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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1918 reviews in the database and more every month.
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Title:
Software Process Improvement
Author:
Sami Zahran
ISBN:
0 20117782 X
Publisher:
Addison-Wesley
Pages:
447pp
Price:
£29-95
Reviewer:
Roger N Lever
Subject:
management; writing solid code
Appeared in:
10-5
There is a great deal of emphasis on process in the current 'corporate climate'. Software is no different in that respect - it too has been examined from the process perspective and improvements have been identified. Of course identifying areas of improvement is the easy part; actually improving is more difficult. That is where this book and the author aim to help.

Naturally, in these ISO standard conscious days, there is an appropriate (draft) standard to use, ISO/IEC 15504, or perhaps the more widely known Capability Maturity Model (CMM 2.0) from the Software Engineering Institute (SEI). The CMM has heavily influenced the draft ISO standard and so the ideas that pervade that work are readily identifiable in the standard.

Standards are useful, but experience shows that help is needed in applying standards. The author tackles this by separating the content into:

  1. Process thinking
  2. A framework for software process improvement
  3. Making software process improvement happen
  4. Current models and standards for software process improvement
  5. Business benefits of software process improvement
The goal of this is to take the reader through a journey from fire-fighting behaviours to a culture of disciplined processes, defect prevention and continuous improvement. The reader will certainly be more knowledgeable by the end of the book but I'm not sure how much wiser. The author clearly has an almost encyclopaedic grasp of the subject but he presents it in a very dry, academic style which makes reading this book very heavy going. I would view this as reference style work that you dip into for information; for example, mechanisms for an effective process support infrastructure are characterised by? - Defined, Owned, Trained, Supported, Followed, Monitored, Continuously Improving, and then each of these can be looked up in turn. Not the sort of list that comes to mind immediately!

Although the author states that is for a wide audience I would tend to disagree. C/C++ developers would get very little from the book and it is really targeted at management levels. For those who want to look at the current state of the art and are prepared to wade through, this is a good book.