The Consortium for IT Software Quality (CISQ) has released two specifications to help organizations increase software quality.

Managed by the Object Management Group (OMG), CISQ was chartered in 2009 to create specifications for measuring source code quality that can be approved by the OMG.

“[The] industry needs standard, low-cost, automated measures for evaluating software size and structural quality that can be used in controlling the quality, cost and risk of software that is produced either internally or by third parties such as outsourcers,” said Bill Curtis, CISQ executive director and senior vice president and chief scientist at CAST Software.

“Structural quality represents the non-functional engineering aspects of software that are a major cause of so many of the system disasters that seem to be making headlines.”

The specifications are the CISQ Automated Function Point sizing standard (AFP), and the CISQ Software Quality Standard. They are aimed at standardizing measurements for size, automated function points, reliability, security, performance efficiency, and maintainability.

As Curtis explained it, these measures simplify outsourcing contracts since service-level agreements (SLAs) involving size and structural quality can be based on internationally accepted measures, rather than what he described as a quagmire of customers using different homegrown measures for quality attributes such as security or reliability.

“[The AFP specification] provides a cheaper and [more] consistent size measure compared to the subjectivity and expense of manual counting,” he said. “Industry and government badly need automation, [and] standardized metrics of software size and quality that are objective and computed directly from source code.”

Richard Soley, CEO of the OMG, added that the market is already seeing the effects of how a specification such as the AFP, while adhering to the guidelines of the International Function Point Users Group (IFPUG), can impact software quality.

“While keeping as closely as possible to the letter and spirit of IFPUG, AFP adds the important features of objectivity and automatability,” he said. “One person counting a codebase with AFP will always get the same number; two people the same. And it’s fully automated and standardized. As a way to measure, compare and follow the growing quality of a codebase, AFP is already changing the conversation around software sizing in the wild.”

Why do we need a software quality standard?
Software quality measurement is often in the eye of the beholder, and it can fall victim to the subjective perspective and values of whoever happens to be judging the code. CISQ’s Software Quality Standard, first published in 2012, is a way to take opinion out of the equation, which CISQ was founded to do, according to Soley.