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Putting SA software development on the map

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Local software organisations could receive a major boost if South Africa were to become a TSP (Team Software Process) pilot site.  

Tomorrow, representatives from the US-based Software Engineering Institute (SEI) and the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) based at Wits University will meet with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) regarding South Africa becoming an international pilot site for a large initiative aimed at improving the quality and competitiveness of local software development organisations.
Professor Barry Dwolatzky, JCSE director, says SEI technical expert Phil Miller and Jim Over who heads up the TSP (Team Software Process) Initiative at the SEI are coming out to South Africa to create awareness about TSP and meet with the DTI and several companies to discuss a proposal which has been put forward requesting support for an SEI/JCSE TSP pilot project.
“As an official partner of the SEI, the JCSE introduced the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) process improvement product suite to South Africa in 2006. CMMI was developed for the US government and industry by Carnegie Mellon University’s SEI in Pittsburgh to assist companies to improve their processes in developing high quality software and systems.
“However CMMI does not tell companies what processes and methodologies to use, it merely measures how effective companies’ existing processes are and then helps them to decide what needs to be improved,” he says.
Dwolatzky says TSP and PSP (Personal Software Process) are methodologies developed at the SEI to assist companies with practically improving their software development processes.
“It begins with PSP where individual developers are taken through PSP, which assists them in developing their skills as developers and helps to dramatically improve the quality of their code. TSP then assists PSP trained developers with working together on projects to develop quality applications and systems in line with the specified costs and timeframes of the project,” he says.
The TSP and PSP methodologies have been shown to improve the quality of software by between two and twenty times based on the average number of defects per 1 000 lines of code, provide a two- to 10-times reduction in software testing time and accelerate companies movement through the maturity levels of CMMI by as much as 60%, Dwolatzky explains.
“It also allows companies to create a pool of PSP trained software developers who can then be utilised to seamlessly scale up development teams for larger projects because of the common methodology used by the developers,” he says.
The DTI has to date already funded the JCSE’s CMMI programme to the tune of R1,5-million, Dwolatzky says.
Mandisi Mpahlwa, Minister of Trade and Industry, also last year threw his support behind CMMI adoption in South Africa, saying that process improvement would be critical in assisting local software development companies in becoming more competitive internationally.
“South Africa’s software development sector is lagging behind other countries which are using CMMI to position themselves internationally. We should see this as an opportunity to grow our own software development sector which currently has an estimated value of R13-billion. CMMI will be a critical success factor to increase exports and thereby assist in growing the industry. To do this, we will have to create an environment that produces CMMI rated companies,” Mpahlwa said at the JCSE’s CMMI Symposium last year.
A report from the DTI’s electro-technical unit has also identified CMMI was as a critical intervention for the local software development sector, Dwolatzky says.
A proposal from the SEI and JCSE has therefore been submitted to the DTI and meetings will be held this week to discuss the possibility of the DTI funding South Africa as a SEI TSP pilot site.
The proposal would see two companies start the pilot with the SEI and JCSE conducting the necessary PSP training. TSP ”coaches” from the SEI would then assist the two pilot companies in applying the TSP methodology to two of their development projects.
Dwolatzky adds that SEI experts will at the same time be training JCSE staff to be fully equipped to in future offer PSP and TSP services on their own to local companies.
The SEI will also be looking to create awareness about TSP and PSP in South Africa. “To this end Miller and Over will also be speaking at the Gauteng SPIN (Software Process Improvement Network) meeting on Thursday to a group of software development professionals about what TSP is and the benefits it offers. There is no charge for the SPIN meeting and anyone is welcome to attend by registering on the JCSE website,” Dwolatzky says.