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«Software Fault Reporting Processes in Business-Critical Systems Jon Arvid Børretzen Doctoral Thesis Submitted for the partial fulfilment of the ...»

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That a system is business-safe does not mean that the system is fault-free, i.e. cannot possibly fail. What this means is that the system will have a low probability of entering a state where it will cause serious losses. In this respect, the system characteristic is close to the term “safe”. This term is, however, wider, since it is concerned with all activities that can cause damage to people, equipment, the environment or severe economic losses. Just as with general safety, business-safety is not a characteristic of the system alone – it is a characteristic of the system’s interactions with its usage environment.

BUCS are considering two groups of stakeholders and wants to help them both:

• The customers and their users. They need methods that enables them to:

o Understand the dangers that can occur when they start to use the system as part of their business.

o Write or state requirements to the developers so that they can take care of the risks incurred when operating the system.

• The developers. They need help to implement the system so that:

o It can be made business-safe.

o They can support their claims with analysis and documentation.

o It is possible to change the systems in such a way that when the operating environment or profile changes, the systems are still business-safe.

BUCS aim to help the developers to build a business-safe system without large increases in development costs or schedule. This is achieved by the following

contributions from BUCS:

BC1 A set of methods for analysing business-safety concerns. These methods are adapted to the software development process in general and – for the first version – especially to the Rational Unified Process (RUP).

BC2 A systematic approach for analysing, understanding, and protecting against business-safety related events.

BC3 A method for testing that the customers’ business-safety concerns are adequately taken care of in the implementation.

Why should development organizations do something that costs extra, i.e. is this a smart business proposition? We definitively mean that the answer is “Yes”, and for the

following reasons:

• The only solution most companies have to offer to customers with businesssafety concerns today is that the developers will be more careful and test more – this is not a good enough solution.

• By building a business-safe system, the developers will help the customer to achieve an efficient operation of their business and thus build an image of a company that have their customers’ interest in focus. Applying new methods to increase the products’ business-safety must thus be viewed as an investment.

The return on the investment will come as more business from large, important customers.

BUCS will not invent entirely new methods. What we will do, is to take commonly used methods, especially from the area of systems safety such as Hazard Analysis and FMEA, and adapt them to more mainstream software development. This is done by

extending the methods, making them:

• More practical to use in a software development environment.

• Suitable to fit into the ways developers work in a software project environment – concerning both process and related software tools and methods.

1.3 Research design

As stated in the BUCS project proposal, “The principal goal is through empirical studies to understand and improve the software technologies and processes used for developing business-critical software” [BUCS02]. This entails both quantitative and qualitative studies, and in some cases a combination. Several aspects have to be considered when

performing such studies, and particularly:

• Deciding on the metrics used in the investigations.

• Deciding on the process of retrieving information (data mining, observation, surveys).

Members of the BUCS project have conducted interviews, experiments, data analysis, surveys, and case studies. The methods employed in this part of the BUCS project are structured interviews, historical data mining and analysis, and case studies.

1.4 Research questions and contributions The goal of this research is to explore quality issues of business-critical software, with focus on fault reporting and management, as well as the use of safety analysis techniques for this type of software development. In this thesis, four overall research

questions have been defined:

RQ1. What is the role of fault reporting in existing industrial software development?

RQ2. How can we improve on existing fault reporting processes?

RQ3. What are the most common and severe fault types, and how can we reduce them in number and severity?

RQ4. How can we use safety analysis techniques together with fault report analysis to improve the development process?

–  –  –

The research questions together with the studies performed have resulted in the

following contributions:

C1. Describing how to utilize safety criticality techniques to improve the development process for business-critical software.

C2. Identification of typical shortcomings in fault reporting.

C3. Improved model of fault origins and types for business-critical software.

Figure 1-1 illustrates how the studies, contributions and research papers are connected.

It also shows the time and sequence of the studies and how the different studies have influenced each other with input and experience. The background cloud shows which studies were performed with industrial cooperation.

1.5 Included research papers This thesis includes seven papers numbered P1 to P7, whose full text is included

verbatim in Appendix A. The papers are briefly described in the following:

P1. Jon Arvid Børretzen, Tor Stålhane, Torgrim Lauritsen, and Per Trygve Myhrer:

"Safety activities during early software project phases", In Proc. Norwegian Informatics Conference (NIK'04), pp. 180-191, Stavanger, 29. Nov. - 1. Dec. 2004.

Relevance to the thesis: This paper describes the introduction and use of safety criticality analysis techniques in early project phases. It presents several relevant techniques and how they can be combined with a common development methodology like RUP.

My contribution: I was the leading author and contributed 80% of the work, including literature review and paper writing.

P2. Jon Arvid Børretzen and Reidar Conradi: "A study of Fault Reports in Commercial Projects", In Jürgen Münch and Matias Vierimaa (Eds): Proc. 7th International Conference on Product Focused Software Process Improvement (PROFES'2006), pp. 389-394, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 12-14 June 2006.

Relevance to the thesis: This paper presents work done in the area of fault report analysis, and describes how using a fault categorization scheme can help identify problem areas in the development process.

My contribution: I was the leading author and contributed 80% of the work, including research design, data collection, data analysis and paper writing.

P3. Parastoo Mohagheghi, Reidar Conradi, and Jon A. Børretzen: "Revisiting the Problem of Using Problem Reports for Quality Assessment", In Kenneth Anderson (Ed.): Proc. the 4th Workshop on Software Quality, held at ICSE'06, 21 May 2006 - as part of Proc. 28th International Conference on Software Engineering & Co-Located Workshops, 21-26 May 2006, Shanghai, P. R. China, ACM Press 2006, ISBN 1-59593X, ISSN 0270-5257 Relevance to the thesis: This paper describes experience with working with problem reports from industry. It discusses several problems with using this type of data and how they can be used for assessing software quality.

My contribution: I contributed on 30% of the work, including data collection and analysis, commenting the data material and draft paper.

P4. Jon Arvid Børretzen and Jostein Dyre-Hansen: Investigating the Software Fault Profile of Industrial Projects to Determine Process Improvement Areas: An Empirical Study, Proceedings of the European Systems & Software Process Improvement and Innovation Conference 2007 (EuroSPI07), pp. 212-223, Potsdam, Germany, 26-28 Sept.


Relevance to the thesis: This paper continues the fault report study focus, refining the design and execution of the previous study and confirming several of our findings.

My contribution: I was the leading author and contributed 80% of the work, including research design, data collection, data analysis and paper writing.

P5. Jingyue Li, Anita Gupta, Jon Arvid Børretzen, and Reidar Conradi: "The Empirical Studies on Quality Benefits of Reusing Software Components" Proc. The First IEEE International Workshop on Quality Oriented Reuse of Software (QUORS'2007), held in conjunction with IEEE COMPSAC 2007, 5 p, Beijing, July 23Relevance to the thesis: This paper uses data from our first fault report study, and presents a study where defect types are compared in reusable components with nonreusable components.

My contribution: I contributed 20% of the work, including theory definition, data collection, data analysis and commenting on data material, results and draft paper.

P6. Jon Arvid Børretzen: “Fault classification and fault management: Experiences from a software developer perspective”. 14 pages, submitted to Journal of Systems and Software.

Relevance to the thesis: This paper presents findings from a series of interviews performed with developers involved in fault reporting, and seeks to describe problems and issues in fault management and reporting as seen from the practitioners’ viewpoint.

My contribution: I contributed 95% of the work, including interviews, transcription, coding, analysis and paper writing.

P7. Jon Arvid Børretzen: “Using Hazard Identification to Identify Potential Software Faults: A Proposed Method and Case Study”. 10 pages, submitted to the First International Conference on Software Testing, Verification and Validation, Lillehammer, Norway, April 9-11, 2008.

Relevance to the thesis: This paper seeks to combine the knowledge gained from fault reports analysis with the potential of hazard analysis techniques, and proposes a novel method for doing this.

My contribution: I contributed 85% of the work, including Hazard analysis, Fault report analysis, data analysis and paper writing.

1.6 Thesis structure

Chapter 2 deals with issues about software engineering in general and state-of-the-art, including software criticality and especially business-critical software and an overview of the most important challenges in these areas. Chapter 3 presents the context for the BUCS project and research, the methods used and the research questions for this thesis.

Chapter 4 presents the results of the studies performed. An evaluation of the contributions and results are made in Chapter 5. Chapter 6 sums up the thesis work and present relevant issues for further work. Figure 1-2 illustrates how the thesis is composed.

Theory and stateof-the-art Chapter 2

–  –  –

In this thesis I have used the term “we” when presenting the work, both when presenting my description of the work in Chapters 1-6 and in the collaborative work from the papers P1 to P7 – in Appendix A.

2 State-of-the-art This chapter describes the challenges in software engineering that are the motivation behind improving approaches for business-critical software development. Then, there is a presentation of literature related to business-critical software development. The definitions of these subjects are discussed and research challenges are described for each of them. Finally, the chapter is summarized and the research challenges are described related to the studies in this thesis.

2.1 Introduction

In the engineering of business-critical software systems, as in the engineering of other software systems, there is a multitude of different methods, techniques and processes being employed by industry. Since business-critical applications are not really an established phrase or topic within the software engineering community, it is therefore difficult to point out specific methods and techniques that are being used when business-critical systems are being developed. Instead, the most common methods of software engineering will be presented in the following, with additional comments on how they may be best utilized to aid the development of business-critical systems. Also, a presentation of methods from the development of safety-critical applications will be made as these are relevant for use in the BUCS project in general.

2.2 Software engineering

Software Engineering is an engineering discipline dealing with all aspects of software development from the early stages of system specification to maintaining the system after it has gone into use. Software engineering is the profession concerned with creation and maintenance of software by applying computer technology, project

management, domain knowledge, and other skills and technologies. Fairley says that:

"Software engineering is the technological and managerial discipline concerned with systematic production and maintenance of software products" of required functionality and quality "on time and within cost estimates" [Fairley85].

On the other hand, software systems have social and economic value, by making people more productive, improving their quality of life, and making them able to perform work and actions that would otherwise be impossible, like controlling a modern aeroplane.

Software engineering technologies and practices help developers by improving productivity and quality. The field has been evolving continuously from its early days in the 1940s until today in the 2000s. The ongoing goal is to improve technologies and practices, seeking to improve the productivity of practitioners and the quality of applications for the users.

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