Mr. Mahal has worked his way through all aspects of software development. He started as a software engineer and learned how to design and architect software systems in different industries. He has been a director of engineering, product management, and professional services; mid-career he worked for a company dedicated to training engineers in collecting requirements and understanding OO and conducted research into why software projects fail; and before starting Accelerated Development he rescued a technology startup in Vancouver as their COO. Accelerated Development is dedicated to the production of high quality software through implementing light weight engineering practices for all size organizations up to Fortune 500. Dalip is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 37 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Let the Machines Take Over

06.24.2013
| 3728 views |
  • submit to reddit
Whether you believe that the machines will take over or not will always be up for debate (until they actually take over :-). What is not up for debate is that many processes for software creation can be automated and can help improve productivity and quality in every phase of a software project.

Here are some statistics about how useful automation can be and give you some ammunition when you confront management about the need for these tools.

These results have been generated by Capers Jones who has been collecting data for over 15,000 projects for about 40 years.  Full results shown in the paper in the references.

Requirements Analysis

There have been tools available for tracing requirements for quite some time.  Generally the only companies forced to provide requirements traceability, but this makes sense to do on all large projects:

Automated requirements tracing can raise productivity by 12.89% and quality by 17.8%  

There are tools that can help size programs in terms of function points, which then allows you to get relatively accurate estimates of a project`s cost and time before the project is executed.

Automated sizing in function points can raise productivity by 16.5% and quality by 23.7% 

Development

There are several tools that are useful during development, but by far the biggest bang for your buck comes in the form of automated static analysis.

Automated static analysis can raise productivity by 20.9% and quality by 30.9% 

There are now static analysis tools available for virtually all current languages that are cost effective and can help to locate those hard to find occasional defects.  You can find a listhere of automated tools for C/C++, Java, JavaScript, Objective-C, Perl, PHP, and Python.

Then getting cyclomatic complexity counts for your code can be done in an automated fashion.  Studies have shown that files with a count of 74+ were 98% likely to have defects.

Automated cyclomatic complexity analysis can raise productivity by 14.5% and quality by 19.5% 

Performance is a tricky thing, we will talk about it often but rarely do we actually do something about it. Automated performance analysis allows you to determine if there will be production problems before deploying new code.

Automated performance analysis can raise productivity by 12.5% and quality by 19.5% 

There are tools for restructuring code automatically, many of these are built directly into today's IDEs.  There are many stand alone tools for automated restructuring, some are shown here.

Automated restructuring can raise productivity by 8.0% and quality by 11.7% 

Automated unit testing is the easiest way to detect defects early.  If your developers are using Test Driven Development (TDD) and any continuous integration tool  (i.e, Hudson or Jenkins) then you can find out with each build if a defect has crept into the code.

Automated unit testing can raise productivity by 16.5% and quality by 23.8%

Testing

Believe it or not I was working with a team that was not using version control or defect tracking last year. So there are clearly still some organizations not using defect tracking.

Automated defect tracking can raise productivity by 17.5% and quality by 25.9% 

Testing the percentage of the application pathways that are actually being tested is critical.  Most of your defects will lie in the pathways that you can not test.

Automated test coverage analysis can raise productivity by 15.5% and quality by 21.2% 

Test cases can be generated automatically in some situations.

Automated test case generation can raise productivity by 15.0% and quality by 20.0% 

Deployment

The next two tools are not about technology that you acquire, rather it is about building tools to support critical deployment functions.  When the pressure is on it is tough to think about creating applications to manage configuration in an automated way.  When management tells you that it would be a luxury to build these tools then show them these results.

Some organizations rely on manually updating configurations, but can be error prone if there are many values to update.

Automated configuration control can raise productivity by 16.4% and quality by 23.5% 

Also, when automated configuration tools don`t exist then you often don`t have automated deployment tools.

Automated deployment support can raise productivity by 14.6% and quality by 19.6% 

Conclusion

One of the most cost effective ways to improve productivity and quality in your software development is to automate any of the issues above.  In most cases you can find a vendor that will provide you support; for deployment you can make the case that building automated tools is the way to go!

References 

1N.B. All productivity and quality percentages were derived over 15,000+ actual projects

Published at DZone with permission of Dalip Mahal, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)