Mexican Advocates See TSP as a Way to Establish Quality Reputation

NEWS AT SEI

This library item is related to the following area(s) of work:

Process Improvement
TSP

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

For many years, the Team Software Process has developed dedicated practitioners who attest to its merits, and its growth into Mexico has expanded its base of enthusiasts. On their recent visit to the SEI, the people who helped spearhead that expansion expressed abundant confidence and conviction. As Mexico becomes a global force in information technology, Mexican advocates are certain that Team Software Process (TSP) adoption will establish Mexico’s reputation for high-quality software and engineering.

Mexico is no newcomer to SEI process-improvement methods. The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) course was first delivered there in 2002. CMMI is a set of practices that can be used to guide processes across a project, a division, or an entire organization. It defines levels of maturity that reflect an organization’s ability to implement its practices. While CMMI is highly effective and adopted worldwide, the complex requirements of CMMI implementation may cause some trepidation to small companies with limited resources. TSP can expedite this implementation and help organizations achieve higher CMMI levels in much less time than is usually required. This capability is especially suitable for Mexico, where 80% of software companies employ fewer than 50 developers.

Organizations widely use TSP to dramatically improve software development teams’ productivity and reduce defects, costs, schedule deviations, and time to market. TSP works in conjunction with the Personal Software Process (PSP), through which individual engineers can measure and enhance their performances. The term TSP generally refers to the two processes as they are practiced in tandem. Both were created by Watts Humphrey as a way to bring CMMI principles to teams and individuals.

Rafael Salazar was especially enthusiastic as he told his story of how TSP came to Mexico. Salazar serves as the director of the TSP initiative at Tecnologico de Monterrey, where he began classroom training in TSP. Salazar was looking for such a process several years ago. At that time he directed 500 software-development engineers for a large company that had adopted CMMI. He recognized that CMMI was valuable to organizations but believed that something additional was needed to bring its principles directly to developers. Salazar began reading Watts Humphrey’s books on the Personal Software Process and continued to learn about PSP while heading the Computer Science Department at Tec de Monterrey. He became convinced that it was the missing element he had been seeking.

The advantages that TSP would bring to the Mexican software engineering community were obvious to Salazar. TSP would serve as a CMMI accelerator, as it had for many U.S. organizations. While the CMMI framework provides top-down guidance for what organizations should do to improve processes, TSP provides principles for how to implement most of the CMMI process areas. TSP application has helped organizations hasten their achievement of high maturity—for example, to reach Level 4 from Level 2 in 16 months instead of the average 50 months [Pracchia 04]. Used with or without CMMI, TSP provides major benefits for organizations wanting to dramatically upgrade performance to consistently meet deadlines and estimates, reduce costs and defects, and satisfy customer requirements.

Salazar visited the SEI in December 2005 with others from Tec de Monterrey and met with Jim Over, team lead for the SEI TSP group. In March 2006, Tec de Monterrey signed a memorandum of understanding with Carnegie Mellon to collaborate in a TSP initiative. By the end of 2006, Tec de Monterrey had

  • obtained funding for the first phase of the project from the Mexican Ministry of Economy;
  • conducted a TSP initiative launch with Watts Humphrey;
  • conducted a faculty workshop;
  • begun TSP training of software engineering undergraduates and faculty; and
  • begun collaborative work with two companies in Mexico, Softtek and IBM.

This year has brought collaboration with a third company, Towa, and continued faculty and undergraduate training in TSP.

These are great strides toward the two main objectives of the TSP initiative: international recognition of the Mexican software industry as a high-quality industry, with high-quality human resources and high-quality projects; and the establishment of TSP capabilities through software-development companies, developers, instructors, and coaches.

Salazar is certain that the first goal will be realized through TSP. He readily recites the numbers regarding TSP benefits: It can accelerate CMMI introduction by 60% and brings 2 to 20 times improvement in product quality, 2 to 10 times reduction in testing time, a reduction in software defects to 60 per million lines of code, and job-estimation accuracy between +/- 10%.

Tec de Monterrey has made striking progress toward the second goal through its training of TSP professionals. As part of its software engineering curriculum, this program has achieved a rapid pace in training certified PSP developers, authorized PSP instructors, and TSP coaches. Currently being trained are 45 software engineering undergraduate students and 10 members of the software engineering faculty. Jim Over and Watts Humphrey have remained directly involved in nurturing this progress and ensuring proper standards for all certifications and authorizations.

Skills are being diffused across a fast-growing software-engineering community. Ivette Garcia, director of digital economy of the Mexican Ministry of Economy, describes her work with PROSOFT: National Public Policy to Enhance the Mexican IT Industry. In striving to develop a strong IT services industry, her organization has lent substantial support to the TSP initiative, as have the state governments of Jalisco and Nuevo Leon. She explains that since 2002, before the TSP initiative began, Mexico’s IT productivity had begun to expand considerably through a national effort involving PROSOFT, state governments, universities, and private industry. In the past two years alone, 11,000 new IT jobs have been added, and 122 new IT firms have emerged. Mexico is uniquely poised to become a global player in IT and software engineering. According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s proprietary Location Cost Index Database [Garcia 07], among 10 countries positioned for providing IT services to the United States, Mexico ranks first in its business-environment attractiveness; ties with Brazil for first place in infrastructure quality; and is second only to China in its access to the U.S. market. But as excited as Garcia is about this amazing expansion, her main priority is quality.

In 2006 there were no PSP-certified individuals in Mexico. There are now 74—more than anywhere else in the world. The U.S. currently has 59; the other seven countries offering TSP have between one and three. Specialized skills, knowledge, and discipline set PSP practitioners apart from other engineers as they engage in many aspects of creating software: program development, requirements definition, document systems test, or maintenance and enhancement of large and small software systems.

This infusion of TSP expertise has important global implications. TSP-certified developers will provide a great human resource not only in Mexico, but also internationally. Their exceptional work habits and performance are bound to raise the standard of software engineering and software quality overall. TSP-trained developers, instructors, and coaches will reinforce this trend. Companies that engage their services will realize that defect-free software can be developed while decreasing cost and time to market.

References

[Pracchia 04]
Pracchia, Lisa. “The AV-8B Team Learns Synergy of EVM and TSP Accelerates Software Process Improvement.” CrossTalk: The Journal of Defense Software Engineering. January 2004.

[Garcia 07]
Location Cost Index Database, McKinsey Global Institute.In PROSOFT: Public Policy for the Mexican IT Industry, presented by Ivette Garcia at the SEI, August 2007. Not publicly available.

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