Conference Paper

Experiences with Technical Debt and Management Strategies in Production Systems Engineering

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Abstract

Technical Debt (TD) has proven to be a suitable communication concept for software-intensive contexts to raise awareness regarding longterm negative effects of deviations from standards and guidelines. TD has also been introduced to systems engineering domain, to communicate design shortcomings in long-running, software-assisted systems. We analysed potential TD in the engineering data exchange for production system engineering. Similar to requirements engineering in software-intensive systems, data exchange in the design phase plays an integral part in Software Engineering (SE) for Production Systems Engineering: Specifications, and physical logic have to be derived from heterogeneous plant models or parameter tables designed by different stakeholders. However, traditional procedures and inadequate tool support lead to inefficient data extraction and integration. We identified debt arising from knowledge representation, data model and the exchange process. The refinement validation of identified TD was achieved through semi-structured interviews with representatives in two analysed companies. In an online survey with ten participants from an industrial consortium we evaluated whether the identified TD concepts also applied to other companies, which is true for the majority of TD. Furthermore, we discuss promising TD management strategies to repay and manage negative effects and the accumulation of additional debt, such as improved communication, test-driven model engineering and visualisation of engineering models.

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... We will build on recent research of the Christian Doppler Laboratory on Security and Quality Improvement in the Production System Lifecycle [3,4,15,18,19,28], resulting from a technical debt analysis [28], which highlighted the gaps between established practices and state of the art. ...
... We will build on recent research of the Christian Doppler Laboratory on Security and Quality Improvement in the Production System Lifecycle [3,4,15,18,19,28], resulting from a technical debt analysis [28], which highlighted the gaps between established practices and state of the art. ...
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During the early formulation stage of a mission concept, the multiple and frequent changes made to the system design present various systems engineering challenges, such as ensuring the internal consistency of multiple engineering reports describing distinct aspects of the same flight system, or minimizing the amount of rework needed when the design is modified. Such challenges have been partly addressed by the Model-Based Systems Engineering Team (MSET) on the Europa Project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), through the application of Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) techniques. This presentation first discusses the principle of Single-Source-of-Truth (SSoT) and how it can be supported by the use of a well-structured system model relying on a rich vocabulary (e.g., based on the SysML language). The application of modeling patterns to organize the Flight System design information and make it queryable is then examined, with specific examples used on the Europa project. The benefits of checking formal rules to verify the correctness of the model and ensure that changes were properly incorporated are also discussed. The presentation also identifies model organization strategies that maximize the reuse of information across the multiple design architectures explored in early formulation, as well as various practices used to control the numerous changes made to the model as the design matures. This has proved to play a key role in delivering high-quality representations of the spacecraft design to a variety of stakeholders as well as demonstrating its viability.
Book
This book provides guidelines for practicing design science in the fields of information systems and software engineering research. A design process usually iterates over two activities: first designing an artifact that improves something for stakeholders and subsequently empirically investigating the performance of that artifact in its context. This validation in context is a key feature of the book - since an artifact is designed for a context, it should also be validated in this context.
Article
Technical debt is a metaphor for delayed software maintenance tasks. Incurring technical debt may bring short-term benefits to a project, but such benefits are often achieved at the cost of extra work in future, analogous to paying interest on the debt. Currently technical debt is managed implicitly, if at all. However, on large systems, it is too easy to lose track of delayed tasks or to misunderstand their impact. Therefore, we have proposed a new approach to managing technical debt, which we believe to be helpful for software managers to make informed decisions. In this study we explored the costs of the new approach by tracking the technical debt management activities in an on-going software project. The results from the study provided insights into the impact of technical debt management on software projects. In particular, we found that there is a significant start-up cost when beginning to track and monitor technical debt, but the cost of ongoing management soon declines to very reasonable levels.
Article
Building information modeling (BIM) is one of the most promising recent developments in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. With BIM technology, an accurate virtual model of a building is digitally constructed. This model, known as a building information model, can be used for planning, design, construction, and operation of the facility. It helps architects, engineers, and constructors visualize what is to be built in a simulated environment to identify any potential design, construction, or operational issues. BIM represents a new paradigm within AEC, one that encourages integration of the roles of all stakeholders on a project. In this paper, current trends, benefits, possible risks, and future challenges of BIM for the AEC industry are discussed. The findings of this study provide useful information for AEC industry practitioners considering implementing BIM technology in their projects.
Conference Paper
To model increasingly adaptive production systems, skills are used to describe generic capabilities of the system components. In this paper, the authors extend the well-known division of production entities into product, process, and resource (PPR) with a skill definition. There are two main advantages for this approach: First, using the PPR entity concepts for the skill definition allows easy integration into existing models and tools. Second, there is a natural tendency to define very generic skills to capture all possible use cases. But at some point, skills have to be translated into precise instructions for execution. The model makes this dichotomy explicit and provides a common taxonomy for stakeholders concerned with skills on different abstraction levels.
Article
ContextWhilst technical debt is considered to be detrimental to the long term success of software development, it appears to be poorly understood in academic literature. The absence of a clear definition and model for technical debt exacerbates the challenge of its identification and adequate management, thus preventing the realisation of technical debt's utility as a conceptual and technical communication device.Objective To make a critical examination of technical debt and consolidate understanding of the nature of technical debt and its implications for software development.Method An exploratory case study technique that involves multivocal literature review, supplemented by interviews with software practitioners and academics to establish the boundaries of the technical debt phenomenon.ResultA key outcome of this research is the creation of a theoretical framework that provides a holistic view of technical debt comprising a set of technical debts dimensions, attributes, precedents and outcomes, as well as the phenomenon itself and a taxonomy that describes and encompasses different forms of the technical debt phenomenon.Conclusion The proposed framework provides a useful approach to understanding the overall phenomenon of technical debt for practical purposes. Future research should incorporate empirical studies to validate heuristics and techniques that will assist practitioners in their management of technical debt.
Article
With a large and rapidly changing codebase, Google software engineers are constantly paying interest on various forms of technical debt. Google engineers also make efforts to pay down that debt, whether through special Fixit days, or via dedicated teams, variously known as janitors, cultivators, or demolition experts. We describe several related efforts to measure and pay down technical debt found in Google's BUILD files and associated dead code. We address debt found in dependency specifications, unbuildable targets, and unnecessary command line flags. These efforts often expose other forms of technical debt that must first be managed.
Article
The growing number of computer programs used to model different aspects of railway operations has created the need for a simple and efficient way to transfer data between applications. In the past, specialized interface programs have been developed to transfer data but this is an inefficient and time-consuming process. As the number of different railway simulation and operations programs increases, developing and maintaining individual interfaces will become impractical. RailML has been developed using the XML (eXtensible Markup Language) to simplify data transfer through the use of a common data structure. Programs using the RailML language produce export files with the RailML structure, these files can then be used directly by other RailML compatible programs. RailML is an open source project being supported and developed by a growing list of partners. The paper presents a more detailed description of RailML, outlines the application's current status, and invites new partners to join the consortium.
Article
Test-Driven Development: A Practical Guide presents TDD from the perspective of the working programmer: real projects, real challenges, real solutions, ...real code. Dave Astels explains TDD through a start-to-finish project written in Java and using JUnit. He introduces powerful TDD tools and techniques; shows how to utilize refactoring, mock objects, and "programming by intention"; even introduces TDD frameworks for C++, C#/.NET, Python, VB6, Ruby, and Smalltalk. Invaluable for anyone who wants to write better code... and have more fun doing it!
Conference Paper
Within the engineering of automated systems, different engineering disciplines are involved. Typically intermediate results from one discipline are handed over to another discipline. These results are refined throughout domain specific activities, and then handed over to other disciplines, incl. the originating one. This results in hidden dependencies between the involved disciplines, the planning assumptions as well as results, and the technical artefacts. This paper shows a method, proven in the engineering of automated plants in the metal industry, to gain explicit knowledge about the technical dependencies within the engineering of automated systems. Therefore the typical characteristics of the engineering process are described first, followed by a description how to capture the engineering process and a systematic approach to make these dependencies visible.
Book
Information Visualization is a relatively young field that is acquiring more and more consensus in both academic and industrial environments. This concise introduction to the subject explores the use of computer-supported interactive graphical representations to explain data and amplify cognition. Written in a lively, yet rigorous, style the book explores ways of communicating ideas or facts about data, and shows how to validate hypotheses, and facilitate the discovery of new facts via exploration. The concepts outlined in the book are illustrated in a simple and thorough manner, building a reference for those situations in which graphic representation of information, generated and assisted by the use of computer tools, can help in visualizing ideas, data and concepts. With suggestions for setting communications systems based on, or availing of, graphic representations, this textbook illustrates cases, situations, tools and methods which help make the graphic representations of information effective and efficient.
Article
Semantic integration is an active area of research in several disciplines, such as databases, information-integration, and ontologies. This paper provides a brief survey of the approaches to semantic integration developed by researchers in the ontology community. We focus on the approaches that differentiate the ontology research from other related areas. The goal of the paper is to provide a reader who may not be very familiar with ontology research with introduction to major themes in this research and with pointers to different research projects. We discuss techniques for finding correspondences between ontologies, declarative ways of representing these correspondences, and use of these correspondences in various semantic-integration tasks.
Seamless automation engineering with AutomationML®
  • Lorenz Hundt
  • Rainer Drath
  • Arndt Lüder
  • Jörn Peschke
Lorenz Hundt, Rainer Drath, Arndt Lüder, and Jörn Peschke. 2008. Seamless automation engineering with AutomationML®. In 2008 IEEE International Technology Management Conference (ICE). IEEE, 1-8.
Prentice Hall Upper Saddle River. Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle
  • Ken Schwaber
  • Mike Beedle
Richtlinie 3695: Engineering von Anlagen - Evaluieren und Optimieren des Engineerings
  • Verein Deutscher Ingenieure
Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference. Dave Astels
  • Dave Astels
Technical Debt Quadrant. Martin Fowler
  • Martin Fowler