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Preface to The Incremental Commitment Spiral Model: Principles and Practices for Successful Systems and Software

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Do your projects overrun their budgets and schedule or have a lot of late rework or technical debt? Are your delivered systems hard to maintain? Do your systems need to succeed in situations involving rapid change, emergent requirements, high levels of assurance, or some combination of those? If so, then this might be the right book for you.
From the book

Who Can Benefit from Reading This Book?

The book’s contents can help you if you face one or more of the following situations:

  • Your projects frequently overrun their budgets and schedule.
  • Your projects have a lot of late rework or technical debt.
  • Your delivered systems are hard to maintain.
  • Your organization uses a one-size-fits all process for a variety of systems.
  • Your systems need to succeed in situations involving rapid change, emergent requirements, high levels of assurance, or some combination of those.
  • Your systems must operate with other complex, networked systems.

Managers and executives stuck in one-size-fits-all decision sequences will find new possibilities and begin to understand their new roles in successful 21st-century development. Practitioners of all development-related disciplines will find a unified way to approach a broad variety of projects, improve their collaboration, respond more agilely to the changing needs of stakeholders, and better quantify and demonstrate progress to managers and executives. Academics will gain a source of information to replace or enhance the way they educate developers and managers, as well as fertile areas for research and study.

As one-step, total-makeover corporate process changes can be risky, this book provides a way for organizations or projects to incrementally experiment with the ICSM’s key practices and to evolve toward process models better suited to their needs and competitive environment.

An Electronic Process Guide (EPG), available on the book’s companion website (http://csse.usc.edu/ICSM), contains guidelines, subprocesses, and templates that facilitate ICSM adoption. The EPG also supports this volume’s use as a textbook for a capstone project course in systems or software engineering. USC has offered such a course since 1995, spanning and evolving across more than 200 real-client projects and 2000 students.

How Is the Book Organized?

The book generally flows from why, moves to what, and then on to how, with a bit of how much in between. It begins with a Prologue—a cautionary tale drawn from ancient mythology, but highly relevant to 21st-century system developers.

Once suitably enlightened, the reader will find a one-chapter Introduction describing our rationale for constructing the ICSM and a high-level, self-contained overview of ICSM fundamentals and use. System development stakeholders (e.g., users, developers, acquirers), executives, and managers may obtain a big-picture understanding of the ICSM, and find the summary to be food for thought and action in managing the uncertainties of modern complex product or system development. Readers who would prefer to start by exploring a particular aspect of the ICSM can generally use the Contents list or Index to find and address it in detail, but will often find it useful to refer back to the Introduction for overall context.

Part I provides detailed discussions of the four key ICSM principles and explains why they are critical. Each chapter in Part I begins with a failure story and a success story, illustrating the need for and application of the principle, followed by its key underlying practices. Part I completes the why part of the book begun in the Prologue and continued in the early part of the Introduction.

Parts II and III explain the phases and stages that provide the framework for ICSM’s process generation. They introduce the case study that we use to illustrate how the stages and phases of the ICSM support success. This case study uses a next-generation medical device—an example of an advanced cyber–physical–human system with the inherent challenges of assuring safety, usability, and interoperability with other devices and systems—to lead the reader (and the medical device team) through the individual stages and phases of the ICSM. Parts II and III contain the majority of the what information, and a bit of the how.

Part IV completes the how and how much information. It supports implementation of the ICSM through phase-combining patterns and a set of common cases encountered in applying the risk-based phase decisions. There is information on adapting the ICSM to a specific project or environment, and an exploration of how its risk-driven, adaptive framework acts as a unifying element to support the effective application of existing practices. Part IV also provides guidance on applying some key practices that must be adapted somewhat for ICSM, and ends with an afterword that describes how we intend to evolve the ICSM with help from you, the reader.

The Appendices provide additional information on the tools developed specifically for ICSM activities, mappings of the ICSM to widely used process model and standards, and a comprehensive bibliography.

As stated earlier, the Companion Website to the book (http://csse.usc.edu/ICSM) provides the EPG and other automated tools, along with updates, examples, discussions, and useful classroom materials. The website is the primary place to find up-to-date information concerning the ICSM and its use, including white papers and guides for ICSM application in particular domains. While most of the material on the site is free, on occasion there may be material for sale. For those cases, the site is linked to and supported by Addison-Wesley and InformIT to provide an easy means to purchase those materials as well as other books of interest to the readers.

Who Helped Us Write the Book?

The organization and content of the ICSM have benefited significantly from our participation in three major efforts to provide improved guidelines for systems and software practice and education:

  • The U.S. National Research Council’s Human–System Integration in the System Development Process study
  • The international efforts to define educational and practice guidelines that better integrate software, hardware, and human systems engineering—the Graduate Software Engineering Reference Curriculum
  • The Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge and Graduate Reference Curriculum for Systems Engineering

These not only helped improve the ICSM, but also established its compatibility with these reference guidelines, along with co-evolving guidelines such as the IEEE-CS and ISO/IEC’s Software Engineering Body of Knowledge and INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook.

Funding for much of the initial work on the ICSM was provided through the Systems Engineering Research Center—a U.S. Department of Defense university-affiliated research center. In particular, Kristen Baldwin, Principal Deputy in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering, provided early vision, guidance, and resources to the authors.

The following reviewers provided excellent advice and feedback on early versions of the book: Ove Armbrust, Tom DeMarco, Donald Firesmith, Tom Gilb, Paul Grünbacher, Liguo Huang, DeWitt Latimer IV, Bud Lawson, Jürgen Münch, George Rebovich, Jr., Neil Siegel, Hillary Sillitto, Qing Wang, Da Yang, and Wen Zhang.

The authors have gained numerous insights from collaborations and workshops with our Industrial Affiliate members, including:

Aerospace Corporation: Wanda Austin, Kirstie Bellman, Myron Hecht, Judy Kerner, Eberhardt Rechtin Marilee Wheaton

Agile Alliance: Kent Beck, Alistair Cockburn, Jim Highsmith, Ken Schwaber

AgileTek: John Manzo

AT&T: Larry Bernstein

BAE Systems: Jim Cain, Gan Wang

Bellcore: Stuart Glickman

Boeing: Ray Carnes, Marilynn Goo, Tim Peters, Shawn Rahmani, Bill Schoening, David Sharp

C-Bridge: Charles Leinbach

Cisco: Sunita Chulani, Steve Fraser

CMU-SEI: Roger Bate, Paul Clements, Steve Cross, Bill Curtis, Larry Druffel, John Goodenough, Watts Humphrey, Paul Nielsen

Construx, Inc.: Steve McConnell

Cubic Corporation: Mike Elcan

EDS: Mike Sweeney

Fraunhofer-IESE: Dieter Rombach

Fraunhofer-Maryland: Vic Basili, Forrest Shull, Marvin Zelkowitz

Galorath: Dan Galorath, Denton Tarbet

GE Systems: Paul Rook

General Dynamics: Michael Diaz

Group Systems: Bob Briggs

Hughes: Elliot Axelband

IBM/Rational: Tim Bohn, Grady Booch, Peter Haumer, Ivar Jacobson, Per Kroll, Bruce McIsaac, Philippe Kruchten, Walker Royce

Intelligent Systems: Azad Madni

ISCAS: Mingshu Li, Qing Wang, Ye Yang

ITT/Quanterion: Tom McGibbon

JPL: Jairus Hihn, Kenneth Meyer, Robert Tausworthe

Lockheed Martin: Sandy Friedenthal, John Gaffney, Gary Hafen, Garry Roedler

Master Systems: Stan Rifkin

Microsoft: Apurva Jain

MITRE: Judith Dahmann, George Rebovich

Motorola: Dave Dorenbos, Nancy Eickelmann, Arnold Pittler, Allan Willey

Naval Postgraduate School: Ray Madachy

NICTA: Ross Jeffery

Northrop Grumman/TRW: Frank Belz, George Friedman, Rick Hefner, Steve Jacobs, Alan Levin, Fred Manthey, Maria Penedo, Winston Royce, Rick Selby, Neil Siegel

OGR Systems: Kevin Forsberg

Price Systems: Arlene Minkiewicz, David Seaver

Raytheon: Anthony Peterson, Quentin Redman, John Rieff, Gary Thomas

RCI: Don Reifer

SAIC: Dick Fitzer, Tony Jordano, Beverly Kitaoka, Gabriel Lengua, Dick Stutzke

San Diego State University: Teresa Larsen

Softstar Systems: Dan Ligett

Software Metrics: Betsy Clark, Brad Clark

Stevens Institute: Art Pyster

Teledyne Brown Engineering: Douglas Smith

University of Massachusetts: Lori Clarke, Lee Osterweil

University of Texas: Dewayne Perry

University of Virginia: Kevin Sullivan

Wellpoint: Adam Kohl

Xerox: Peter Hantos, Jason Ho

Finally, the authors are grateful for the support of their partners in life, who put up with working weekends, late nights, unexpected travel, and all of the household inconveniences that writing books entail. To Sharla, Mike, Sohrab, and Jo—our best friends, greatest inspirations, sharpest critics, and truest loves—our heartfelt thanks. We love you.

Praise for The Incremental Commitment Spiral Model

The Incremental Commitment Spiral Model is an extraordinary work. Boehm and his colleagues have succeeded in creating a readable, practical, and eminently usable resource for the practicing systems engineer. . . . ICSM embodies systems thinking and engineering principles and best practices using real-life examples from many different application domains. This is exactly the kind of treatment that an engineer needs to translate the book’s considerable wisdom into practical on-the-job solutions.”

—George Rebovich, Jr., Director, Systems Engineering Practice Office, The MITRE Corporation

“One might think of this new book as an update of the old (1988) Spiral Model, but it is actually much more than that. It is a ground-breaking treatment that expertly blends together four specific and key principles, risk–opportunity management, the use of existing assets and processes, and lessons learned from both success and failure examples and case studies. This extraordinary treatise will very likely lead to improvements in many of the current software development approaches and achieve the authors’ intent ‘to better integrate the hardware, software, and human factors aspects of such systems, to provide value to the users as quickly as possible, and to handle the increasingly rapid pace of change.’ If one is looking for specific ways to move ahead, use this book and its well-articulated advancements in the state-of-the-art.”

—Dr. Howard Eisner, Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Research Professor, George Washington University

“Dr. Boehm and his coauthors have integrated a wealth of field experience in many domains and created a new kind of life cycle, one that you have to construct based on the constraints and objectives of the project. It is based on actively trading off risks and demonstrating progress by showing actual products, not paper substitutes. And the model applies to everything we build, not just software and conceptual systems, but also to hardware, buildings, and garden plots. We have long needed this experience-based critical thinking, this summative and original work, that will help us avoid chronic systems development problems (late, over-budget, doesn’t work) and instead build new life cycles matched to the circumstances of the real world.”

—Stan Rifkin, Principal, Master Systems

“Barry Boehm and his colleagues have created a practical methodology built upon the one fundamental truth that runs through all competitive strategies: The organization with the clearest view of cold, brutal reality wins. Uniquely, their methodology at every stage incorporates the coldest reality of them all—the customer’s willingness to continue paying, given where the project is today and where it is likely ever to be.”

—Chet Richards, author of Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd Applied to Business

“I really like the concept of the ICSM and have been using some of the principles in my work over the past few years. This book has the potential to be a winner!”

—Hillary Sillito, INCOSE Fellow, Visiting Professor University of Bristol, formerly Thales UK Director of Systems Engineering

The Incremental Commitment Spiral Model deftly combines aspects of the formerly isolated major systems approaches of systems engineering, lean, and agile. It also addresses perhaps the widest span of system sizes and time scales yet. Two kinds of systems enterprises especially need this capability: those at the ‘heavy’ end where lean and agile have had little impact to date, and those that deal with a wide span of system scales. Both will find in the ICSM’s combination of systems approaches a productive and quality advantage that using any one approach in isolation cannot touch.”

—James Maxwell Sutton, President, Lean Systems Society and Shingo Prize winner

“The potential impact of this book cannot be overstressed. Software-intensive systems that are not adequately engineered and managed do not adequately evolve over the systems life cycle. The beauty of this book is that it describes an incremental capability decision path for being successful in developing and acquiring complex systems that are effective, resilient, and affordable with respect to meeting stakeholders’ needs. I highly recommend this book as a ‘must read’ for people directly involved in the development, acquisition, and management of software-intensive systems.”

—Dr. Kenneth E. Nidiffer, Director of Strategic Plans for Government Programs, Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

“This text provides a significant advance in the continuing work of the authors to evolve the spiral model by integrating it with the incremental definition and the incremental development and evolution life-cycle stages. Case studies illustrate how application of the four principles and the Fundamental Systems Success Theorem provides a framework that advances previous work. Emphasis is placed throughout on risk-based analysis and decision making. The text concludes with guidance for applying ICSM in your organization plus some helpful appendices. We concur with the authors’ statement: ‘we are confident that this incarnation of the spiral model will be useful for a long time to come.’”

—Dick Fairley, PhD, Software and Systems Engineering Associates (S2EA)

“This book nicely integrates the different refinements of the spiral model and the various additions made over the years. . . . the book contains great material for classes on software engineering in general and software processes in particular. I have been teaching the spiral model and its invariants for more than 10 years now, and I will use material from this book in the years to come.”

—Paul Grünbacher, Associate Professor, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Head of the Christian Doppler Lab for Monitoring and Evolution of Very-Large-Scale Software Systems

“What I found most useful in The Incremental Commitment Spiral Model were the stories of where we have gone wrong in the past, and how using the four key ICSM principles articulated by Barry and his co-authors could have helped these failed efforts maintain a course to success. ICSM is not a new method. It does not ask you to discard what has proved useful in the past and start over. Rather, it provides a set of guideposts that can help any organization facing increasingly challenging endeavors make more timely evidence-based decisions. We have been hearing about the ‘what’ for many years, this book gives you the needed ‘how’ and, more importantly, the needed ‘how much’ guidance that has been sorely missing.”

—Paul E. McMahon, author of Integrating CMMI and Agile Development

“The authors are uniquely qualified to bring together a historical context and a modern problem: successful development of engineered systems with ever greater complexity and richer than ever functionality, enabled by software. They do not disappoint!”

—Dinesh Verma, PhD, Professor and Dean, School of Systems and Enterprises, Stevens Institute of Technology


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