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Supporting Software Development by an Integrated Documentation Model for Decisions

Hesse, Tom-Michael

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Abstract

Decision-making is a vital activity during software development. Decisions made during requirements engineering, software design, and implementation guide the development process. In order to make decisions, developers may apply different strategies. For instance, they can search for alternatives and evaluate them according to given criteria, or they may rely on their personal experience and heuristics to make single solution claims. Thereby, knowledge emerges during the process of decision making, as the content, outcome, and context of decisions are explored by developers. For instance, different solution options may be considered to address a given decision problem. In particular, such knowledge is growing rapidly, when multiple developers are involved. Therefore, it should be documented to make decisions comprehensible in the future.

However, this documentation is often not performed by developers in practice. First, developers need to find and use a documentation approach, which provides support for the decision making strategies applied for the decision to be documented. Thus, documentation approaches are required to support multiple strategies. Second, due to the collaborative nature of the decision making process during one or more development activities, decision knowledge needs to be captured and structured according to one integrated model, which can be applied during all these development activities.

This thesis uncovers two important reasons, why the aforementioned requirements are currently not fulfilled sufficiently. First, it is investigated, which decision making strategies can be identified in the documentation of decisions within issue tickets from the Firefox project. Interestingly, most documented decision knowledge originates from naturalistic decision making, whereas most current documentation approaches structure the captured knowledge according to rational decision making strategies. Second, most decision documentation approaches focus on one development activity, so that for instance decision documentation during requirements engineering and implementation are not supported within the same documentation model.

The main contribution of this thesis is a documentation model for decision knowledge, which addresses these two findings. In detail, the documentation model supports the documentation of decision knowledge resulting from both naturalistic and rational decision making strategies, and integrates this knowledge within flexible documentation structures. Also, it is suitable for capturing decision knowledge during the three development activities of requirements engineering, design, and implementation. Furthermore, a tool support is presented for the model, which allows developers to integrate decision capturing and documentation in their activities using the Eclipse IDE.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Paech, Prof. Dr. Barbara
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date of thesis defense: 27 July 2020
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2020 10:36
Date: 2020
Faculties / Institutes: The Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science > Department of Computer Science
Subjects: 004 Data processing Computer science
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