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Methodology could revolutionise SA software development

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The Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at Wits University has concluded a successful fact-finding mission from South Africa to Mexico and the US on the benefits of the Team Software Process (TSP). 

Professor Barry Dwolatzky, JCSE Director, says the delegation included representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Central University of Technology, Nedbank and UCS Software Manufacturing.
“Everyone in the delegation was deeply impressed by what we saw. I’m convinced that South Africa needs to move quickly to develop and implement a TSP adoption programme, similar to the one we saw in Mexico,” he says.
In Mexico the delegation attended the launch of the Prosoft 2.0 campaign at a conference in Mexico City. The US$100 million programme aims to support companies in the Mexican IT sector that are working to grow their capacity to compete for a share of the lucrative global software market.
“As part of the launch, the Mexican Minister for the Economy announced a ‘National TSP Initiative’ as a key element of Prosoft 2.0,” Dwolatzky says.
The launch follows a two year pilot programme that was run by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) in the USA, the Tecnologico de Monterrey University, the Mexican Government and companies from the Mexican IT industry.
The delegation also met with Softech (a large Mexican software company) which uses TSP extensively.
“Softech completed a medium-sized software development project (20 month, 250 000 lines of code) for the Mexican government on time and within budget using the TSP methodology. The project had been attempted three times before by other companies and on each occasion had been scrapped by the government due to major quality and schedule issues.
“Softech not only delivered the system on time and to budget, but highlights included user acceptance testing taking three weeks, rather than the scheduled 12 weeks, and only four defect reports since the system went into service,” Dwolatzky says.
Another highlight was a meeting with Quarksoft (a small Mexican company) which have used TSP in a large number of projects over several years.
“They are consistently achieving quality that is about 10 times better than the international benchmark with an average defect rate per 1 000 lines of code of 0.38, compared to an industry benchmark between 3 and 6. They also have a negligible staff turn-over,” Dwolatzky says.
From there the delegation went to San Francisco in the US, where it met with senior people from Adobe and Intuit (creators of QuickBooks accounting software) to see how TSP works in practice within a company.
Intuit is using TSP in about 65% of their teams in the Small Business Development division.
“They reported that their most recent release of QuickBooks had been the smoothest ever with all the planned functionality delivered on time," Dwolatzky says.
“The quality of the product was so much better than previous releases that they saved nearly $700 000.00 on the cost of temporary staff employed to do testing. Defects reported after the product was released was reduced by 25% – another huge cost saving. People working at Intuit in TSP teams are required to do very little over-time, even when important deadlines approach.”
Adobe (in San Jose, California) have, in contrast just, launched a major TSP programme. The decision was taken to adopt TSP to improve quality, productivity and ability to retain top staff.
“Software developers and TSP coaches are currently being trained, and the first TSP-based projects at Adobe will be launched in the next few weeks. All companies using TSP confirmed that using TSP helped an organisation reach high CMMI maturity levels in less than half the time it would take without TSP,” Dwolatzky says.
“In 2006 the JCSE launched a programme to ‘Bring CMMI to South Africa’ with support from the DTI. In running this programme we’ve been working closely with the Software SEI at Carnegie Mellon University. The SEI has kept us up to date with the huge successes they’ve been having in the TSP pilot programme in Mexico,” he says.
Having witnessed this first hand, we’ll be exploring a number of scenarios along with the other members of the delegation on how best to get a TSP pilot off the ground in SA, Dwolatzky adds.