Industrial Strength Software Measurement
Iowa State University
May 17, 2012 (Thu)
Olin 107
CS alumni award recipient.
Lunch will be served at noon in Steinmetz 203.


In an industrial environment where software development is a necessary part of product development, measuring the state of software development and the attributes of the software becomes a crucial issue. For a company to survive and to make progress against its competition, it must have answers to questions such as "What is my customers' perception of the quality of the software in my products?", "How long will it take me to complete a new product or a new release of an existing one?" "What are the major bottlenecks in software production?" "How effective is a new technique or tool when introduced into the software development process?" The fate of the company, and of individuals within the company, may depend on accurate answers to these questions, so one must not only know how to obtain and analyze data to answer them, but also estimate how good one's answers are.

In a large scale industrial software development environment, software measurement must be meaningful, automatable, nonintrusive, and feasible. Sources of data are diffuse, nonuniform, and nonstandard. The data itself are difficult to collect and interpret, and hard to compare across projects and organizations. Nonetheless, other industries perform such measurements as a matter of course, and software development organizations should as well.

In this talk I will discuss the challenges of deciding what questions to ask, how to answer them, and what the impact of answering them is. I will illustrate with examples drawn from real projects, focusing on change data and how to use it to answer some of the questions posed in the preceding.

Bio: David M. Weiss received the B.S. degree in Mathematics in 1964 from Union College, and the M.S. in Computer Science in 1974 and the Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1981 from the University of Maryland. He is currently the Lanh and Oanh Nguyen professor of software engineering at Iowa State University.

Previously, he was the Director of the Software Technology Research Department at Avaya Laboratories, where he worked on the problem of how to improve the effectiveness of software development in general and of Avaya's software development processes in particular. To focus on the latter problem, he formed and led the Avaya Resource Center for Software Technology.

Before joining Avaya Labs, he was the head of the Software Production Research Department at Lucent Technologies Bell Laboratories, which conducted research on how to improve the effectiveness of software development. Prior to Bell Labs, he was Director of the Reuse and Measurement Department of the Software Productivity Consortium (SPC), a consortium of 14 large U.S. aerospace companies. Before SPC Dr. Weiss spent a year at the Office of Technology Assessment, where he was co-author of a technology assessment of the Strategic Defense Initiative. During the 1985-1986 academic year he was a visiting scholar at The Wang Institute and for many years was a researcher at the Computer Science and Systems Branch of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), in Washington, D.C. He has also worked as a programmer and as a mathematician. Dr. Weiss is a senior member of the IEEE.

Dr. Weiss's principal research interests are in the area of software engineering, particularly in software development processes and methodologies, software design, and software measurement. His best known work is the goal-question-metric approach to software measurement, his work on the modular structure of software systems, and his work in software product-line engineering as a co-inventor of the Synthesis process, and its successor the FAST process. He is co-author and co-editor of two books: Software Product Line Engineering and Software Fundamentals: Collected Papers of David L. Parnas. Papers on which he has been co-author have three times won retrospective awards, twice from the IEEE and once from the ACM.

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