Metrics and models to support the development of hybrid information systems

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Moores, T.T.

The research described here concerns the development of metrics and models to support the development of hybrid (conventional/knowledge based) integrated systems. The thesis argues from the point that, although it is well known that estimating the cost, duration and quality of information systems is a difficult task, it is far from clear what sorts of tools and techniques would adequately support a project manager in the estimation of these properties. A literature review shows that metrics (measurements) and estimating tools have been developed for conventional systems since the 1960s while there has been very little research on metrics for knowledge based systems (KBSs). Furthermore, although there are a number of theoretical problems with many of the `classic' metrics developed for conventional systems, it also appears that the tools which such metrics can be used to develop are not widely used by project managers. A survey was carried out of large UK companies which confirmed this continuing state of affairs. Before any useful tools could be developed, therefore, it was important to find out why project managers were not using these tools already. By characterising those companies that use software cost estimating (SCE) tools against those which could but do not, it was possible to recognise the involvement of the client/customer in the process of estimation. Pursuing this point, a model of the early estimating and planning stages (the EEPS model) was developed to test exactly where estimating takes place. The EEPS model suggests that estimating could take place either before a fully-developed plan has been produced, or while this plan is being produced. If it were the former, then SCE tools would be particularly useful since there is very little other data available from which to produce an estimate. A second survey, however, indicated that project managers see estimating as being essentially the latter at which point project management tools are available to support the process. It would seem, therefore, that SCE tools are not being used because project management tools are being used instead. The issue here is not with the method of developing an estimating model or tool, but; in the way in which "an estimate" is intimately tied to an understanding of what tasks are being planned. Current SCE tools are perceived by project managers as targetting the wrong point of estimation, A model (called TABATHA) is then presented which describes how an estimating tool based on an analysis of tasks would thus fit into the planning stage. The issue of whether metrics can be usefully developed for hybrid systems (which also contain KBS components) is tested by extending a number of "classic" program size and structure metrics to a KBS language, Prolog. Measurements of lines of code, Halstead's operators/operands, McCabe's cyclomatic complexity, Henry & Kafura's data flow fan-in/out and post-release reported errors were taken for a set of 80 commercially-developed LPA Prolog programs: By re~defining the metric counts for Prolog it was found that estimates of program size and error-proneness comparable to the best conventional studies are possible. This suggests that metrics can be usefully applied to KBS languages, such as Prolog and thus, the development of metncs and models to support the development of hybrid information systems is both feasible and useful.
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