Defining Task Set For Software Project


A number of different process models were already discussed. These models offer different paradigms for software development. Regardless of whether a software team chooses a linear sequential paradigm, an iterative paradigm, an evolutionary paradigm, a concurrent paradigm or some permutation, the process model is populated by a set of tasks that enable a software team to define, develop, and ultimately support computer software.

No single set of tasks is appropriate for all projects. The set of tasks that would be appropriate for a large, complex system would likely be perceived as overkill for a small, relatively simple software product. Therefore, an effective software process should define a collection of task sets, each designed to meet the needs of different types of projects.

A task set is a collection of software engineering work tasks, milestones, and deliverables that must be accomplished to complete a particular project. The task set to be chosen must provide enough discipline to achieve high software quality. But, at the same time, it must not burden the project team with unnecessary work.
Task sets are designed to accommodate different types of projects and different degrees of rigor. Although it is difficult to develop a comprehensive taxonomy of software project types, most software organizations encounter the following projects:

1. Concept development projects that are initiated to explore some new business concept or application of some new technology.
2. New application development projects that are undertaken as a consequence of a specific customer request.
3. Application enhancement projects that occur when existing software undergoes major modifications to function, performance, or interfaces that are observable by the end-user.
4. Application maintenance projects that correct, adapt, or extend existing software in ways that may not be immediately obvious to the end-user.
5. Reengineering projects that are undertaken with the intent of rebuilding an existing (legacy) system in whole or in part.

Even within a single project type, many factors influence the task set to be chosen. When taken in combination, these factors provide an indication of the degree of rigor with which the software process should be applied.

Degree of Rigor

Even for a project of a particular type, the degree of rigor with which the software process is applied may vary significantly. The degree of rigor is a function of many project characteristics. As an example, small, non-business-critical projects can generally be addressed with somewhat less rigor than large, complex business-critical applications. It should be noted, however, that all projects must be conducted in a manner that results in timely, high-quality deliverables. Four different degrees of rigor can be defined:

Casual. All process framework activities (Chapter 2) are applied, but only a minimum task set is required. In general, umbrella tasks will be minimized and documentation requirements will be reduced. All basic principles of software engineering are still applicable.

Structured. The process framework will be applied for this project. Framework activities and related tasks appropriate to the project type will be applied and umbrella activities necessary to ensure high quality will be applied. SQA, SCM, documentation, and measurement tasks will be conducted in a streamlined manner.

Strict. The full process will be applied for this project with a degree of discipline that will ensure high quality. All umbrella activities will be applied and robust work products will be produced.

Quick reaction. The process framework will be applied for this project, but because of an emergency situation only those tasks essential to maintaining good quality will be applied. “Back-filling” (i.e., developing a complete set of documentation, conducting additional reviews) will be accomplished after
the application/product is delivered to the customer.

The project manager must develop a systematic approach for selecting the degree of rigor that is appropriate for a particular project. To accomplish this, project adaptation criteria are defined and a task set selector value is computed.

Defining Adaptation Criteria

Adaptation criteria are used to determine the recommended degree of rigor with which the software process should be applied on a project. Eleven adaptation criteria are defined for software projects:
Size of the project
Number of potential users
Mission criticality
Application longevity
Stability of requirements
Ease of customer/developer communication
Maturity of applicable technology
Performance constraints
Embedded and nonembedded characteristics
Project staff
Reengineering factors

Each of the adaptation criteria is assigned a grade that ranges between 1 and 5, where 1 represents a project in which a small subset of process tasks are required and overall methodological and documentation requirements are minimal, and 5 represents a project in which a complete set of process tasks should be applied and overall  methodological and documentation requirements are substantial.


Computing a Task Set Selector Value


To select the appropriate task set for a project, the following steps should be conducted:

1. Review each of the adaptation criteria in Section 7.3.2 and assign the appropriate grades (1 to 5) based on the characteristics of the project. These grades should be entered into Table
2. Review the weighting factors assigned to each of the criteria. The value of a weighting factor ranges from 0.8 to 1.2 and provides an indication of the relative importance of a particular adaptation criterion to the types of software developed within the local environment. If modifications are required to better reflect local circumstances, they should be made.

3. Multiply the grade entered in Table 7.1 by the weighting factor and by the entry point multiplier for the type of project to be undertaken. The entry point multiplier takes on a value of 0 or 1 and indicates the relevance of the adaptation criterion to the project type. The result of the product grade x weighting factor x entry point multiplier is placed in the Product column of Table 7.1 for each adaptation criteria individually.

4. Compute the average of all entries in the Product column and place the result in the space marked task set selector (TSS). This value will be used to help select the task set that is most appropriate for the project.

 Interpreting the TSS Value and Selecting the Task Set

Once the task set selector is computed, the following guidelines can be used to select the appropriate task set for a project: 
Task set selector value               Degree of rigor
TSS < 1.2                                      casual
1.0 < TSS < 3.0                             structured
TSS > 2.4                                      strict

The overlap in TSS values from one recommended task set to another is purposeful and is intended to illustrate that sharp boundaries are impossible to define when making task set selections. In the final analysis, the task set selector value, past experience, and common sense must all be factored into the choice of the task set for a project.

Table  illustrates how TSS might be computed for a hypothetical project. The project manager selects the grades shown in the Grade column. The project type is new application development. Therefore, entry point multipliers are selected from the NDev column. The entry in the Product column is computed using

                      Grade x Weight x NewDev entry point multiplier
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