SPICE is a major international initiative to support the development of an International Standard for Software Process Assessment. The project has three principal goals:
- to develop a working draft for a standard for software process assessment;
- to conduct industry trials of the emerging standard; and
- to promote the technology transfer of software process assessment into the software industry world-wide.
The first goal of the project was achieved in June 1995, with the release of Version 1 of a draft standard for software process assessment (the SPICE Documents) to WG10 for international ballot among the standards community, following the normal process for development of international standards. Following this ballot, the documents have been carried through the international standardisation process and have been published as ISO/IEC TR 15504:1998 - Software Process Assessment. WG10 has now commenced work to revise the TR with a view to ultimate publication as a full International Standard. Further details of the progress of the document set through the standardisation process can be found on the WG10 Web Site.
The SPICE Trials are now the principal focus of the project. More information about the trials, including provision for registration as trials participants, is available in this Web Site. The promotion activities of the Project are on ongoing concern, addressed through activities such as the annual International SPICE Symposium and the publication of articles and books. In order to support excellence and consistency in training for assessors, the project has developed and released a SPICE Assessor Training Syllabus.
Five international Technical Centres have been established to coordinate the international effort on the project. Its conduct has brought together a unique combination of standards developers, software developers, and academics from over 20 countries, to generate a consistent and validated framework for assessment in a remarkably short period of time. The success of the approach can be gauged from the results: while the project has fallen behind its initial schedule, it produced a full suite of documents suitable for extensive industry trials in a period of two years.
Why an International Standard?
The methods of Software Process Assessment are coming more generally into use in the management of software development, acquisition and utilisation, in the face of substantial evidence of the success of such methods in driving improvements in both quality and productivity.
The primary impetus for the use of assessment has come not from the mainstream of the software development industry, but rather from acquirers of large, critical software-intensive systems - notably in the defence and telecommunications sectors. Thus, the most widely known of current methods, the Capability Maturity Model, was developed by the Software Engineering Institute as a response to the needs of the US Defense Department for better techniques for the selection of contractors. Process assessment methods have also been developed by a number of the major players in the telecommunications field, including British Telecom, Bell Canada / BNR and Bellcore, and are applied to the management of risk in acquisition.
At the same time, there has always been a recognition that process assessment can be a strong and effective driver for process improvement. The major focus of use of the CMM has been on improvement, and most acquirers use assessment approaches as part of a partnership approach with their suppliers, focusing on improvement. In addition, methods have been developed with a specific focus on improvement, in work such as the Bootstrap project. As experience with the technique grows, substantial empirical evidence has accumulated demonstrating the benefits that can be derived from an assessment-based improvement programme.
The increasing number of assessment approaches available, and the increasing use of the technique in commercially-sensitive areas, were the key motivating factors behind the development and acceptance of a proposal to develop an International Standard for software process assessment.
Benefits of an International Standard on Software Process Assesment for Industry and Software Users
Benefits For Software Industry
- software suppliers will submit to just one process assessment scheme (presently numerous schemes are used)
- software development organisations will have a tool to initiate and sustain a continuous process improvement
- programme managers will have a means to ensure that their software development is aligned with, and supports, the business needs of the organisation
Benefits For Purchasers Of Software
Purchasers will be able to determine the capability of software suppliers and assess the risk involved in selecting one supplier over another
All industries now depend on software for competitive advantage. Growth will only be achieved if industry meets and even exceeds international standards and worlds best- practice. By contributing to the development of this new standard, participating countries and organisations will ensure that they are at the forefront of this new technology and ready to meet the Standard when it reaches the status of an International Standard.