The Mexican TSP Initiative: Positioning the Mexican Software Industry through TSP/PSP


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Process Improvement

This article was originally published in News at SEI on: January 1, 2007

The Software Engineering Institute (SEI), in an alliance with Mexico's leading private university, Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Tec de Monterrey), has engaged in the Mexican TSP Initiative, which had its kickoff in mid-2006 and began launching TSP development teams in December. Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohon and Tec de Monterrey Rector Rafael Rangel signed the memorandum of understanding to begin the alliance in March 2006 in Monterrey.

Tec de Monterrey, with support from the Mexican national government and the state governments of Nuevo Leon and Jalisco, is leading this national initiative to position the Mexican software industry as an international competitor. At the heart of the initiative is the proposition that software development can be improved on a national scale by the careful, staged adoption of the SEI's Team Software Process and Personal Software Process (TSP and PSP) methodologies.1

TSP and PSP are process technologies that were developed initially at the SEI by SEI Fellow Watts Humphrey and promulgated by an SEI project led by Jim Over. Among the objectives of TSP/PSP are

  • reduce time to market
  • increase productivity
  • improve cost and schedule performance
  • improve product quality
  • accelerate process improvement
  • reduce professional staff shortage

Results with software projects in major software companies that are recognized as global leaders demonstrate that when TSP and PSP are introduced with a competent transition strategy-led by SEI experts and SEI-trained and authorized personnel—the performance of software engineering teams is brought up to world-class levels within the first year—indeed software defects in the field decrease by an order of magnitude. Software development teams are able to forecast delivery dates with little error and can determine at the start of a project the resources that will be needed. Furthermore TSP works well with other improvement methodologies including, among others, Capability Maturity Model2 Integration (CMMI) and SixSigma.

Positioning the Mexican Software Industry

Leading Mexican software development companies are already successful in the global competition to provide software services. However, the industry is small, with about US$500 million per year accruing from the provision of software-development services to the international community. Successful SEI-led transition of TSP and PSP into select Mexican companies—a demanding first objective—does not reveal the fullness of the Mexican TSP Initiative. Those implementing the initiative have identified TSP as a methodology that will enable the Mexican software industry to achieve targeted growth against significant and established competition. The objective of the initiative is to build sufficient expertise in Mexico to make the country self-sufficient in teaching, applying, and improving TSP.

The Mexican TSP Initiative includes pilot projects at Softtek and at IBM Mexico. Activities are under way in both organizations. Students at Tec de Monterrey have already earned the title of SEI-Certified PSP Developer by passing the SEI's related certification examination. Tec de Monterrey, a university system of more than 100,000 students at 34 campuses throughout Mexico, is also mounting a focused teacher training initiative. The first group of Mexican professors and other training professionals are formally studying PSP from Tec de Monterrey's first SEI-authorized instructor, Rafael Salazar, professor of computer science. Members of this class earned authorization as PSP instructors in January through the follow-up instructor-training class taught by TSP team members Bob Cannon and Jim McHale. Many from this same group are expected to go on to TSP Coach Training, and when successfully observed, they will form the first broad cadre of a more and more Mexican TSP Initiative.

It is important to the Mexican TSP Initiative that the pilot projects at IBM Mexico and Softtek succeed because the initiative aims to strengthen significantly the productivity, quality, and estimation accuracy of development teams in these Mexican software companies, which will set the standard for the nation. The SEI's TSP team has recognized that a company enjoys its greatest success when the company makes TSP a part of the company way of doing business, not only by practicing TSP in software projects, but also through institutionalization by the human resources department in job titles and career paths. Both Softtek and IBM Mexico are following the recommended TSP transition strategy of building internal capability for PSP instruction and TSP coaching. The companies involved in this first phase of the Mexican TSP Initiative are familiar with the SEI. IBM Mexico was the first company in Mexico to earn a CMM Level 5 appraisal (now CMMI Level 5) and Softtek was the first Mexican-owned company to be appraised at CMMI Level 5.

Leaders of the Mexican TSP Initiative envision transitioning TSP to literally thousands of companies—from the largest such as IBM Mexico and Softtek to the very small organizations that employ the majority of Mexican software developers. Clearly the SEI is not able to provide training and coaching on such a grand scale. Not even Tec de Monterrey has the resources to do this. Thus, the next phase of the Mexican TSP Initiative calls for bringing additional Mexican universities and training organizations into the effort. Serendipitously this has already begun. The founders and principal participants of the Mexican organizations Centro de Investigacion en Matematicas A.C. and Quarksoft are authorized PSP instructors and TSP coaches. Their training began during their years at Carnegie Mellon University when they were studying in the Master of Software Engineering program within the School of Computer Science. Because of the independent efforts of these people, TSP is now broadly taught in the states of Zacatecas and Guanajuato.

The Mexican TSP Initiative was precipitated, in part, by the Program for the Development of the Software Industry (PROSOFT). PROSOFT, a Mexican national program under the aegis of the Mexican Ministry of Economy, is dedicated to improving the Mexican economy by improving software development in Mexico. A major interest on the part of the Mexican government is the successful inclusion of small- and medium-sized companies.

Key to the success of TSP is its high-fidelity practice, and key to the high-fidelity practice of TSP is a thorough understanding of PSP. Leaders of the initiative recognize this and have proactively sought ways to ensure and to signal that the Mexican TSP Initiative is high in the quality of PSP instruction and faithful to TSP practice. One way they are doing this is by embracing SEI certifications. They have already begun having students sit for the SEI-Certified PSP Developer examination. Plans call for broad use of the certified developer program. They are looking forward to the upcoming TSP coach certification and are exploring other methods to ensure excellence, such as using feedback to control the quality of PSP instruction.

The Mexican TSP Initiative will provide mentoring for its instructors by using the SEI Blended Learning offering of PSP for Engineers. SEI Blended Learning incorporates an online training environment and remote, SEI-approved mentors to deliver SEI courses. Through this model, best practices will be shared, and the quality of work by students and instructors will be monitored as SEI-based mentors review the audit trail of educational artifacts—providing timely feedback to instructors on how to best guide their students in the acquisition of PSP skills. Although final pricing remains to be set, it is already clear that the SEI can provide mentoring through the SEI Blended Learning courses at a fraction of the cost of teaching face to face. Similar leveraging of SEI resources in the arena of coaching is not yet in place but is a topic of investigation.

The Mexican TSP Initiative has impressive goals. It is an ambitious project that has captured the imaginations of many. On the TSP team, Over and Humphrey are enthusiastic supporters of the initiative, and both have traveled to Mexico to speak and teach classes. At the official kickoff of the Mexican TSP Initiative, to the enthusiastic approval of those in attendance, Humphrey articulated the team's shared objective, "In five years I want the world to be asking, 'How did Mexico do it?'"

1 Team Software Process, TSP, Personal Software Process, and PSP are service marks of Carnegie Mellon University.

2 Capability Maturity Model, CMM, and CMMI are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Carnegie Mellon University.

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