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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Developing International Standards for Very Small Enterprises

Industry recognizes that very small enterprises (VSEs) contribute
valuable products and services. In Europe, for example, 85 percent of
the IT sector's companies have only one to 10 employees. According to
a recent survey, 78 percent of software development enterprises in the
Montreal area have fewer than 25 employees, while 50 percent have fewer
than 10. Studies and surveys confirm that current software engineering
standards do not address the needs of these organizations, especially
those with a low capability level. Compliance with standards such as
those from ISO and the IEEE is difficult if not impossible for them to
achieve. Subsequently, VSEs have no or very limited ways to be recognized
as enterprises that produce quality software systems in their domain.
Therefore, they are often cut off from some economic activities. To
rectify some of these difficulties, delegates from five national bodies
of the 2004 International Organization for Standardization/International
Electrotechnical Commission Joint Technical Committee 1/Sub Committee
7 (SC7) plenary meeting in Australia reached a consensus regarding the
necessity of providing VSEs with standards adapted to their size and
particular context, including a set of profiles and guides... VSEs
express the need for assistance to adopt and implement standards. More
than 62 percent would like more guidance with examples, and 55 percent
asked for lightweight and easy-to-understand standards, complete with
templates. Finally, the respondents indicated that it must be possible
to implement standards with minimum cost, time, and resources. In 2005,
at the SC7 Plenary meeting in Finland, Thailand proposed the creation
of a new working group to meet these objectives. Twelve countries voted
in favor of establishing such a group, named Working Group 24 (WG24).
WG24 used the concept of ISO profiles (ISP: International Standardized
Profile) to develop the new standard for VSEs. A profile is defined as
'a set of one or more base standards and/or ISPs, and, where applicable,
the identification of chosen classes, conforming subsets, options and
parameters of those base standards, or ISPs necessary to accomplish a
particular function'. [One approach involves production of] guidelines
explaining in more detail the processes outlined in the profile. These
guidelines will be published as ISO technical reports and should be
freely accessible to VSEs. The guidelines integrate a series of deployment
packages that provide a set of artifacts developed to facilitate and
accelerate the implementation of a set of practices for the selected
framework in a VSE. The elements of a typical deployment package include
a process description (tasks, inputs, outputs, and roles), guide, template,
checklist, example, presentation material, mapping to standards and
models, and list of tools to help VSEs implement the process. WG24 plans
to produce a final draft in 2009, with publication by ISO/IEC scheduled
for 2010. In the meantime, the group will make deployment packages freely
available to VSEs. The group also will develop other profiles, covering
different capability levels and application domains, such as finance or

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