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Initially, the 520th Software Maintenance Squadron of the 309th Software Maintenance Group of Hill Air Force Base in Utah used the SEI’s Team Software Process (TSP) to manage the software maintenance for a large, embedded weapons system for the U.S. Air Force.
But in 2009, David Webb, a senior technical program manager with the project, says his team has expanded the use of TSP to the software testing team, the documentation team, and the support team for the Ground Theater Air Control System (GTACS), a deployable ground-based computer network that coordinates radar and communications data signals for ground, airborne, and naval elements. The team’s sustainment of more than 3 million lines of GTACS code requires them to change software, hardware, test environments, and documentation.
TSP provides a framework designed to build and maintain more effective teams. The recent additions to the GTACS TSP teams—documentation, tool support, and test engineering teams, as well as the software team—held a launch in September, and Webb says they are now tracking their time and producing both team and personal schedules, employing an earned-value tracking system. The teams are using TSP as they prepare to make the latest update to the GTACS system, which includes a major update of both outdated hardware and programming language.
“Within a year the teams were routinely releasing software with very low or zero defects and meeting cost and schedule estimates. They improved their productivity by more than 400 percent,” explains Webb.
The 520th Software Maintenance Squadron initially began work on the GTACS project in 1999, supporting the primary contractor. In 2007, the squadron took over as the lead contractor for software maintenance of the 30-year-old system.
Cost and schedule overruns soon followed, some portions taking more than four times what was planned, which Webb attributes to his team’s initial lack of planning and inexperience with the system. For an organization with a maturity level 5 rating on the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) framework, it proved a concern.
“To achieve better planning and execution, we instituted TSP,” Webb says, explaining that the approach allowed software engineers to plan, track, and thoroughly inspect their own work for quality purposes. Webb says that while each member of the team instituted the SEI’s Personal Software Process (PSP), the team overall became more rigorous about inspections.
“Within a year the teams were routinely releasing software with very low or zero defects and meeting cost and schedule estimates. They improved their productivity by more than 400 percent,” explains Webb, who is also an SEI Member.
The 520th Software Maintenance Squadron decided to expand the use of TSP beyond the GTACS software team because, according to Webb, it is an ideal framework for project planning and tracking and because it is the fastest way to train a new team unfamiliar with CMMI in high maturity concepts.
“It encapsulates everything you need to plan and track your project with TSP scripts, forms, and practice,” Webb says.