Lessens Learned on Quality (of) Standards

Date17 May 2011 - 20 May 2011
EventDASIA 2011

Standards are used to describe and ensure the quality of products, services and processes throughout almost all branches of industry, including the field of software engineering. Contractors and suppliers are obligated by their customers and certification authorities to follow a certain set of standards during development. For example, a customer can easier actively participate in and control the contractor’s process when enforcing a standard process.

However, as with any requirement, a standard may also impede the contractor or supplier in assuring actual quality of the product in the sense of fitness for the purpose intended by the customer.

This is the case when a standard defines specific quality assurance activities requiring a considerable amount of effort while other more efficient but equivalent or even superior approaches are blocked. Then improvement of the ratio between cost and quality exceeding miniscule advances is heavily impeded.

While in some parts being too specific in defining the mechanisms of the enforced process, standards are sometimes too weak in defining the principles or goals on control of product quality.

Therefore this paper addresses the following issues: (1) Which conclusions can be drawn on the quality and efficiency of a standard? (2) If and how is it possible to improve or evolve a standard? (3) How well does a standard guide a user towards high quality of the end product?

One conclusion is that the analyzed standards do interfere with technological innovation, though the standards leave a lot of freedom for concretization and are understood as technology-independent.

Another conclusion is that standards are not only a matter of quality but also a matter of competitiveness of the industry depending on resulting costs and time-to- market. When the costs induced by a standard are not adequate to the achievable quality, industry encounters a significant disadvantage.