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Decision-support methods for software releasing

Development of an economic decision-support method to help decide when to release a software application, using predefined release criteria, covering the interests of all stakeholders involved.

1. Introduction Software suppliers create software products and different releases of those products. Initial releases of new products are developed to penetrate into new or existing markets, whereas subsequent releases are developed to add additional features or improve reliability. Despite the variety and increasing amount of software products, most suppliers still struggle to determine the right moment to release a product as well as the exact release contents. Problems during product development make it difficult to determine the degree to which product features have been implemented and the additional costs and schedule to implement the remaining functionality. Even when a product is released, it is not always clear what the behaviour of the product will be under different circumstances and what the impact of this will be on sales and post-release maintenance costs. Not being able to predict the behaviour of software products can be dangerous as the impact of software on society is increasing rapidly. A frequent misconception about reliability is that this is related to an acceptable level of failure, like "failure rate is one in a thousand". This might be true for certain products used under certain circumstances. But how do you explain this to that particular patient in a hospital being x-ray diagnosed, when the system fails? 2. PROJECT This research project focuses on the design of a decision-support method to help organisations making a quantitative decision when to release a software application. It is assumed that a release decision is a trade-off between time to market, product characteristics (features, reliability) and economic figures (sales impact, pre-release costs, post-release costs). This decision is influenced by the product's lifetime as priorities may shift during that lifecycle. When introducing a new product in the market, time to market may have highest importance. In the "Mainstream", phase reliability may have highest importance. Time to market is also influenced by other market characteristics like the level of competition. When, for instance, the entry of a new product is delayed in a market with heavy competition, the probability of a supplier capturing the "Early Adopters" advantage will decrease. In order to design a decision-support method, the project will try to answer the following questions: - Who are the stakeholders in the releasing process? - What are release criteria? - When are release criteria defined and by whom? - How are release criteria deployed during product development? - How can release criteria be evaluated and when? - What other factors influence the final release decision and how and when can they be measured? 3. PHASES The project distinguishes four important phases: - Orientation. During this phase, existing literature will be studied and case studies will be carried out to find representative examples of how release decisions are currently made. - Design. Based upon the results of the previous phase, a decision-support method will be designed with a strong focus on the definition of which stakeholder should supply which data at what time. To use this method effectively in practice, a supporting software tool will be developed. - Validation. In this phase the designed model is validated in two steps. In the first place, expert opinions will be gathered using a Delphi-approach. Experts will be asked to comment on the designed model and the results may lead to adjustments of the model. Secondly, the model will be validated through case studies in industry. Cases will be carefully selected to make generalisations of the results possible. - Dissemination. The obtained results of the project will be distributed through a series of articles in relevant magazines as well as presentations at conferences. Further, the developed method and supporting tool will be offered as a service to industry. N.B. These phases correspond as follows to the phases distinguished by EUREKA (see paragraph 1.6): - Definition phase (EUREKA): Orientation and Design. - Implementation phase (EUREKA): Validation and Dissemination. Keywords: decision-support, software releasing, customer-supplier.
Acronym: 
RDAM
Project ID: 
2 950
Start date: 
01-07-2002
Project Duration: 
42months
Project costs: 
300 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Knowledge Management, Process Management
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.