Towards a design theoretic characterisation of software development process models

Hall, Jon G. and Rapanotti, Lucia (2015). Towards a design theoretic characterisation of software development process models. In: Proceedings of Fourth SEMAT Workshop on General Theory of Software Engineering GTSE 2015, IEEE, pp. 3–14.



Effective assessment, comparison, selection and adaptation of software development processes remain an acute problem in Software Engineering practice. The quest for a unified theory which might serve this purpose is ongoing. Objective: To take a first step towards such a theory, with focus on characterising and comparing features of software development process models. Method: We consider a theory of design as problem solving and investigate how it can be applied to characterise and explicate specific process features in well known process models from the literature. The intention is to characterise emerging trade-offs between resource expenditure and risk mitigation, which result from the interplay between process efforts into problem and solution exploration vs. stakeholder validation. The analysis, at this point performed, is purely qualitative, and the treatment of resource expenditure and risk quite abstract. Results: We provide an initial characterisation and comparison of features found in a wide range of process models from the literature, within a design theoretic framework using a single building block -- the Problem Oriented Engineering (POE) Process Pattern -- that allows the characterisation of information flow, the relationship between actors, resource usage and developmental risk. Conclusions: The initial characterisation identifies repeated structure in diverse processes, which allows basic process comparison across models. The interpretations are modular, allowing the possibility of relationships between different process models to be explored. As such, the theory allows for a unified means to characterise and compare systematically key features of different process models. In being of an exploratory nature, the work has a number of limitations, which should be addressed by further research.

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