Challenges in implementing software quality standards

Introduction

Nowadays, companies and public organizations are increasingly requiring their software suppliers to have an official software quality assurance strategy in place, and certification to prove it. To achieve certification, software suppliers must demonstrate that they have implemented a standard or methodology to define or organize their software development and maintenance processes. However, implementing software development and maintenance standards, such as ISO 9001 or ISO 12207, can be quite a challenge for SMEs and startups, for various reasons:

Problems faced by SMEs

  • Heft of the standards: Generally speaking, software-related standards require the implementation of many different processes. Though these standards technically apply to organizations of all sizes, in practice, SMEs and startups have a hard time implementing all the processes, then observing every last quality-related requirement.
  • Lack of support, implementation guides and examples: Standards based on software quality management systems generally say what to do, without explaining how to do it. They list requirements to attain “quality”, but provide no tools, models or examples to assist in implementing quality assurance processes.
  • Expertise: SMEs and startups have limited or non-existent means to obtain official certification. Hiring experts or calling on consultants to help implement quality assurance processes is often just too expensive. SMEs and startups just can’t afford the expert resources or consultants needed to implement these standards.
  • Time and cost: SMEs and startups face tight budgets and deadlines. They compete on low cost and fast turnaround times just as much as on quality. Low cost and short timelines is what gets them new contracts and clients, but is also what keeps them from implementing software development and maintenance standards.

Conclusion

Software development companies exist to meet their clients’ needs. Sometimes, clients demand that they adopt certain standards to guarantee the quality of the products delivered, despite the challenges this represents for developers. To address this issue, the ISO/CEI SC7 group has developed the ISO/CEI 29110 standard specifically for startups, SMEs and small departments or teams within larger companies (25 staff members or less). The ISO/CEI 29110 standard and engineering and management guides build on the parts of the ISO 12207 and ISO 15289 standards that are relevant for small organizations.

The goal of the ISO/CEI 29110 standard is to recognize the quality of software products that are developed and maintained by SMEs and startups. The standard lists a system of processes and activities that are easy to implement, allowing smaller companies to have their software recognized as quality products. The ISO/CEI 29110 standard includes guides for each of the activities and provides examples to help organizations implement processes to enhance the quality of their products and meet their clients’ requirements. Through these product quality standards, SMEs and startups can finally target markets that had previously been off-limits.

Reference : RAPPORT TECHNIQUE ISO/CEI TR 29110-5-1-2.

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