Lasse1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Information Processing Science
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2005
Publish Date: 2005-12-07
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Auditorium IT115, Linnanmaa, on December 16th, 2005, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Cornelia Boldyreff
Professor Claes Wohlin


The quality of a software product depends largely on the quality of the process that is used to develop it. In small software companies, the development process may be informal or even ad hoc, which causes uncertainty and variation in the product quality. However, quality issues are as important in small companies as in their larger counterparts. To sustain their dynamics and competitiveness, small organizations need to concentrate on the most effective quality assurance methods.

Software inspection is a proven method for improving product quality and it provides a very cost-effective way for small companies to improve their development processes. This study introduces a framework for adjusting the inspection process for the organization’s specific needs and evaluating its capabilities. The main focus of this work, however, is on refining and improving the inspection process. The improvement is guided by concrete instructions that are documented as process patterns. The pattern approach has already been used successfully in several other areas of software engineering. Patterns aim at capturing the best practices of software development and transferring this knowledge between people or organizations.

The framework for inspection process capability originates from the literature relating to different types of peer review methods and experiments with flexible and tool-supported inspections in small companies. Furthermore, generic process improvement models are studied to find a feasible structure for the framework. As a result of the analysis, the i3 capability model is introduced. The feasibility of the model has been investigated in real-life software organizations carrying out inspections.

After the capability evaluation, the inspection process can be upgraded with the aid of improvement patterns, which provide structured and easy-to-follow guidelines for implementing improvements. An initial list of patterns, describing solutions to the most common problems confronted in the establishment of inspections, is extracted from related inspection research and an industrial experiment.

The contributions of this study are, first, the new view of the inspection process, based on the fundamental activities that are performed during an inspection instead of a series of stages, as it is usually presented. An activity-based process description enables tailoring of the process for organization-specific needs and its targeted improvement. Second, the study introduces a practical, lightweight method for implementing the improvement. Patterns are especially suitable in companies where resources are limited and full-scale improvement programmes cannot be initiated. Furthermore, the generic process improvement models do not provide detailed information on how improvements should be carried out, and the pattern approach represents a promising method for that. Third, the inspection process currently does not have a very significant role in generic software process improvement models; this study helps in outlining the importance of inspections. A similar approach could be applied to other software subprocesses to enable their evaluation and improvement.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-7894-1
ISBN Print: 951-42-7893-3
Issue: 447
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2005. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.