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Software Analysis Concepts and Principles

Software Analysis Concepts and Principles


The overall role of software in large system is identified during system engineering. However, it’s necessary to take a harder look at software’s role to understand the specific requirements that must be achieved to build high-quality software. That’s the job of software requirements analysis. To perform the job properly you should follow a set of underlying concepts and principles.


1. Requirements Analysis


Requirement analysis is a software engineering task that bridges the gap between system level requirements engineering and software design. Requirements engineering activities result in the specification of software’s operational characteristics, indicate software’s interface with other system elements, and establish constraints that software must meet. Requirement analysis allows the software engineer to refine domains that will be treated by software.


Software requirements analysis may be divided into five areas of effort:

(1)     problem recognition,

(2)     evaluation and synthesis,

(3)     modeling,

(4)     specification, and

(5)     review.


The analyst studies the system specification and the software Project Plan. It is important to understand software in a system context and to review the software scope that was used to generate planning estimates. Problem evaluation and solution synthesis is the next major area of effort for analysis. The analyst must define all externally observable data objects, evaluate the flow and content of information, define and elaborate all software functions, understand software behavior in the context of events that affect the system, establish system interface characteristics, and uncover additional design constraints.


Throughout evaluation and solution synthesis, the analyst’s primary focus is on “what” not “how”. What data does the system produce and consume, what functions must the system perform, what behavior does the system exhibit, what interfaces are defined and what constraints apply?


2. Requirements Elicitation for Software


Before requirements can be analyzed , modeled, or specified they must be gathered through an elicitation process.

2.1 Initiating the Process


The first meeting between a software engineer and the customer can be liked to the awkwardness of a first date between two adolescents. Communication must be initiated by asking context-free questions. That is a set of questions that will lead to basic understanding of the problem, the people who want a solution that will lead to basic understanding of the problem, the people who want a solution, the nature of the solution that is desired, and the effectiveness of the first encounter itself.

ü        Who is behind the request for this work?

ü        Who will use the solution?

ü        What will be the economic benefit of a successful solution?

ü        Is there another source for the solution that you need?


The next set of questions enables the analyst to gain a better understanding of the problem and the customer to voice his or her perceptions about a solution:


ü        How would you characterize “good” output that would be generated by a successful solution?

ü        What problem(s) will this solution address?

ü        Can you show me the environment in which the solution will be used?

ü        Will special performance issues or constrains affect the way the solution is approached?


2.2 Facilitated Application Specification Techniques


Customers and software engineers have an unconscious “us and them” mind-set. With these problems in the mind that a number of independent investigators have developed a team-oriented approach to requirements gathering that is applied during early stages of analysis and specification. Called facilitated application technique (FAST). Basic guidelines for this technique are:

ü        A meeting is conducted at a neutral site and attended by both software engineers and customers.

ü        Rules for preparation and participation are established.

ü        An agenda is suggested that is formal enough to cover all important points but informal enough to encourage the free flow of ideas.

ü        A “facilitator” controls the meeting.

ü        A “definition mechanism” is used

ü        The goal is to identify the problem, propose elements of the solution, negotiate different approaches, and specify a preliminary set of solution requirements in an atmosphere that is conductive to the accomplishment of the goal.


Initial meeting between the developer and customer occur and basic questions and answers help to establish the scope of the problem and the over all perception of a solution. The product request distributed to all attendees before the meeting date. The FAST team is composed of representatives from marketing, software and hardware engineering, and manufacturing. As the FAST meeting begins, the first topic of discussion is the need and justification for the new product – everyone should agree that the product justified. Once agreement has been established, each participant his or her list for discussion.


After individual lists are presented in one topic area, a combined list is created by the group. The combined list eliminates redundant entries, adds any new ideas that come up during the discussion, but does not delete anything. The combined list is shortened, lengthened, or reworded to properly reflect the product or system to be developed. The objective is to develop a consensus list in each topic area. Each sub team presents its mini-specs to all FAST attendees for discussion. After the mini-specs are completed, each FAST attendee makes a list of validation criteria for the product or system and presents his or her to the team.


2.3 Quality Function Deployment


Quality function deployment (QFD) is a quality management technique that translates the needs of the customer into technical requirements for software. QFD identifies three types of requirements:


Normal requirements. The objectives and goals that are stated for a product or system during meeting with customer. If these requirements are present, the customer is satisfied.


Expected requirements. These requirements are implicit to the product or system and may be so fundamental that the customer does not explicitly state them. Their absence will be a cause for significant dissatisfaction.


Exciting requirements. These features go beyond the customer’s expectations and prove to be very satisfying when present.


Functional deployment is used to determine the value of each function that is required for the system. Information deployment identifies both the data objects and events that the system must consume and produce. These are tied to the functions. Finally, task deployment examines the behavior of the system or product within the context of its environment. Value analysis is conducted to determine the relative priority of requirements determined during each of the three deployments.


2.4. Use-Cases


As requirements are gathered as part of informal meetings, a software engineer can create a set of scenarios that identify a thread of usage for the system to be constructed. To create a use-case, the analyst must first identify the different types of people play as the system operates. Defined somewhat more formally an actor is anything that communicates with the system or product and that is external to the system itself.


It’s most important to note that an actor and a user are not the same thing. An actor represents a class of external entities that play just one role. Once actors have been identified, use-case can be developed. The use-case describes the manner in which an actor interacts with the system. The use-case should be answer below questions:

ü        What main tasks or functions are performed by an actor?

ü        What system information will the actor acquire, produce, or change?

ü        Will the actor have to inform the system about changes in the external environment?

ü        What information does the actor desire from the system?

ü        Does the actor wish to be informed about unexpected changes?


In general, use-case is simply a written narrative that describes the role of an actor as interaction with the system occurs.


3. Analysis Principles


Over the past two decades, a large number of analysis modeling methods have been developed. Investigators have identified analysis problems and their causes and have developed a variety of notations and corresponding sets of heuristics to overcome them. Each analysis method has a unique point of view.


ü        The information domain of a problem must be represented and understood.

ü        The functions that the software is to perform must be defined.

ü        The behavior of the software must be represented.

ü        The models that depict information, function, and

ü        The models that depict information function and behavior must be partitioned in a manner that uncovers details in a layered fashion.

ü        The analysis process should move from essential information toward implementation detail.


In addition to these operational analysis principles for requirements engineering:

ü        Understand the problem before you begin to create the analysis model.

ü        Develop prototype that enable a user to understand how human/machine interaction will occur.

ü        Record the origin of and the reason for every requirement.

ü        Use multiple views of requirements.

ü        Rank requirements.

ü        Work to eliminate ambiguity

October 9, 2008 Posted by | Software Analysis, Software Engineer, Technology | | 2 Comments