Software Quality Has a New Name: CISQ

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-08-20

Asserting that current methods for evaluating the capabilities of software vendors have become passe, the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI) and the Object Management Group (OMG) announced a partnership to sponsor the Consortium of IT Software Quality (CISQ), an industry-led initiative to address the measurement of critical IT application quality attributes.

According to CISQ officials, the SEI's Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), which was founded years ago and is currently the de facto standard, is no longer enough to properly evaluate software development capabilities and differentiate vendors.

CISQ will bring together industry executives from Global 2000 IT organizations, system integrators, outsourcers, and package vendors to jointly address the challenge of standardizing the measurement of IT software quality and to promote a market-based ecosystem to support its deployment, CISQ officials said. One of CISQ's earliest objectives will be to develop an industry standard that provides the detail necessary to automate the measurement of quality attributes.

"The SEI provides a neutral environment for IT executives to address quality challenges as an industry and develop the standards and infrastructure necessary to address them," said Paul D. Nielsen, director and CEO of the SEI, in a statement. "OMG's success in standards development and the SEI's experience in software architecture, quality attributes, process improvement, and network security make this a very strong partnership with global reach."

"For several years IT executives have complained that there are no industry standards for measuring the quality of business application software," said Richard Soley, CEO of OMG, said in a statement. "CISQ will enable us to benchmark the effectiveness of internal development, evaluate the quality of applications acquired from external sources, and predict the quality and cost of IT services to the business."

According to CISQ documentation, the organization's five primary objectives are to:

1. Advise, educate, and be the voice to business and government leaders on the strategic and mission critical importance of IT application quality.

2. Develop standard measures of quality attributes to be used by IT and the business for evaluating the software quality and risk of multi-tier IT applications.

3. Propose methods for using quality measures in negotiating and managing the acquisition or maintenance of IT application software.

4. Develop and promote professional licensing for those providing services to assess the quality of IT application software.

5. Establish an online IT industry forum for addressing IT application quality issues.

In an interview with eWEEK, OMG's Soley said: "CISQ is a partnership between OMG and SEI to rapidly develop and field a static code quality measure. It's important because of the need for high-quality, reliable software systems -- not only in safety-critical systems like avionics, but even in financial systems and manufacturing control -- and the need for software firms and systems integrators to openly rate the quality of the systems they build and deliver. OMG's role is to bring together the end-users and vendors of such a standard and rapidly agree specific requirements and then deliver an international, neutral standard -- and then in concert with SEI, promote the ecosystem to help the standard become widely adopted.

CISQ's director, Dr. Bill Curtis, co-author of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and a non-resident affiliate of the SEI, said he is looking forward to working with IT leaders and technical experts from business and government to tackle the growing complexity of multilanguage, multi-tier business applications. "Unless we address the quality challenges of these systems, business and government operations will be placed at unacceptable risk," he said.

"For application quality measurement to be economically practical it must be automated, and that requires a level of standardization that does not exist today," said Soley.

Capers Jones, an IT industry expert has joined this partnership as a CISQ distinguished advisor. He will contribute his expertise in software quality and size measurement to the achievement of CISQ's objectives. The inaugural CISQ Executive Forums will be held at the SEI facilities on October 6 in Arlington, Va., and November 12 in Frankfurt, Germany. The aim is to have a draft of the IT quality standard by the fourth quarter of 2010. Licensing of IT quality service providers is expected to begin during 2011.  

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