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Software processes

software process

A software process is a set of related activities that leads to the production of a software product. These activities may involve the development of software from scratch in a standard programming language like Java or C. However, business applications are not necessarily developed in this way. New business software is now often developed by extending and modifying existing systems or by configuring and integrating off-the-shelf software or system components.

There are many different software processes but all must include four activities that are fundamental to software engineering:

  1.  Software specification The functionality of the software and constraints on its operation must be defined.
  2. Software design and implementation The software to meet the specification must be produced.
  3. Software validation The software must be validated to ensure that it does what the customer wants.
  4. Software evolution The software must evolve to meet changing customer needs.

When we describe and discuss processes, we usually talk about the activities in these processes such as specifying a data model, designing a user interface, etc., and the ordering of these activities.

However, as well as activities, process descriptions may also include:

  1. Products, which are the outcomes of a process activity. For example, the outcome of the activity of architectural design may be a model of the software architecture.
  2. Roles, which reflect the responsibilities of the people involved in the process.Examples of roles are project manager, configuration manager, programmer, etc.
  3. Pre- and post-conditions, which are statements that are true before and after a process activity has been enacted or a product produced. For example, before architectural design begins, a pre-condition may be that all requirements have been approved by the customer; after this activity is finished, a post-condition might be that the UML models describing the architecture have been reviewed.
  4. Software process models
a software process model is a simplified representation of a software process.
Each process model represents a process from a particular perspective,and thus provides only partial information about that process.

  • The waterfall model : This takes the fundamental process activities of specification, development, validation, and evolution and represents them as separate process phases such as requirements specification, software design, implementation,testing, and so on.
  • Incremental development : This approach interleaves the activities of specification, development, and validation. The system is developed as a series of versions (increments), with each version adding functionality to the previous version.

  • Reuse-oriented software engineering : This approach is based on the existence of a significant number of reusable components. The system development process focuses on integrating these components into a system rather than developing them from scratch.

These models are not mutually exclusive and are often used together, especially for large systems development.

  • The waterfall model

The first published model of the software development process was derived from more general system engineering processes (Royce, 1970).

The waterfall model is an example of a plan-driven process—in principle, you must plan and schedule all of the process activities before starting work on them.
The principal stages of the waterfall model directly reflect the fundamental development

  1. Requirements analysis and definition The system’s services, constraints, and goals are established by consultation with system users. They are then defined in detail and serve as a system specification.
  2. System and software design The systems design process allocates the requirements to either hardware or software systems by establishing an overall system architecture. Software design involves identifying and describing the fundamental software system abstractions and their relationships.
  3. Implementation and unit testing During this stage, the software design is realized as a set of programs or program units. Unit testing involves verifying that each unit meets its specification.
  4. Integration and system testing The individual program units or programs are integrated and tested as a complete system to ensure that the software requirements have been met. After testing, the software system is delivered to the customer.
  5. Operation and maintenance Normally (although not necessarily), this is the longest life cycle phase. The system is installed and put into practical use. Maintenance involves correcting errors which were not discovered in earlier stages of the life cycle, improving the implementation of system units and enhancing the system’s services as new requirements are discovered.

  • Incremental development

Incremental development is based on the idea of developing an initial implementation, exposing this to user comment and evolving it through several versions until an adequate system has been developed
Incremental software development, which is a fundamental part of agile approaches, is better than a waterfall approach for most business, e-commerce, and personal systems. Incremental development reflects the way that we solve problems. We rarely work out a complete problem solution in advance but move toward a solution in a series of steps, backtracking when we realize that we have made a mistake.

Generally, the early increments of the system include the most important or most urgently required functionality. This means that the customer can evaluate the system at a relatively early stage in the development to see if it delivers what is required. If not, then only the current increment has to be changed and, possibly, new functionality defined for later increments.

Incremental development has three important benefits, compared to the waterfall
  1. The cost of accommodating changing customer requirements is reduced. The amount of analysis and documentation that has to be redone is much less than is required with the waterfall model.
  2. It is easier to get customer feedback on the development work that has been done. Customers can comment on demonstrations of the software and see how much has been implemented. Customers find it difficult to judge progress from software design documents.
  3. More rapid delivery and deployment of useful software to the customer is possible, even if all of the functionality has not been included. Customers are able to use and gain value from the software earlier than is possible with a waterfall process.

The incremental approach has two problems:

  1. The process is not visible. Managers need regular deliverables to measure progress. If systems are developed quickly, it is not cost-effective to produce documents that reflect every version of the system.
  2. System structure tends to degrade as new increments are added. Unless time and money is spent on re-factoring to improve the software, regular change tends to corrupt its structure. Incorporating further software changes becomes increasingly difficult and costly.

  • Reuse-oriented software engineering

In the majority of software projects, there is some software reuse. This often happens informally when people working on the project know of designs or code that are similar to what is required. They look for these, modify them as needed, and incorporate them into their system.
  1. Component analysis Given the requirements specification, a search is made for components to implement that specification. Usually, there is no exact match and the components that may be used only provide some of the functionality required.
  2. Requirements modification During this stage, the requirements are analyzed using information about the components that have been discovered. They are then modified to reflect the available components. Where modifications are impossible, the component analysis activity may be re-entered to search for alternative solutions.
  3.  System design with reuse During this phase, the framework of the system is designed or an existing framework is reused. The designers take into account the components that are reused and organize the framework to cater for this. Some new software may have to be designed if reusable components are not available.
  4.  Development and integration Software that cannot be externally procured is developed, and the components and COTS systems are integrated to create the new system. System integration, in this model, may be part of the development
    process rather than a separate activity.

There are three types of software component that may be used in a reuse-oriented process:
  1. Web services that are developed according to service standards and which are available for remote invocation.
  2. Collections of objects that are developed as a package to be integrated with a component framework such as .NET or J2EE.
  3. Stand-alone software systems that are configured for use in a particular environment.

Reuse-oriented software engineering has the obvious advantage of reducing the amount of software to be developed and so reducing cost and risks. It usually also leads to faster delivery of the software. However, requirements compromises are inevitable and this may lead to a system that does not meet the real needs of users. Furthermore, some control over the system evolution is lost as new versions of the reusable components are not under the control of the organization using them.

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